How Safe Is My Bottled Water?

effects of plastic water bottles
When comparing the effects of plastic water bottles to tap water, studies indicate that storage may be the biggest influencer in safety terms.

Coffee, juice, soda: these are the drinks that we know can damage our teeth and our health. We would never put water in that category, right? We’ll let you decide, as new studies are looking at how the effects of plastic water bottles extend beyond the environment and into our bodies. The results might make you question whether drinking from plastic water bottles is dangerous to your health.

Minerals in Drinking Water

It’s not uncommon to find minerals listed on the nutrition label for bottled water. These ingredients are not a cause for alarm, as they’re added for a variety of reasons. Some bottled water is simply filtered city tap water with naturally occurring minerals. During the water treatment process, minerals may be added to make the water potable, or drinkable. Added minerals can improve the taste of the water, too.

The added minerals in bottled water that make it drinkable aren’t concerning to researchers. What researchers are most concerned about is the packaging.

“Microplastic Contamination” and the Effects of Plastic Water Bottles

“Microplastic contamination” sounds like something out of an apocalyptic sci-fi movie. Unfortunately, chances are you’re dealing with it on a daily basis. When plastics are left out in the sunlight for long periods, they break down into microplastics. It’s one of the reasons you shouldn’t leave water bottles in a hot car, especially in Arizona. Microplastic contamination is when something you eat or drink has “small plastic pieces less than 5 millimeters long” in it.

Researchers from the State University of New York used these methods to study 257 different bottles from 11 different brands. They measured the levels of microplastics in water bottles versus tap water. They found that:

  • 93% of the bottled water showed some sign of microplastic contamination.
  • They believed the bottles and bottling process were the sources of some of the contamination.
  • They concluded that we swallow about 10.4 tiny particles of plastic when we drink one liter of bottled water.

Effects of Plastic Water Bottles on Health: Here’s What it Boils Down To

If you prefer to drink tap water, you’re probably limiting your exposure to microplastics. Researchers believe tap water drinkers consume about half the amount of microplastics that bottled water drinks do

Is drinking microplastics harmful? The verdict is still out. Here’s what experts had to say in a 2018 Business Insider article on this topic:

  • “The science on micro-plastics and microfibers is an emerging field, in its infancy, which requires further scientific analysis.” –Aquafina statement
  • “We stand by the safety of our products, and welcome continued study of plastics in our environment. It’s clear the world has a problem with plastic waste and that too much of it ends up in waterways and in the world’s oceans.” –Dasani statement
  • “Currently there is no evidence on impacts to human health.” –Tarik Jašarević, World Health Organization
Did you know? Many bottled water brands are simply filtered municipal, or community, tap water.
Did you know? Many bottled water brands are simply filtered municipal, or community, tap water.

The take-aways:

  • Use a glass or reusable BPA-free water bottle, if only to cut down on waste.
  • Clean your reusable water bottle at the end of each use with soap and water, or a vinegar or bleach solution.
  • If you drink bottled water, don’t drink the water if the bottle was left in the sun, your car or a humid place like a garage. Even reusable plastic water bottles may break down in extreme heat, so you’ll want to dump water out if the bottle was exposed to high temperatures.

For more tips on drinking bottled water safely, visit the Bottled Water Everywhere page of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s website.

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