I recently received a question from one of my readers about the safety of drinking water from clear plastic water bottles. These bottles, made from Lexan polycarbonate resin (a plastic polymer), are widely used for single-serving sales to one-gallon of water in stores and home-delivery bottles.
Theee bottles appear to be safe because they do not impart any taste or odor to the water. Lexan polycarbonate is also used to make compact discs and DVDs, bulletproof windows, mobile phones, and computers.
The water delivery company sent my reader a notice saying that their Lexan polycarbonate bottles are perfectly safe to use. They suggested their customers visit a website that was designed to portray this plastic in a positive light.
But, actually, a toxic chemical is lurking in these bottles that does end up in the water you drink. Lexan used to be used to make baby bottles, but these are no longer sold. Hmmmmm…
STAY AWAY FROM BPA
In 1998, Dr. Patricia Hunt of Case Western University in Ohio discovered that one of the components of Lexan polycarbonate resin–bisphenol-A (BPA)–can leach into water from water bottles. BPA is a potent hormone disruptor. It can impair the reproductive organs and have adverse effects on breast tissue and prostate development.
Who do we believe? The water delivery company or Dr. Hunt?
I’m inclined to go with Dr. Hunt. I went to a website maintained by the authors of Our Stolen Future: How We Are Threatening Our Fertility, Intelligence and Survival, who are continuously searching the scientific literature for information on endochrine disruptors. The Our Stolen Future (http://www.ourstolenfuture.org/NewScience/oncompounds/bisphenola/bpauses.htm#recentimportant page on bisphenol-a) gives a whole page of links to scientific studies that show that BPA damages the endocrine system in a variety of ways.
BPA can leach from water bottles when exposed to heat and cleaning agents, but detectable levels of BPA can also leach into water from bottles just sitting at room temperature, according to a 2003 study conducted by the University of Missouri published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
Is there is a level of BPA that may be acceptable? To answer that question we have to ask: acceptable to who? A healthy male? A woman? A child? The elderly? And how would you know how much leaching has occurred in the water? It could easily vary from day to day depending on how long the water had been in the bottle, whether or not the sun was shining on the bottle in the delivery truck, and a variety of other factors.
I’m concerned enough about the possible danger of BPA that I am no longer purchasing bottled water in plastic bottles.
Health concerns aside, plastic is also not good for the environment. Americans use about 10 million tons of plastic every year, but recycle only about two percent of it. A plastic milk jug takes about one million years to biodegrade. And, getting back to health concerns, the manufacture of plastics produces toxic wastes that return to us indirectly through polluted air, water, and soil.
But we also have to use common sense and choose the greatest benefit at any given time. If your choice was to drink spring water in the polycarbonate bottle or drink tap water or drink no water at all on a hot summer day, I would say drink the purer spring water in the polycarbonate bottle. Once in a while, a single exposure will not do much harm. But you don’t want to be using water contained in a Lexan polycarbonate resin bottle as your everyday source of water supply, or drink from these bottles all day long, every day.
There are other options.
My best recommendation is to get a good water filter that is right for your water and filter your water at home. That way there is no questionable leaching at all. Even though this may be expensive, it is one of the best investments you can make in your health and will save thousands of dollars in medical expenses in the long run.
For those of you who carry or purchase water in the small, single-serving Lexan polycarbonate bottles, you can purchase plastic-free refillable bottles in various sizes to suit your needs. They are lightweight and much more attractive than the disposable plastic bottles.
It’s a good idea, particularly in the summertime, to carry clean water with you, as your body needs water throughout the day for good health. The Mayo Clinic suggests you divide your weight in half and drink that many ounces of water every day. So if you weigh 128 pounds, that would be 64 ounces or 8 8-ounce glasses of water per day. It’s better to carry your own clean water in a safe container than drink tap water or water in a plastic bottle.