The Primary Dangers of Plastic Bottled Water

The Primary Dangers of Plastic Bottled Water

12 minute read

Recent years have seen an increase in awareness regarding the negative impact plastic water bottles have on the environment. Unfortunately, while most people know that plastic water bottles are bad for the environment, this awareness has not resulted in a significant drop in the use of disposable water bottles. In fact, their use is still on the increase with Americans using an average of 50 billion plastic water bottles a year; and while recycling is more accessible than ever,  90% of plastic water bottles are not recycled after use, meaning that billions of plastic bottles are entering our landfills, and even our oceans, every year. In fact, so much plastic waste makes it into our oceans that it is estimated that over a million marine animals are killed by plastic waste each year, often due to accidental plastic ingestion.

However, while the environmental effects of disposable water bottles alone should be enough to make us consider purchasing a reusable water bottle and a home water filter, there are also other benefits to be gained by ditching plastic water bottles. While the environmental impact of plastic bottles gets most of the attention, there are also other reasons why you should consider switching to a reusable water bottle. Here is an overview of just a few of the other reasons to go reusable, including some lesser-known dangers of drinking bottled water.

Your Bottled Water Probably Doesn’t Come From Where You Think it Does

One of the primary reasons consumers continue to purchase bottled water regardless of the potential environmental impact is due to a perception that bottled water is higher quality, more pristine water; and there is a reason for this misconception. Most advertisements for bottled water depict a fresh stream or mountain spring in order to make it seem like their bottled water is purer than tap water or other brands of bottled water. However, water that is bottled from special springs is rare, and the fact is that most bottled water comes from similar sources as your municipal water supply, meaning that there is likely nothing special about your bottled water other than its branding. In fact, Aquafina now states on its labels that its water comes from public sources. Additionally, as we will discuss below, in some cases your bottled water may be less pure than what comes out of your tap at home.

It May Not Even be Filtered

While bottled water is often depicted as being higher quality than tap water, the fact is that in many instances bottled water is glorified tap water. While some manufacturers put their water through additional filtering before bottling it, many do not and simply charge for the packaging. Thusly, even though it is likely the same water as what comes out of the tap at home, you may be paying thousands of times more for the same product when you buy bottled water. In fact, some studies have even suggested that bottled water is less safe than tap water in some places. This is due to the fact that the municipal water supply that comes to our homes is highly regulated. The EPA regulates public tap water supplies and sets legal limits for hundreds of contaminants that could show up in water, and they regularly test for these contaminants. Alternatively, bottled water undergoes very little regulation, and recent studies have found traces of phthalates, mold, microbes, arsenic, and thousands of other contaminants in bottled water. Considering bottled water may not be as pure, or as safe, as many people think, you would likely get the purest drinking water by filtering your tap water at home.

Bottled Water Often Contains Toxins From The Plastic

The primary risk associated with drinking bottled water is the fact that you can be exposed to harmful toxins from the plastic. Even though water is not acidic (unlike soda), whenever you drink out of a plastic bottle, you risk ingesting the chemicals used to make the bottles as these toxins can leach into the water over time. This is particularly common with older water bottles and/or those that have been exposed to heat. BPA and other plastic toxins can then make their way into your bloodstream, which can cause a host of problems including various cancers as well as liver and kidney damage. Unfortunately, at this time scientists do not fully understand all of the potential long-term effects of ingesting toxins through the consumption of bottled water; however, these toxins can accumulate in your system over the years leaving you prone to a variety of health problems.

Drinking Bottled Water Can Cause Development and Fertility Issues

While more manufacturers are choosing to sell BPA-free plastic water bottles, it is still a common component found in water bottles made from Type 7 plastic. One of the many problems with BPA is that it acts as a faux-estrogen, and when consumed in water through leaching plastic it can cause a variety of chromosomal abnormalities that have been tied to birth defects and developmental disabilities in children. Exposure to the estrogen in BPA can also cause decreased fertility in both men and women, and when children are exposed to BPA while in the womb this can lead to complications later in life such as hyperactivity disorders, early-onset puberty, and an increased risk for certain cancers. It is then often recommended that women do not drink bottled water (particularly water from Type 7 plastic bottles) when pregnant.

It Also Correlates to Higher Rates of Disease in Adults

Exposure to the toxins in plastic water bottles has also been linked to higher rates of disease as adults. It has been found that people who drink a lot of bottled water, and in particular those who had high concentrations of BPA in their urine, were three times more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, and were 2.4 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than individuals with low concentrations of BPA in their bodies. Even BHPF, a compound which is now being used in many plastic bottles instead of BPA, has been found to have dangerous side-effects similar to that of BPA. Thusly, even as the plastic industry tries to innovate to make plastic bottles “safer”, it becomes more apparent that the safest thing to do is to avoid drinking bottled water whenever possible.

