There are a number of environmental concerns about plastic bottles that hold water. Because plastic bottles are harmful to the environment, refillable bottles are the way to go. But they may not all be safe.
The controversy surrounding plastic bottles revolves around the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), a known hormone disruptor that mimics and disrupts natural hormones, including estrogen, that control brain and reproductive functions. The chemical can leach from plastic containers into food and drink. The effect is heightened with prolonged storage, and when heated (as in the dishwasher).
Plastics are labeled with a number that is an indication of the resin used in its manufacture. The initial purpose was to help identify which plastics could be recycled together. Today it also helps consumers identify safe plastics. The following table gives the plastic numbers, their makeup, and their effects.
|#1||polyethylene terephthalate (PET)||human carcinogen seen only after nine months storage|
|#2||high-density polyethylene (HDPE)||chemical leaching probability increases with age and heat|
|#3||polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)||known to release carcinogenic toxins into environment|
|#4||low-density polyethylene (LDPE)||low level leaching only after prolonged storage|
|#5||polypropylene (PP)||not known to leach dioxins or carcinogens|
|#6||polystyrene (PS)||leaches styrene, a possible human carcinogen and hormone disruptor|
|#7||polycarbonate||leaches BPA, a known hormone disruptor|
The conclusion? Dig out your Boy Scout canteen. Stainless steel, glass, and ceramic containers are the safest. While it isn’t practical to carry a glass bottle on your power walk, more and more stores are carrying light stainless steel bottles. They are dishwasher safe, eliminating harmful bacteria build up, and are BPA-free.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studied BPA in the 1980s, and concluded that it is only harmful when consumed in immense quantities. However, a 2006 study indicated a possible correlation between this chemical and enhanced risk of type II diabetes, ovarian dysfunction, mammary gland development, and miscarriage. The data is inconsistent, so until further studies are completed, these products are still on the market.