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Plastic Bottles 101
How Much Do You Know about Plastic Bottles?

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Are Plastic Bottles Safe? Chemical BPA a Suspect in Triggering Breast Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Early Puberty, and Obesity

Are plastic bottles safe? This question can be answered by reading the previous list of types of plastics used in various food and water containers. As for the safety of the popular Nalgene bottles, let's take a hint from the Canadian government: In April 2008, the Canadian government banned all polycarbonate plastic baby bottles. After reviewing 150 medical-research papers, the Canadian health minister said that children up to the age of 18 months were at the most risk from the chemical BPA. The Canadian government was ready to declare this chemical ingredient in plastic bottles "toxic." In April 2008, even the retail giant Wal-Mart announced that it will pull all polycarbonate plastic water bottles from its shelves in Canada and the United States by early 2009. Retailer Toys "R" Us has planned to phase out all BPA-containing plastic bottles by the end of 2008.

As many readers know, in April and May 2008, certain types of popular plastic bottles (i.e., the clear Nalgene bottles) have been in controversy over its safety. To put the chemicals in plastic bottles in perspective, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved some 80,000 chemicals for consumer use, according to the Center for Children's Health and the Environment. Of those 80,000 approved chemicals, 2,800 are manufactured in large volumes of more than one million pounds per year. But fewer than half of those high-volume consumer-use chemicals have been studied for their toxicity and health effects in animals or humans (reported in the New York Times, April 2008). Essentially, until these recent years, few people knew of the harmful health effects of BPA in the polycarbonate plastic water bottles.

Other food-related containers are not safe as well: In early 2008, 24 manufacturers and retailers of children's vinyl lunch boxes were sued by a nonprofit organization in Oakland, California, after two independent labs tested lead in them. Babies and children are especially vulnerable to chemicals found in plastic bottles because they are still developing and even small amounts of toxic substances can cause profound and long-term effects in them.

For Your Family's Health
To be safe, if you are currently using reusable plastic bottles to fill them with the pure R.O. water filtered at home, consider switching to either the good, old-fashion glass bottles or the temperature-insulated stainless-steel vacuum bottles. Yes, we know that glass and steel bottles are not as fabulously attractive, colorful, light-weight, shatter-resistant, cheap, and in general, more convenient, than the plastic bottles and polycarbonate plastic (such as Nalgene) sports bottles. But in the long run, you will be drinking pure water without having to worry about any leached chemicals. One additional advantage of these bottles: the glass and stainless-steel containers are durable and probably more economical in the long run.

For babies and children, we definitely recommend against using any type of plastic bottles for their food and drink. Baby bottles should be made of glass which doesn't leak chemicals and doesn't react with milk and other baby formula. Children should use glass, ceramic, or stainless-steel cups and bowls. We caution that even adults should try to avoid food and drink containers made of plastic. As for storing several gallons of water at home for regular or emergency use, use glass jugs and store the water out of direct sunlight whenever possible.

Try to reduce your intake of canned food as well because the food cans are lined with BPA-containing plastic liners (#7, OTHER). BPA also leaches into the food in the cans.

For Environmental Health
Plastic bottles are convenient and ubiquitous, so much so nowadays that plastic-bottle litter is an ever-present part of our urban landscapes. Their presence and litter can be found from the Arctic to the Sahara Desert, from Siberia to the Amazons, and from the Himalayas to the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with their reach spreading all over the globe. In 2006 alone, people discarded 38 billion water bottles in the landfill without recycling them (only 23% of all water bottles are ever recycled). In general, it is good to avoid plastics whenever possible. Consider the following sets of facts (from many commonly cited news, government, and industry sources):

  • Worldwide 2.7 million tons of plastics are used annually to bottle drinking water. (OneWorld)
  • Americans will buy an estimated 25 billion one-serving, plastic water bottles in 2008. Eight out of 10 (22 billion) will be thrown away and ended up in a landfill. (Container Recycling Institute)
  • An estimated 1.5 million barrels of oil will be used just so that Americans can consume plastic bottled water; this amount of oil is sufficient to fuel some 100,000 cars in America for a year. (Earth Policy Institute)

So, use glass or steel bottles to bottle your own filtered water at home and improve your health while reducing your contribution to global pollution!

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