Is It Bad to Drink Water from Plastic Bottles?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

There are a number of things you may want to think about when addressing the issue of whether or not it is bad to drink water from plastic bottles. Bottled water certainly has a negative environmental impact, and it also poses some potential health risks. After weighing these issues, you may want to switch to glass or metal water containers, or start using heavy duty plastic water bottles which are designed to be safely used again and again.

Plastic water bottles are convenient and may encourage people to drink water, but the plastic they use can cause environmental problems if not recycled.
Plastic water bottles are convenient and may encourage people to drink water, but the plastic they use can cause environmental problems if not recycled.

From an environmental standpoint, it is very bad to drink water from plastic bottles. Plastics require a lot of energy for manufacture, and they do not break down very readily. People who drink water out of plastic bottles which are designed to be disposable are contributing heavily to the content of landfills, and to the general pollution caused by manufacturing the bottles, bottling the water, and shipping the water.

Glass bottles can be recycled.
Glass bottles can be recycled.

Since few standards govern the content of bottled water, many people are surprised to learn that their fancy bottled water is actually plain old tap water, retrieved from a reservoir. You can save a lot of money by drinking your tap water, which is also better for you, since tap water is regularly tested for contamination. This is also more environmentally friendly, as you can re-use water bottles by filling them at the tap.

Many bottles end up in landfills.
Many bottles end up in landfills.

However, when you re-use plastic bottles, you run the risk of encouraging bacteria to grow in your water bottle. Many bacteria love moist environments, and your well-used plastic water bottle can host a complex biofilm of organisms, some of which could make you sick. This is one reason metal and glass are preferable, because they can be easily sterilized, reducing the risk of ingesting bacteria.

Some people prefer to drink water from glass containers.
Some people prefer to drink water from glass containers.

There is also some debate over the answer to the question of whether or not drinking water from plastic bottles is safe, re-used or not. Some people believe that plastics leach chemicals which are potentially hazardous to human health, and that by drinking water from plastic bottles, people will ingest these chemicals, putting their health at risk. Other people believe that while plastics certainly do contain hazardous substances, the leaching ability of these substances is debatable. Despite several studies, no one has come down firmly on one side or the other.

Fancy bottled water is often just plain tap water.
Fancy bottled water is often just plain tap water.

A number of harmful chemicals are at issue in the debate, particularly the carcinogen di-2-ethylhexyl-adipate (DEHA) and bisphenol-A (BPA), a known endocrine disruptor. Studies do indicate that some plastics contain these substances, and there is a leaching potential, especially when hot water is involved, as the heat can encourage the plastic to offgas, and in the bottle, the offgassing vapors have nowhere to go other than directly into your water.

Seemingly fancy bottled water may be nothing more than tap water.
Seemingly fancy bottled water may be nothing more than tap water.

However, all plastics are not alike, and you should look at the recycling code on the bottom of a bottle for more information. Hard plastics with the numbers two, four, or five are generally viewed as safe to drink from and re-use, while bottles with numbers one, three, six, or seven may pose a leaching risk, and you should avoid them.

Some people believe that plastic water bottles leach chemicals that are harmful to health.
Some people believe that plastic water bottles leach chemicals that are harmful to health.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

annalevis

Before BPA was researched it was deemed safe, as were phythalates. There is no plastic that is provent o be 100% safe, and we will begin to see more chemicals identified over the next few years that will make us wish we had avoided plastic use sooner. I personally use canned water as it is purified and can be stored long time for emergency use.

anon325430

The plastic bottle manufacturer's agenda is to undermine people's confidence in tap water so that they will buy bottled water.

If you buy bottled water, which is often from the same source as tap water, you are additionally exposing yourself to even more of a chemical concoction than if you just drink plain tap water.

We are being duped in the interests of those who make lots of money from plastic bottled water and at the expense of our environment.

anon324885

People need to get a life and stop worrying about stupid stuff.

anon136215

Use glass bottles. plastic are always unsafe.

anon79947

You need to look for the aluminum cans containing beer. Apparently this stuff has been around for hundreds of years. It has promoted good moods, and social gatherings, usually with humor. It has even helped in the reproduction of the human species, especially among the less attractive of the species.

anon79945

No but it's better to drink beer from an aluminum can.

anon74180

Fluoride in the correct amount is not poisonous, but very beneficial in preventing tooth decay. As with almost anything you put in your body, if you put more than your supposed to, it can be harmful. This includes water! People have died from drinking too much water, but you don't go around saying water is poisonous. You should do more research from multiple sources.

anon64515

You people need to read the articles fully. You're saying things that were covered in the articles.

anon45662

I really hope we get to a stage in our lifetime where humans realize their effect on their surroundings. Use a stainless steel jug for the rest of your life and refill it. One jug! The article didn't even begin to talk about the amount of water that is wasted in the process of making the plastic and making the water cleaning enough to drink. Water is a very precious commodity. lkovash

anon28691

I think it is naive for one to say that drinking tap water is better for you than drinking from plastic bottles. Public water is fluoridated, fluoride causes brain damage and cancer. Look who owns the water companies? They do not have our best interests in mind. Please look into this as there is numerous research supporting this fact.

marathonrunner

i guess it all depends upon what you consider "safe." you may have a much different concept of it from the FDA...for now, plastic waterbottles are on the market because they have been deemed safe. that of course, could all change tomorrow!

anon14423

Actually, 1's are not considered safe, because they can contain DEHA!

cindyy

good question - I found this website looking for an answer as well. Do they contain either deha or bpa?

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