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Today, most people carry trendy, colorful plastic bottles with water and juices, to keep themselves hydrated. However, we also have all kinds of rumors floating around pertaining to the health hazards associated with the same.
Via plastic recycling, we have ensured that fewer plastic bottles and plastic products pollute our environment. However, what about the pollution that plastic bottles are causing to the human body? Questions regarding the safety of reusing plastic bottles has emerged due to the different scary revelations that have emerged in the last decade or two.
Lexan Resin in Plastic Bottles
A plastic polymer, Lexan polycarbonate resin was accidentally formed in 1953, by General Electric and is used in products such as DVDs, compact discs, computers, water bottles, and baby bottles till date. The durable attribute of Lexan makes it perfect to be used in water bottles and baby bottles. Moreover, it doesn't impart its flavor into the liquid stored, which is why people assume that this plastic is safe as compared to the other types of plastic.
Right from students to bikers to on-the-go moms, everyone finds these light, colorful, plastic bottles suitable for their active lifestyle. However, the ingredient in this plastic, i.e. Lexan polycarbonate resin, which is responsible for attractiveness of the bottle is what conduces to this plastic bottle health hazard. However, research conducted by Dr. Patricia Hunt of Case Western University in Ohio takes the wind off one's sails. The findings, as published in 2003, in the journal 'Current Biology' questioned the use of polycarbonate plastics such as Lexan.
Plastic Bottles BPA (Bisphenol-A)
Plastics made from polycarbonate resin or Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) tend to leach out a potent hormone disruptor called Bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA, a chemical found in most plastics impairs the reproductive organs and conduces adverse effects on breast tissue development, prostate development (reduces sperm count), and tumors. This chemical leaches out into the contents of the water bottle during the normal wear and tear of the bottle.
Exposure to heat and cleaning agents causes BPA to enter the contents of the bottle. This means leaving the plastic bottle in the car, or in the back pack and while washing the bottle with harsh detergents, can release the chemicals into the contents. In 2003, a study conducted by the University of Missouri revealed that detectable amounts of BPA leached into the liquid at room temperature. This means plastic bottles kept on the desk at room temperature can also be potentially harmful.
Scientists from Goethe University, Frankfurt discovered that estrogenic compounds leach from the plastic bottles into the water. This means drinking from these bottles implies that one is probably drinking harmful compounds. A test was used to confirm the presence of estrogenic compounds in water stored in plastic bottles. 20 samples of mineral water were taken, of which 9 were stored in plastic bottles, another 9 were stored in glass bottles, and the remaining 2 bottles were stored in cartons. Specialized genetically-engineered yeast was used to test the presence of estrogenic compounds. The test results revealed estrogenic activity in 7 of the plastic bottles and 3 of the glass bottles. The level of estrogenic compounds in plastic bottles was higher.
Moreover, to confirm if the estrogenic compounds came from the plastic and not the mineral water, the research team emptied the bottles and placed pure snail medium, along with tiny snail species instead of the water. These snails placed were highly sensitive to estrogenic compounds. This was done for glass as well as plastic bottles. 8 weeks later, it was observed that the female snails in plastic jars featured twice as many embryos inside their body as compared to the snails in the glass jars. This clearly indicates that something from the plastic leached out and altered the reproductive pattern of the snail.
However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declined this claim consistently. In an experiment conducted by the researchers of Harvard School of Public Health, it was revealed that people who drank water from plastic polycarbonate bottles featured increased percentage (up to 69%) of bisphenol-A in their urine. Moreover, the number of chemicals in the urine was also seen to rise. BPA is used in baby bottles as well, which when heated, results in increased concentration of BPA in the baby's milk or water. Since infants are more vulnerable to BPA's endocrine disrupting potential, this makes things highly dangerous.
BPA, acting as endocrine disruptor can alter the signals carried by hormones, which in turn leads to deleterious effects on the normal functioning of the body. It can induce early puberty in males and females. It can even conduce to neural and behavioral changes and a variety of cancers. Various animal studies revealed that low levels of BPA lead to developmental issues in fetuses, infants, and young children. The FDA still claims that BPA is safe, however, in 2008, Canada banned the use of BPA in baby bottles.
Phthalates in Plastic Bottles
Phthalates comprise a group of chemicals used to make various products such as toys, wall coverings, bathroom shower curtains, food packaging, medical supplies, etc. Phthalates make the plastics soft and pliable. The American Chemistry Council and the FDA have stated that phthalates are safe for humans and that any troubling data has not been received. However, this statement has been greatly opposed by animal and human studies, according to whom phthalates like BPA act as endocrine disruptors.
Concentration of various prevalent phthalate metabolites have exhibited correlations with insulin resistance and abdominal obesity. Europe has banned the use of phthalates in certain toys and personal care products. In 2007, a new European chemical legislation was brought into existence to improve protection of human health and the environment.
Besides the above mentioned hazards, there may be several other health hazards associated with the usage of plastic bottles. So what is the solution? One way to approach this problem is by storing water in stainless steel water bottles. However, one needs to circumspect and keep away from products lined with an epoxy finish. The stainless steel bottle needs to be stainless steel both inside and out. One could even use glass bottles. This option is heavier, but it works well for those working in an office, where mobility is not an issue. Take care!