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Mad Monday: What You Don't Know May Hurt You

Five Reasons to Skip Bottled Water: Mad Monday: What You Don't Know May Hurt You

September 22, 2013

Shoppers who seek the convenience and ready availability of bottled water may believe that the plastic bottle itself is inert, completely safe packaging. That’s probably not true.

An Environmental Working Group investigation found that PET plastics, the type used to make plastic water bottles and marked with a #1 code on the bottom, contain dozens of chemical additives, manufacturing impurities and breakdown byproducts – a total of more than 80 potential contaminants that can leach into the water.

While it is unclear how many of these chemicals actually do leach from the plastic into the water, numerous scientific studies have shown that some definitely can. They include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and antimony.

What’s more, an EWG review of the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for food packaging ingredients shows that chemical additives in PET plastics receive only a cursory toxicological evaluation. The FDA review process was designed to minimize the length and intensity of administrative review. In practice, this has resulted in widespread use of numerous food-packaging substances that have never received a thorough toxicological assessment.

Think you might be able to find out on your own exactly what chemicals are in the plastic of that bottle you bought, so you can do your own evaluation (if you’re a fellow science geek)? You’re out of luck there, too. Manufacturers don’t reveal what ingredients are in their packaging and FDA doesn’t require it, leaving consumers to wonder what additives end up in their food and beverages.

Read more:

EWG Press Release: Chemical Additives in Bottled Water Plastics

Bach C, Dauchy X, Severin I, Munoz J, Etienne S, Chagnon M. 2013. Effect of temperature on the release of intentionally and non-intentionally added substances from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles into water: Chemical analysis and potential toxicity. Food Chemistry, 139: 672–680.

Dabrowska A, Borcz A, Nawrocki J. 2003. Aldehyde contamination of mineral water stored in PET bottles. Food Additives and Contaminants, Vol. 20, No. 12, pp. 1170–77.

Tukur A, Sharp L, Stern B, Tizaoui C, Benkreira H. 2012. PET bottle use patterns and antimony migration into bottled water and soft drinks: the case of British and Nigerian bottles. J Environ Monit., 14(4): 1237-47.

Mutsuga M, Kawamura Y, Sugita-Konishi Y, Hara-Kudo Y, Takatori K, Tanamoto K. 2006. Migration of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde into mineral water in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Food Addit Contam., 23(2): 212-8.

Shanklin AP. 2009. Regulatory Report: How FDA’s "Threshold of Regulation" Program Works. Food Safety Magazine, Dec/Jan 2009. Available: http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/article.asp?id=2719