If you've had a grocery bag rip, you know why we love them: plastic bottles can take a beating. Versatile and durable, they're designed for reuse and recycling. However, the breakdown of plastic chemicals into the environment, a process called "leaching," is a legitimate health concern. Thanks to identification codes, you can stay healthy. The number on your water bottle -- the recycling code -- identifies the type of plastic used and its properties.
#1: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
PET plastic is the most common type of disposable, single-serving water bottle sold. Do not reuse this type of bottle. The plastic used may allow germ growth or leach phalates, which are a carcinogenic chemical used to make the plastic flexible. One use won't kill you, but don't make a habit of it. A safe refillable bottle is a better bet for you and the environment.
#2: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
High density polythene (HDPE) bottles do not contain known carcinogens and are safe for reuse. This type of plastic is a good buy if you're investing in a refillable bottle.
#4: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
Low density polythene (LDPE) bottles do not contain known carcinogens and are safe for reuse. This is also a good choice to go green.
#5: Polypropylene (PP)
Polypropylene (PP) bottles do not contain known carcinogens and are safe for reuse. Again, a safe purchase.
Do not use this type of plastic to hold drinking water. Bottles labelled #7, or unlabeled, may contain bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an endochrine disrupter and potential carcinogen. The EPA is studying this as a chemical of concern which may present "unreasonable risk" to the environment. WHO and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are examining the human effects. They note that BPA does migrate to water increasingly as a container is reused and worn down, that it does cause cancer in tests on animals, but that is has not been shown to cause cancer in humans at the exposure levels likely to occur.
Purchasing #7 water bottles presents unnecessary risk since safer alternatives are available. Popular refillable bottle manufacturers such as Nalgene are transitioning to using #1, 2, 4 and 5 plastics in response to consumers' demand for non-BPA products. When it comes to your health, exercise caution.