Bottled water safety

Two weeks ago I sent you an e-Alert (“Don’t Fill ‘er Up” 2/13/03) about the possible health problems that can result from reusing water bottles. If they’re reused without washing, bacteria can accumulate. But if you repeatedly wash a bottle with soap and hot water, toxic chemicals in the plastic may eventually break down and migrate into the liquid inside.

This dilemma leads to a logical question sent in by several HSI members such as Robert who asked: “What about those blue 5-gallon bottles used by the bottled water delivery companies? Are the same ‘plastic bottle’ risks associated with repeated use of those bottles?”

Similar questions were asked about sports bottles, as well as plastic cups, plates, bowls, etc. The University of Idaho study that tested the effects of repeated rewashing of bottles examined only typical soft-drink and water bottles made from a plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PETE). If the same sorts of tests have been conducted on other types of plastics, I haven’t been able to find them.

So the answer to Robert’s question may be “yes” if those heavy-duty five-gallon bottles are made of PETE. And there’s an easy way to find out. All plastic containers are required to carry the imprint of a triangle with a number inside it, designating the type of plastic used to make the container. If you find the number 1 inside the triangle, the container is made of PETE.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute