Drink tap water, but not from plastic bottles

The Des Moines Register published an editorial on Thursday urging readers not to buy bottled water:

“Iowa’s capital city ranked best on our list of U.S. cities with the cleanest drinking water. The insurance industry center and home of the Iowa Caucus had the second-lowest level of bacteria in its drinking water” and was among the best for the lowest levels of lead,” according to the report.

As summer approaches, this is yet another reason to avoid purchasing bottled water. A better option is getting a sturdy plastic bottle and refilling it at the tap – which is probably cleaner anyway. While bottled water may sit on the shelves for ages, the Des Moines Water Works conducts performance tests several times a day, according to interim general manager Randy Beavers. Bottled water is an environmental and financial hazard. The bottles are shipped thousands of miles across the country in gas-guzzling trucks. Most aren’t recycled or reused, but end up in landfills. While it’s nothing to drop a dollar or two on a bottle of water, tap water averages a fraction of a penny per gallon.

I agree with the general point about not buying bottled water.

However, it’s a very bad idea to keep refilling plastic bottles from the tap. I used to do that before I learned that chemicals can leach from the plastic to the water:

Reused Plastic Bottles Can Leach Toxic Chemicals

The same studies found that repeated re-use of such bottles-which get dinged up through normal wear and tear and while being washed-increases the chance that chemicals will leak out of the tiny cracks and crevices that develop over time. According to the Environment California Research & Policy Center, which reviewed 130 studies on the topic, BPA has been linked to breast and uterine cancer, an increased risk of miscarriage, and decreased testosterone levels.

BPA can also wreak havoc on children’s developing systems. (Parents beware: Most baby bottles and sippy cups are made with plastics containing BPA.) Most experts agree that the amount of BPA that could leach into food and drinks through normal handling is probably very small, but there are concerns about the cumulative effect of small doses.

Even Plastic Water and Soda Bottles Should Not Be Reused

Health advocates also recommend not reusing bottles made from plastic #1 (polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or PETE), including most disposable water, soda and juice bottles. According to The Green Guide, such bottles may be safe for one-time use, but re-use should be avoided because studies indicate they may leach DEHP-another probable human carcinogen-when they are in less-than-perfect condition.


Safe Reusable Bottles Do Exist

Safer choices include bottles crafted from safer HDPE (plastic #2), low-density polyethylene (LDPE, AKA plastic #4) or polypropylene (PP, or plastic #5). Aluminum bottles, such as those made by SIGG and sold in many natural food and natural product markets, and stainless steel water bottles are also safe choices and can be reused repeatedly and eventually recycled.

If you live in the Des Moines area, you can buy reusable SIGG bottles at Campbell’s (there is a coating on the inside so that the aluminum does not come into contact with what you are drinking). Otherwise, you can order SIGG bottles or other brands of safe reusable bottles at ReusableBags.com.

If you’ve got small children, I highly recommend getting non-plastic reusable sippy cups and water bottles for lunch bags. SIGG is a brand we’ve been happy with. They are not dishwasher-safe, which is a little inconvenient, but we feel better knowing that chemicals are not leaching into our children’s water.

  • I just threw out my water bottle

    If your child ever has a party a Pump It Up or goes to one, you can order a “goodie bag” and it includes a reusable water bottle. I’ve been using that water bottle that one of the kids got since about 1 1/2 years ago and tonight I just saw some news coverage on water bottles. They said especially anything with the number “7” in the recycle sign on the bottom of the bottle has bisphenol-A (assumed carcinogen), and also anything with the numbers “3” or “6.” I immediately went through my cabinets and luckily only that Pump It Up water bottle had a 3,6, or 7 (It was a 7). So immediately it was tossed in the recycle and a bisphenol-A free water bottle is on its way. Hopefully not too much had been leached in my drink…

    • thanks for that tip

      We’ve been to other kids’ parties at Pump It Up, but we never got goodie bags with plastic bottles.

      I think Canada may be banning bisphenol-A, so with any luck the manufacturers will all stop using it.

      Anyone feeding a baby with bottles (whether with breast milk or formula) needs to research this subject as well. Ideally, glass bottles are the safest, but it’s hard to find any stores that sell glass baby bottles anymore.

      • Hopefully finding glass baby bottles will be getting easier

        With all the talk of Canada on the verge of banning bisphenol-A, Wal-Mart is pulling all baby bottles with bisphenol-A off their shelves and I’m not sure if they’re also pulling water bottles with it. In any case, if there’s a single chain that can make a huge impact on the standards and possible resurgence of glass bottles, it’d be Wal-Mart.  

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