Plastics and Water


Through the ages different materials have been used to make containers to hold and transport water, ranging from wood to silver. The most toxic of those materials has been lead (used in pipes) and the most inert, glass. Because of the cost, weight, and safety hazard of glass and the workability of plastic, glass is seldom used. (We have actually seen holes burned into car seats from the sun shining through glass water bottles).

In a society where cancer is the number-one, feared sickness, the top question concerning health is; What is it that causes us to have so much cancer in our affluent society? Everything becomes suspect: plastic; lack of minerals; animal fat; chemicals; chemically-changed, foods; additives; and lack of exercise can all be sited as culprits. Possibly they all play a part in why we Americans have so much cancer and so many other degenerative diseases.

Could it be though, the answer to the problem is in the statement "Moderation in all things?" The good God made our bodies so as to be able to tolerate a great deal of abuse and poison. The kidneys and liver work full time to remove the impurities from the body, but if the body gets too much and/or too long an exposure to something there are visible reactions.

For our discussion here we will consider the effects of plastic on water. As there is a difference in the types of plastics, in their chemical makeup and whether or not they give off chemicals, one needs to consider each one individually. Each chemical has a possible set of reactions. When considering the moderate use of plastics it is best not to put all the plastics together because it would misrepresent the exposure since each plastic is so different in its possible problems. To say it would be okay to eat a pound of mixed fruits could be moderation and eating the pound of mixed fruit would most likely cause no problem but to eat a pound of prunes may not be in moderation and there could be a reaction. One needs to consider the types of plastics and how much their use can be restricted and still maintain health and workability.

The primary purpose of a bottle is to take the product from point "A" to point "B" without contaminating the product. There are several factors which affect a bottles ability to fulfill its purpose. The question primarily is, will the bottle hold the water without leaking and without contaminants seeping in. On the bottom of a bottle there is a recycle symbol with a number in it and the higher the number the better the plastic will fulfill the duty of holding the water safe from contaminants. Also the higher the number the longer the bottle will remain in service. For instance, the number (2) in the recycle triangle stands for a bottle made of polyethylene, which is a plastic that is porous enough that the water will evaporate through and allow fumes to penetrate into the water over time. And the bottle will not last very long as the elasticizer which is added to the plastic to make the plastic pliable enough not to crack goes out in time (and into the water) and the bottle becomes brittle and will crack. The number (7) is used on the bottom of polycarbonate bottles which can remain operative for better than twenty years and are as close to glass as any plastic available. Even though polyethylene (2) has so many problems it is the most used plastic for water bottles because it is so inexpensive.

The main object of this article is to discuss the different plastics and what their potential is in contamination of the water because of their own chemical make-up. Most plastics will "off gas" especially when they are heated beyond a certain point. Some of the plastics are affected by sunlight in the same way they are by heat. Generally the number on the bottom of the bottle will tell you which plastics will be a problem with "off gassing", with the worst being the lower numbers and the best being the higher numbers with the exception of (5) polypropylene which is probably the very best on being inert.

The best plastic for water bottle use has been polycarbonate (7) because it is the most dense and closest to glass. Recently a customer brought in an article off the internet titled Smart Plastics Guide put out by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and written by Kathleen Schuler. This article was written to attack polycarbonate, claiming that it gave off a "hormone-disrupting chemical" that "mimics the action of the human hormone estrogen". One of the reasons for attacking polycarbonate was to support the new biodegradable bottles derived from corn (for which there was given a little promotion at the end of the article.) In further researching the subject I found that in the beginning someone came up with a theory that one of the chemicals which is used in the manufacturing of polycarbonate could cause the above claimed problems, after which a researcher (Patricia A. Hunt) set out to prove the theory correct. She found in her study that in lab mice it did as the theory claimed. Of course this caused quite an uproar. So more research was done to check the first research. The experiments were duplicated but the results could not be.

In her article Kathleen Schuler claims that the majority of research indicates that there is a problem. Yet her article and other research shows the problem isnít so much the plastic as it is how the plastic has been treated. This would explain why some research came up on one side of the issue and some on the other. Indications are that if the bottles are scratched or have had strong chemicals used on them it may cause the plastic to give off the chemical, much the same as heat affects most plastics. Strong disinfectant, high heat and typically a harsh detergent are used to sterilize a bottle in order to clean out whatever may have contaminated the bottle during the last use. Itís thought that some well-used bottles were used in the studies that gave adverse results.

The manufacturers of polycarbonate stand on their research which shows there is no problem. Their main points are that all the health organizations of all the countries of the world say there is no problem and that this position has been in place for 50 years.

There are a number of thoughtful reactions to such information. For instance: taking water out of a plastic pipe line and putting it into a plastic bottle to take home and dispense from a plastic dispenser into a plastic cup to drink from. Is this "in moderation"? Well it could be more moderate that it appears to be because each plastic could be a different plastic. As in our analogy with fruit they could be different fruits (or plastics) and not just all prunes.

In conclusion; it would be best if we could stay away from all chemicals and be totally natural. In the real world one can moderate by mixing things up. Use plastic where it needs to be used but where it doesnít use an alternative. For example; use plastic for bottles but maybe mix the types. Try using polycarbonate bottles to transport large amounts of water and use polypropylene for taking water to work. Then use porcelain or stainless steel for dispensing and glass, wood or paper for drinking cups and china for plates.

Take care of your bottles by keeping them out of the heat and sun. And consider replacing the polycarbonate (7) bottles when they are damaged.

And always, drink lots of water to help the body cleanse itself.




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