It Can Also Lead to Weight Gain

It is no secret that obesity in the United States has reached epidemic proportions. However, if you have been trying to lose weight and nothing seems to work, you may be surprised to learn that your bottled water consumption could be to blame. Both BPA and BHPF have been found to disrupt the hormones in our bodies. In particular, it is the effect both of these compounds have on the estrogen levels in both men and women that has been tied to weight management problems. Exposure to the compounds in plastic water bottles can ultimately influence the rate that fat is stored in your body and where fat is stored, which can cause weight gain and difficulty losing weight.

You Might be Drinking Microplastics

Perhaps the most concerning thing about bottled water that has come to light in recent years is that drinking bottled water can put people at risk of consuming microplastics. Microplastics are small pieces of plastic– usually less than 5mm long– that can be found in a variety of products including, perhaps most controversially, a lot of cosmetic products where they are added to act as exfoliating scrubbers in hand cleaners and facial scrubs.

Not only does bottled water absorb some of the chemical compounds in the plastic bottle, but recent studies suggest that that plastic itself can be present in the water consumers drink. In fact, a World Health Organisation (WHO) study found that in 93% of popular bottled water brands tested the water contained plastic fibers (similar results were also found in a study conducted by Fredonia State University of New York). While studies on the prevalence of microplastics in bottled water, and the potential danger this presents, are still in the early stages, one can only imagine the potential long-term effects of consuming plastic, highlighting another reason to limit one’s use of bottled water.

Reusing Water Bottles Also Poses a Danger

In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, some people have started reusing disposable plastic water bottles by refilling them multiple times. While this may seem like a good idea in concept, it can actually be dangerous to reuse a single-use water bottle. When you reuse these bottles you risk additional chemicals and microplastics from the bottle entering your drinking water. Additionally, the shape of these bottles makes it nearly impossible to clean them, and the soft plastic they are made out of creates a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which can make it hazardous to your health to reuse these bottles.

Should Plastic Water Bottles Be Banned?

Legislation has already begun in many parts of the world to ban single-use plastic water bottles.  San Francisco Airport has now banned plastic water bottles for sale in their terminals. The airport installed more than 100 refill stations which are far significant to the 15 located at LAX. This move will eliminate 4 million plastic water bottles that were being sold each year, think of how much less waste that will be in our landfills and oceans. Americans use 3 million plastic water bottles every hour which is far too much. Not to mention the environmental concerns but also the health concerns with the microplastics we’ve already mentioned, certainly more local, state, and federal officials should be taking a closer look at the plastic that is being used, purchased, and wasted.

Considering the risk that drinking bottled water can pose, you may want to consider investing in a high-quality metal reusable water bottle and a water filtration system for your home. This will help to ensure the health of you and your loved ones while reducing your carbon footprint, which can help to preserve the environment for future generations. Learn more about the GoPure Pod Portable Water Filter and the steps you can take to reduce your plastic footprint.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are plastic water bottles made of?

The creation of plastic water bottles is the result of a manufacturing process where multiple raw materials are manipulated to create a shape ideal for holding liquids. In a raw state, plastic is composed of multiple organic polymers including polyethylene and ethylene. In a soft state, these materials can be shaped into the desired form for the bottle and then cast into a solid-state.

Plastic water bottles can be manufactured through the use of various raw materials. These materials can be identified by checking the base of the bottle for a resin identification code which will help you determine whether the bottle has been made from polyethylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, or polystyrene.

Why are plastic water bottles bad for the environment?

There are various reasons why plastic water bottles are specifically harmful to the environment. Plastic water bottles are made from petroleum products such as polyethylene terephthalate which requires a substantial amount of fossil fuels to create and transport the substance. Recycling plastic bottles is also a difficult process and in many cases waste from plastic bottles ends up being discarded in landfills where they ultimately make their ways to parks, rivers, and oceans. Further, the process of manufacturing plastic requires a large amount of water, averaging 2 gallons of water per bottle created.

What chemicals are in plastic water bottles?

Plastic water bottles contain a sizable amount of Bisphenol A (BPA), a substance that has been classified as an endocrine disruptor, meaning it bears a toxic effect on a human’s ability to reproduce. Plastic water bottles also contain plastic softeners known as phthalates which can also be toxic to the health of the consumer.

How many plastic water bottles are used per day?

Humans globally purchase 1 million plastic water bottles per minute, 91% of which are not recycled. This means that per day plastic water bottle consumption currently rests at an incredible rate of nearly 1.5 billion per day.

Why is it bad to refill plastic water bottles?

Plastic water bottles are specifically designed for single-use and therefore, reusing plastic water bottles has been shown to encourage bacteria growth and chemical leaching.

Why is bottled water bad for you?

Bottled water is laced with harmful chemicals such as phthalates which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. Additionally, plastic bottles contain BPA which has been linked to various reproductive issues.

What type of plastic are water bottles made of?

Plastic water bottles can be made from several classifications of plastics, but are most commonly engineered from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) due to the strong yet lightweight nature of the compound.

How much plastic is saved by using reusable water bottles?

Assuming the daily consumption of 64 oz of water for the average drinker, the annual use of one reusable water bottle would therefore save approximately 1,460 plastic bottles per year. This would lead to a sizable impact on the environment.

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