Tip: Don't Ever Do This With Your Bottled Water

A common practice turns your relatively safe plastic water bottle into a chemical time bomb. Here's what you need to know.

Hot Mess

It's no secret that the plastic used to bottle water is filled with chemicals, most of which stay locked up in the bottle itself. However, once you expose your bottle of water to sunlight or heat, chemicals start to leach into the water itself. That's not good, especially for the plurality of lifters who store their water bottles in the cup holder of their car during blazing hot summer days.

Phthalates are chemicals that first gained prominence in Puerto Rico, where researchers started seeing weird sexual anomalies in the wildlife. It got even more worrisome when a good number of Puerto Rican girls under the age of 8 started developing breasts, along with exhibiting other signs of puberty.

It turns out these phthalates are estrogen mimickers found in polyvinyl chloride products, which are used to make garden hoses, children's toys, medical tubing, etc. They're also found in vinyl flooring, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, raincoats, soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, nail polishes, and possibly water bottles.

In other words, all over the damn place.

However, phthalates might not be too big of a problem in water bottles because interested government agencies don't think that bottles are made with phthalates. Even so, they fear the chemical might somehow get into the water at bottling plants. Furthermore, once phthalates enter the human body, they're converted into metabolites and excreted in urine and bile.

Regardless, you might look at what happened in Puerto Rico and decide to play it safe, especially since the plastic used in water bottles is filled with other chemicals, too, many of which have unknown effects.

Most bottles appear to be made from polyethylene terephthalate, indicated by a 1 or PET or PETE on the bottom. (Despite the presence of the word "phthalate" in the chemical's name, it doesn't contain phthalate.) These bottles are probably safe, unless you store them in warm or hot temperatures, e.g., the cup holder of your Honda during summer days.

That's when they might start leaching chemicals like antimony into the water, which is a potentially toxic material. No one is quite sure what the effects of these chemicals could be in the long run. These unanswered questions call for a few precautions:

  • Carry water in glass or a metal canteen.
  • Keep it out of the heat.
  • Consider tap water, which is probably safer and definitely a whole lot cheaper.
  • If you choose bottled, look for brands that have NSF certifications or that belong to IBWA. You can check the label for NSF certification or check the label for the NSF logo.