This is part one in our series answering the much asked question of why we don’t drink bottled water when travelling.
I am lucky enough to live in a country that supplies clean drinkable tap water so obviously I don’t need to buy bottled water there. However we spend a lot of time in countries where drinking the tap water is not recommended. Bottled water is seen as the only way to go. We disagree. Bonkers? Maybe, but have you considered all the issues – lets start with the bottle.
Most of the plastic bottles water is sold in are made from Plastic #1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is considered generally safe but there are a few issues you should be aware of:
Antimony is used in the manufacture of PET. This is a heavy metal and one “that poses both acute and chronic health effects in drinking water” . There is evidence that antimony leaches from the plastic bottle into the contents.
The following is an edited extract from Westoffs research in to antimony in plastic bottles.
“Antimony concentrations in the bottled waters ranged from 0.095 to 0.521 ppb, well below the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 6 ppb…. However, storage at higher temperatures had a significant effect on the time-dependent release of antimony…. and could result in an antimony concentration of 376 ppb. …only a small fraction of the antimony in PET plastic bottles is released into the water. Still, the use of alternative types of plastics that do not leach antimony should be considered, especially for climates where exposure to extreme conditions.” That means hot countries.
You can read the full report here …. and there is more …..
PETs claim to be a safe plastic is based on the fact that it does not contain BPA a known endocrine disrupter. But scientists at Goethe University in Frankfurt claim that other as yet unidentified estrogenic compounds do leach from PET plastic into the water. Lead researcher Martin Wagner said “What we found was really surprising to us, if you drink water from plastic bottles, you have a high probability of drinking estrogenic compounds.” Interested? read here
And Mr. Sax agrees and asserts that phthalates are present in PET bottles. You can read his research here
Then there is . This isn’t so much a health issue as one of taste. Acetaldehyde is used in the manufacturing process and can sometimes end up in the plastic by mistake. It has a strong taste and chemical odor that is detectable in parts 10 to a billion. When you say Coke tastes better from a glass bottle this may be why.
In many countries PET water bottles need to maintain a known composition. This means that they cannot be made from recycled plastics but have to use fresh, virgin oil that could be put to better use. In other countries, countries that don’t have such stringent regulations, bottles may be made from recycled plastics. In fact “50+% of recycled #4 plastic was sold to developing nations in 2008. Many have much lower standards for their plastics and permit very contaminated plastics to be melted together and used in food packaging” find more ugly facts over at the Flotsam Diaries
Finally PET has a porous surface that allows bacteria and flavor to accumulate so don’t be using that bottle for too long.
In short I don’t want to drink from a bottle that harbors bacteria, leaches antimony and unidentified estrogenic compounds, that potentially contains vile tasting acetaldehyde and is possibly made from contaminated plastic, and we havn’t even got to the contents yet or how to dispose of the bottle.
Next up we will be looking at what’s actually in the bottle.
Want to find more travel related plastic free tips? Check out the travel category
Stay at home type? Check out my range of U.K based plastic free products with the >>>A-Z<<< plastic free index
- The University of Vermont bans the bottle on campus (quenchonline.com)
- U.S. National Park bans the sale of disposable water bottles on site (quenchonline.com)
- The Case against Bottled Water (Skill Set) (engineerharry.wordpress.com)