IS REUSE OF WATER BOTTLES SAFE?


Why I Do Not Drink Bottled Water

Part 2

continued from:    WHY I DO NOT DRINK BOTTLED WATER, part 1

In Part 1 of this tutorial, I presented my scientific and philosophic reasons for not drinking bottled water. I anticipated questions concerning: (1) the practicality of alternatives to the convenience of carrying readily available bottled water; (2) the safety of reusing plastic bottles, especially the matter of infections; and (3) the comparable risks of using steel water bottles. Here I address these issues.

Water Bottling Companies Sell Bottles

The water contained in the plastic bottles is incidental to bottling companies. It is common knowledge that people reuse water bottles to save money, especially in places like New York City which generally has very good quality water. One would expect two reactions to this:

☞ Water bottling companies will launch a vigorous campaign to discourage bottle reuse; and
☞ The companies will build a facade of good “science” to support their propaganda.

The predictable happened. If you Google the subject, you will find video clips which will warn that you could die from serious bacterial infections if you reuse plastic bottles. One specific clip showed four bottles and declared that the bottles grew 99, 2000, 2100, and 2400 bacterial colonies respectively. Then the infomercial emphasized that the tests were done at a prestigious laboratory. The loud implication of the study was to warn people that plastic bottle reuse could cause dangerous infection—possibly fatal—and that people should not court death by saving a few pennies on new plastic bottles. The infomercial did not disclose who had paid for the study.

What Would a Pathologist Say?

How would a pathologist look at the design of the study, the results obtained, and the impIied clinical significance?

☞ First, the study was designed by someone completely ignorant about clinical microbiology. No pathologist would ever recommend that you do a culture of the mouth of a healthy person, find microbes in it, and then tell the individual not to use the mouth because it is infected.
☞ Second, reuse of the water bottle by the same individual would expose the person to his or her own microbes that are completely harmless for that individual.
☞ Third, spouses and life partners share their microbial flora. Their sharing of water bottles under ordinary conditions will expose them to the same microbial flora and be of no consequence.
☞ Fourth, to give a sense of the significance of the number of colonies, when a urine culture of a woman grows less than 10,000 colonies, it is not considered an acceptable evidence of infection. Compare this with the number of colonies in the water bottle tests of 99, 2000, 2100, and 2400 bacterial colonies.

Water Bottle Hygiene

Drinking water must be considered an integral part of one’s personal hygiene. So water bottles should be maintained in good hygiene—washed daily and kept clean. They can be washed with dishwashing soaps. I suggest a robust rinse of hydrogen peroxide (one to five dilution of 3% solution generally available at drug and grocery stores). The final rinse can be with tap water.

One day I saw my 7-year-old grandson pick up a washed bottle, use a marker to write his name on it, fill it with filtered water, and run out for his soccer practice. It was as natural to him as eating an apple. Some day he will probably prefer a steel water bottle, as I do.

Several reasonably priced steel water bottles are available for individuals who may wish to use them. Such bottles can be cleaned just as I describe for the plastic bottles.


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2 comments

  • Physician heal thyself

    I have seen much hype about the danger of plastic chemicals leaching into used water bottles.
    So wouldn’t the plastic components also leach into water the first time a bottle is used?
    Seems like more fear mongering to make us buy more bottles.

    From a chemistry stand point, the used bottle will probably leach less hydrocarbons than the new bottle as the first filling of water extracted out most of the residue. COnceiveable, a used water bottle may leach fewer residual chemicals than a new bottle.

    Many re-usable water bottles are made from polystyrene, not polypropylene or polyethylene, the usual material or commercial water bottles..
    Polystyrene is more toxic than polypropylene or polyethylene. So you are probaly better off re-using your water bottle than using a polystyrene re-usable water bottle.

    Like

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