Drinking an adequate amount of water on a daily basis is important for a myriad of reasons. It helps to prevent kidney stones, flush body waste and regulate body temperature and blood pressure. Most of us view bottled water as a cheap and convenient way to get our water on the go. In fact, the U.S. bottled water sales equals 13 billion gallons a year! However, research indicates that plastic water bottles negatively affect our long-term health and the environment.
The Hidden Dangers of Plastic Water Bottles
Single-use plastic bottles are generally made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Although this type of plastic is cheap and durable, the chemicals from the bottle leach into the water. The amount of this leaching depends on the duration and temperature at which the bottle is stored. This effect is not limited to single-use bottles. Studies show that even multi-use polycarbonate bottles leach chemicals into the water, albeit in smaller quantities. Some of the hidden dangers of plastic water bottles include:
BPA (bisphenol A) is used in plastics to increase their durability. However, researchers found that this chemical is linked to serious health problems like developmental disorders and cancer. Government medical experts warn that exposure to BPA can cause changes in breast, uterus and prostate cells, increasing the risk of cancer. Babies are more susceptible to the effects of BPA. Even low exposure increases their risk of developmental disorders like ADHD (attention deficit hyper-reactivity disorder).
These extremely small pieces of plastic (less than 5 mm long) are now commonly found in most plastic water bottles. Microplastics came under scrutiny for their effects on aquatic life, but they also impact our health. A recent study found that 93% of all bottled water contains microplastic contamination. That’s double compared to tap water. The research around microplastics is only just emerging, which is why there is no concrete evidence that microplastics have a negative impact on human health. However, some preliminary studies suggest that these plastics could block the flow of bodily fluids and aggravate, or cause, serious health problems.
The labels on water bottles often depict a peaceful mountain stream, which makes us believe the water came from and pure and pristine sources. However, in most cases, bottled water is no more than filtered tap water or water radiated with ultraviolet light before packaging. The possibility of water contamination is highest for refillable 3 gallon and 5 gallon bottles. These are often used to store other liquids before being reused. For instance, Vermont health officials issued a warning in 2013 regarding laboratory tests showing the presence of benzene (a component of gasoline). The problem occurred because people used the bottles to transport gasoline. Despite the disinfection and sanitation processes at the bottling plants, some gasoline residue remained and contaminated the water.
Effects for Women
Many manufacturers of plastic water bottles now offer BPA-free bottles. While these don’t contain BPA, they are not chemical-free, so proceed with caution. Studies show that most plastic products leach chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen. This could be particularly troubling for women! High estrogen levels have been linked to a higher risk of obesity, stroke, blood clots and endometrial cancer.
International Risks of Plastic Water Bottles
Plastic waste from disposed water bottles in other countries can also pose a health risk to the US public. A recent study found that pathogens can hitchhike on floating plastic in the ocean and can carry cholera or E.coli infections from India to the US. Plastic water bottles pose a threat to our health which is why it is important to make changes right away to safeguard our health and protect our environment.
The level of contaminants in your drinking water may be very low, but experts warn about the cumulative effects. The good news is that there are several steps to reduce your exposure to contaminants. Start by avoiding single-use bottles. Instead, carry filtered tap water with you in a a safe bottle. According to a report by the US Government Accountability Office, EPA protections for tap water are often more stringent than the FDA’s consumer protections for bottled water. When traveling, bring a stainless steel water bottle instead of plastic. Or, try a glass water bottle! Try a new unbreakable glass option. Some of the latest ones on the market survive a three-foot drop onto concrete. Many insulated bottles keep your water cold for 24 hours.
Water detoxifies. It aids with weight loss. H20 sustains, hydrates and nourishes you on a cellular level. However, just like most things, the source counts. We don’t want you eating cheap meats or conventionally grown produce. So why would we feel any differently about the quality of your water? This change just might be the most important one you can make. We always say, “Do the very best with the things you use every day.” For many of you, that’s water, coffee and certain foods. If you consume it daily, you need to do your very best with those specific items.
Let us know if you think ditching the plastic is something you can do in the comments below!