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With everything being mass produced in today’s capitalist economy, even something as simple as selling water rakes in millions of dollars. Go to any marketplace or convenience store and you’ll find rows and rows of bottled water. Despite the availability of this commodity, a lot of people still choose to reuse disposable plastic bottles, often filling them with liquids other than water. But just how safe is this practice?
Fact 1: Plastic bottles are breeding grounds for bacteria
Empty drinking bottles have two of the most important characteristics for bacteria (and other microorganisms) to flourish – they are moist and enclosed. The more the bottle is refilled and reused, the more it is exposed to a variety of potentially harmful microorganisms. Remember, bacteria love wet and warm environments – both present in a plastic bottle that is constantly reused. The more a bottle is reused, the more likely that bacteria can contaminate the liquid inside the bottle and cause the person drinking from it to become ill.
Fact 2: Heat and liquids easily degrade plastic
Disposable plastic bottles are made to be used once – hence the term disposable. They were not made for constant exposure to heat and different liquids. When you constantly wash bottles – especially with hot water and soap – you change the composition of the plastic, which can cause toxic chemicals such as phthalates or BPA to leech into the liquid stored inside. Advisably, plastic bottles shouldn’t be cleaned in a dishwasher, because it uses hot water and chemical cleaning agents.
Even if you are careful to use cold water, minute changes to the chemical composition of the plastic can still happen. Placing fruit juice and other acidic drinks in the bottle can cause a similar reaction. If you don’t want your drink to be laden with chemicals, try using glass bottles or even investing in a specially made water bottle such as these highly regarded ones from Sigg (Amazon link) – which claim to have a special non-leaching interior surface.
BPA-free plastic drinking bottles are advised by some – however other reports state that the BPA was replaced by BPS – another chemical which may have similar negative effects!
Fact 3: The design of the top of reusable plastic bottles can cause spread of disease if re-used
Plastic is also an easy target for bacteria that comes from our mouths. While most of the normal flora in our oral cavity is completely harmless, the more dangerous strains can multiply and attach to the lip of a drinking bottle. Because of the ridges where the cap screws on, bacteria can easily invade these areas. Microorganisms are not easily washed off and can remain on or in this part of the bottle – the part that touches your mouth! – even after a thorough washing. This can cause the spread of disease.
Note that reusable bottles typically have a wide mouth, enabling them to be cleaned properly. While the official stance of most cancer organizations around the world have declared reusing plastic bottles as safe in most cases , they often strongly advise proper care of reusable bottles – especially during washing. Use warm soapy water, not hot or scalding, and dispose of the bottle once its condition has deteriorated. Plastic bottles that have been scratched or damaged in anyway can release BPA into your drink, a known cancer-causing agent.  If you want to save the environment or save a few cents, always keep your safety – and your health – in mind.
 Cancer Research UK. Plastic bottles and cling film. http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/cancer-controversies/plastic-bottles-and-cling-film
 Breastcancer.org. Exposure to Chemicals and Plastic. http://www.breastcancer.org/risk/factors/plastic
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