Sunday, August 8, 2010

Plastic water bottles: still a problem

Revisiting the issue, recapping the dangers, highlighting easy solutions

from an article at greeningofoil

That clear, resilient material that we just can’t live without is derived from petroleum. We all knew that. But let’s talk about plastic water bottles. Why are we suddenly concerned about drinking from these bottles made from our favorite dependable shiny stuff?
If you were smart in the ’80s you invested in any of the many plastic to-gos we call “bottled water.” Dasani by Coca Cola, Aquafina by PepsiCo, Deer Park by Nestle, all would have been fine choices for your investment dollar.
Now sales are dropping. Even if sales are down because of the economy, they’ll hopefully stay down for the sake of our environment and your health.
Plastic water bottles made from petroleum are not meant to be reused. That alone makes the product a nemesis to the environment. They clog our landfills, our streams, and even swirl and dance around in the ever-growing Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Putting our concerns for our environment on hold for a moment, I know it’s tough, but you still deserve to ask, “What about me?” There are health risks to buying all those water bottles that continue to lead so many to choose aluminum, stainless steel and glass over plastic.
The thin polycarbonate plastic of water bottles breaks down. Red flag number one: they aren’t meant to be reused, and decompose in the heat of your car or dishwasher. Thin plastic also breaks down over time. Red flag number two: as the plastic decomposes, it begins to look etched. According to the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unitpolycarbonate plastic leaches pthalates and bisphenol-A (two known endocrine disruptors) into the water you’re drinking.
The National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences explains that an endocrine disruptor mimics estrogen, the female sex hormone, and “may result in human health effects including lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis and some cancers.”
Bisphenol-A was one of the 75 new chemicals measured by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention in 2009. “CDC scientists found bisphenol-A in more than 90 percent of the urine samples representative of the U.S. population.” Now, in my book 90 percent on a test is good news, but reading that had me cringing.
News reports and scientific reports tell us how to avoid exposure to these chemicals.
Nalgene, a leader in reusable plastic water bottle sales, introduced their BPA-free bottle in 2008. Since then, there has been an explosion of non-plastic water bottles in all shapes, sizes, in stainless steel and aluminum. I personally have an aluminum bottle and love it.
The bottom line is: The thinner the plastic the more readily it breaks down and leaches, which is bad for you. But get this, the thicker the plastic, the more petroleum was used, the longer it takes to break down, the worse for our environment. Talk about lose-lose.
But there’s a win-win!
This is one of the easiest global problems to fix on a personal level. Remember your “Just Say No!” days with D.A.R.E? Evoke that memory next time you’re in the grocery store looking at the pack of 24 individual doses of water. You can easily and cheaply sport the latest colors of durables to quench your thirst. Many can even be found for less than ten dollars. is a great source for not just bottles in any price range, but for other earth-friendly, reusable personal items. And if you want to make it a little more personal you can customize a Sigg water bottle, it’s a really cool gift or a great way to promote your business or organization.

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