Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Facts About Filling Plastic Water Bottles With Tap Water

Claim: A University of Idaho student's masters thesis found that reused plastic water bottles leach chemicals.

Reality: Not true, the FDA says. The student's tests were not subjected to peer or FDA review. The FDA has classified polyethylene terephthalate (PET) -- the material used in most disposable water bottles -- as meeting federal standards for food-contact materials.

Claim: The plasticizer DEHA is a human carcinogen that can leach from the plastic bottles into the water, possibly causing cancer.

Reality: First, the plasticizer used in PET is diethlhexyladipate, not diethylhydroxylamine (DEHA). The American Cancer Society states, "The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says DEHA 'cannot reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer ... or other serious or irreversible chronic health effects.'"

Claim: Freezing water releases dioxins in plastic bottles.

Reality: Plastics contain no dioxins, says Rolf Halden, assistant professor in the Department of Environment Health Sciences and the Center for Water and Health at Johns Hopkins.

"Freezing actually works against the release of chemicals," he adds. "Chemicals do not diffuse as readily in cold temperatures, which would limit chemical release if there were dioxins in plastic, and we don't think there are."

Claim: A University of Calgary study found coliform (typically from fecal matter) and heterotrophic (bacteria from the mouth) in 12 percent of 75 water bottles reused by elementary school children.

Reality: Yes, bacteria were present, but the study's author concluded that a lack of personal hygiene was to blame. The bottles and kids' hands were not properly cleaned before refilling.

Claim: It's dangerous to drink water from a plastic bottle left in a hot car.

Reality: True, and the same goes for exposing an open water bottle to room temperature for too long, says Keith Christman, senior director of packaging for the American Chemistry Council's Plastics Division.

"You want to treat it as an opened food product container," he says. "That's why many food products say 'refrigerate after use' because bacteria can grow in warm conditions."

Claim: Lexan is a polycarbonate plastic, used in sports bottles such as Nalgene, that contains bisphenol A, which if consumed can cause chromosomal disruption, miscarriages, birth defects and obesity.

Reality: It depends on whom you ask. The Environment California Research & Policy Center notes that more than 130 studies found that BPA at very low doses was linked to adverse health effects. Also, 38 leading scientific experts on BPA have called for more research because of those studies.


Bottled water: Most bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which experts say makes them safe for reuse as long as they are in good condition (no cracks) and properly cleaned before refilling. Less durable than sports bottles, they should be replaced more frequently.

Nestle Waters North America sells eco-shaped half-liter Ozarka bottled water that uses 30 percent less plastic than average disposable water bottles.

Sports bottles: These, which include Nalgene, are made of polycarbonate or high-density polyethylene and are designed for long-term reuse. Polycarbonates are linked to bisphenol A, which some research indicates is an endocrine disruptor causing birth defects, obesity and other health problems. Like single-use bottles, they should be cleaned before reuse.


Biota: The bottles, filled with spring water, are derived from a renewable resource (corn) that degrades in 75 to 80 days in a commercial compost. They can be refilled like other single-use bottles. For store locator, visit biotaspringwater.com.

Sigg: The reusable metal bottle is made of aluminum and sprayed inside with a food-compatible stove enamel. As with other bottles, it must be cleaned properly to remove bacteria.

Star-Telegram.com | 09/11/2007 | Pour on the cold, hard facts

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