Don’t use plastic water bottles

June 9, 2007

Plastic bottles

Do you drink bottled water out of a plastic bottle? Ten years ago many would have laughed at the idea of paying for water, yet today I know hardly anyone (city dwellers anyhow) who drink tap water.

I don’t drink tap water either, unless I am way out in the countryside. Tap water is full of chlorine & fluoride in most cities, and neither of these is good for you (see my post on show filters for more about chlorine). I drink filtered water at home & often buy a plastic bottle when out & about. Many of you will no doubt have a reusable plastic bottle you use when at the gym, out for a walk, etc, and I used one for years. The need for clean, pure water is obvious, and many of us can’t get this from our taps, but bottled water, meant to meet this need, is a good idea poorly executed.

A few months ago I met a lady who owns her own water company. In getting to know her and what she does and why, I have learned some interesting and disturbing facts about bottled water. Here are a few of the most important related to health.

Most bottled water comes in a PET bottle (polyethylene terephthalate (PET #1 plastic). These bottles have been approved for one-time use only, yet it is common practice for many to reuse them, often for convenience, money saving, or environmental reasons. This may be a very unhealthy thing to do, however. Plastics Are Toxic. Studies show that bacteria easily breeds in PET bottles when reused and that reuse may cause DEHA, a carcinogen, to leach from the plastic into water in the bottle. A 2006 study revealed that significant levels of antimony, a toxic chemical, seeps into water sold in PET plastic bottles. This is one of the reasons why bottled water has an expiry date.

Bisphenal-A is a toxic compound found in polycarbonate (#7 plastic), the translucent, hard plastic used in Nalgene water bottles and many baby bottles. It is a hormone disruptor that mimics estrogen and is linked to early-onset puberty, declining sperm counts, obesity, and breast and prostate cancer. Due to the alarming toxicity of this chemical, in March 2007 a billion-dollar class action suit was filed in Los Angeles against five leading manufacturers of baby bottles containing Bisphenal-A.

So we can see that plastic bottles may be unhealthy, but there is also the environmental angle to consider. The pollution and energy consumption involved in the production, shipping and disposal of plastic bottles is staggering. According to Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, the production of one kilogram of PET plastic requires 17.5 kilograms of water and sends over half a dozen significant pollutants into the air. In other words, the water used to create one plastic bottle is significantly more than that bottle can hold.

Plastics are the fastest growing form of municipal waste. They do not biodegrade, and an estimated 88% of water bottles are not recycled. And because they float, and bottles that make it to the ocean can be mistaken as food by birds & fish. If they eat them, they are in the food chain and have the potential to harm those who don’t or can’t afford to drink from plastic bottles.

So, what to do? There are alternatives. Replace your Nalgene or other plastic bottles with a reusable stainless steel water bottle. No chemical leaching to worry about and much better for mother earth. At home, you can keep your filtered water in glass bottles. A quick internet search and you should be able to find some, or your local outdoor or health store may have some as well.


4 Responses to “Don’t use plastic water bottles”

  1. And plastic is just the tip of the chemical cesspool that is poisoning water. Read my book: “A Drinker’s Guide to Pure Water-Is Your Water Safe” to get more facts.

  2. Glen Says:

    Hi, I use a Hydropal, from, so I don’t have to buy bottled water, and I can safely filter water straight from the tap, where ever I am, so my Hydropal solves two problems, its environmentally friendly, and its healthy, because I’m not drinking chlorinated water anymore.

  3. Greg Says:

    Hi. Here are 2 website links that claim this is an “urban legend”, and that re-using plastic bottles (after washing, of course) is safe. I’m not convinced one way or the other yet:

  4. Mikeal Says:

    I was hoping to use this image off your website as part of a presentation I need to give. I’m graduating and this is part of a group thesis presentation. We are arguing that current plastic practices aren’t significant and that there is no need for our most temporary plastics like packaging to last hundreds or thousands of years when they are only to be used for such a short time frame. We are urging the use of bio-plastics in the most temporary of non-durable plastic products. We are also arguing that current plastics are possibly dangerous do to the sometimes carcinogens and toxins that are used as additives. (I have researched this, it is true, Greg)

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