Which Water Bottles Are Safe to Reuse?

Written by russell huebsch
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Plastic to store bottled liquid for around 70 years. Recently, the American public has questioned the safety of water bottles, especially for reuse. Some studies suggest that dangerous chemicals can leach from plastic containers into liquids, or harbor bacteria. Although most plastic bottles should be safe, the greatest danger from reusing water bottles might come from ourselves.

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Which Water Bottles Are Safe to Reuse?
Common Water Bottles ("Wall of water" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: fhemerick (Fred) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.)

Identification

Polyethylene, found in most plastic water bottles, was developed in 1933 by two scientists in the Imperial Chemical Industries research laboratory. E.W. Fawcett and R.O. Gibson accidentally created polyethylene after an experiment involving ethylene and benzaldehyde went awry. As a result of the accident, a material was created that would be used in millions of products.

Polyethylene Terephthalate

According to the American Chemistry Council plastics web page, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that the polyethylene terephthalate used to make most consumer grade plastic water bottles is safe for reuse. FDA testing simulated the effects of long-term storage and reuse to find that although some chemical may leach from water bottles, it is a level safe for humans.

Bisphenol A

Some countries such as Canada consider bisphenol A too dangerous for use in consumer plastics. Bisphenol A is commonly found is reusable baby bottles and sports bottles. The Boston Globe reports that at least one study from Harvard shows that bisphenol likely does leach from plastic bottles. While more research on bisphenol A is needed, some studies show serious harmful developmental effects in younger people. The FDA does not consider the amount of bisphenol leached from plastics dangerous enough to warrant a ban.

Human Factor

Any water bottle can become dangerous for reuse unless proper hygiene methods are followed, reports New Zealand's Food Safety Authority. Most bacteria that grow on water bottles comes from people not washing their hands when refilling and drinking from the bottle. Water bottles can also gather germs when multiple people drink from the same bottle.

Considerations

If you decide to err on the safe side of things and only use water bottles once, you should consider recycling them, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says. Plastic water bottles are filling up landfills. CNN reports that most people do not recycle bottles, despite an increasing public awareness of the problems. The rate of disposal of plastic bottles with nonreusable waste is up to 90 percent in some countries.

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