What Are the Dangers of Refilling Plastic Water Bottles?

Updated February 21, 2017

Refilling plastic water bottles of the disposable kind may seem environmentally sound, but this practice can actually increase your exposure to the toxic chemical bisphenol A, found in many plastics. Many plastic water bottles contain this chemical, so alternatives should be sought when possible.


Refilling plastic water bottles--and the general use of plastic water bottles--can cause bisphenol A to leach into the water at levels detectable in human bodies, according to a 2009 study by Carwile, et al, published in Environmental Health Perspectives. Polycarbonate plastic, also known as #7 plastic, gives off this chemical when exposed to water. Manufacturers use polycarbonate plastic in many products for human food use, including baby bottles, disposable and reusable water bottles, epoxy resins and food containers.

Bisphenol A and Endocrine Problems

Found in polycarbonate plastics, bisphenol A disrupts the endocrine system by mimicking some of the effects of estrogen. This chemical copycat can upset normal hormonal balance, and has been implicated in problems such as weight gain and fertility disruption, according to a 2007 study by Rubin, et al, published in Environmental Health Perspectives. It can also lead to pre-cancerous breast lesions in women, and decreased sperm production in men.

Bisphenol A and Metabolic Syndrome

Nira-Ben Jonathan and her team of researchers at the University of Cincinnati discovered that bisphenol A has effects on human fatty tissue that could connect to metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome describes insulin resistance and other risk factors that can lead to the development of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other common serious illnesses.

The increasing commonality of metabolic syndrome may be related to the amount of bisphenol A we are exposed to in our environment, in sources such as plastic water bottles, canned food and dental repairs.

Other Dangers

According to an overview of research from the Carwile study, bisphenol A has been linked to a host of other disorders, including premature sexual development, prostate and breast problems, and signs of liver disease.

While any one plastic bottle may pose minimal danger, reuse of plastic water bottles can be easily avoided; therefore, avoiding this practice is one of the easiest ways to reduce environmental intake of bisphenol A.


Stainless steel bottles offer a popular and convenient alternative to plastic bottles. Be sure to check metal bottles to confirm that they are not coated with epoxy, which can contain bisphenol A just as plastic bottles can. Other advantages conferred by metal bottles: They clean more easily than plastic, leaving fewer bacteria and odors. Glass and ceramic bottles are also a healthier option than plastic, but have the disadvantage of breaking easily.

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About the Author

Eri Luxton holds a B.A. in liberal arts, an M.F.A. in creative writing, a first aid certification and a biomedical ethics certificate. She has worked as an English teacher overseas and as a local volunteer in first aid and in technology troubleshooting. Luxton mentors students in chemistry and physics while studying toward a pre-health sciences degree.