Among the 827,000 plastic water bottles produced in the U.S. in 2006, over three-quarters were discarded as solid waste according to the Government Accountability Office. While continuously using disposable water bottles, long after first purchased, may sound like a harmless solution to steadily growing landfills, on your body it may be another matter.
Storage, cleanliness, along with the growing use of plastics and chemicals in manufactured products, all carry various answers to the question — how safe is it really to reuse your plastic water bottle?
In addition to smelling and tasting bad if not properly cleaned, your water bottle’s bacteria has the potential of making you sick.
A study published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health in 2002 revealed significant levels of coliform bacteria – a commonly used indicator of unsanitary food/water levels – multiplying inside plastic bottles (despite treated, chlorinated water) in as little as 8-24 hours. While the study determined that greater test samples were needed to determine the root cause – though some blame most bottle’s narrow opening, preventing adequate cleaning – it largely concluded that drinking water from a public fountain may be safer than from water bottles when both were compared.
BISPHENOL A (BPA):
Bottles not properly stored and/or rundown can also create trouble, health wise.
Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen used to harden plastic is commonly found in items like bottles, Tupperware, and even canned food. Because of BPA’s potential effects seen on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it may be safer to purchase a bottle that’s deemed BPA-free.
When scratched, worn down or heated (intentionally or in warm weather, including a hot car), these bottles show higher chances of exposing BPA into the water consumed.
While BPA is not a classified carcinogen (a substance that is known to lead or cause cancer) there have been studies weighing both scientists and doctors’ minds considerably on its health risks.
For instance, changes in human cells have been seen in laboratory tests when exposed to various plastic products and left to grow. BPA, again, as a synthetic estrogen, is cautioned by a substantial number in the scientific community to potentially cause breast cancer in women thanks to the elevated hormone levels. At the present time, however, the FDA declares that “the data are too uncertain at this time to draw any conclusions as to possible effects in humans at early developmental stages.”
What are the alternatives?
SIGG bottles manufactured after 2008 (a prior snafu in their use of a BPA epoxy lining provoked an apology and voluntary product exchange), are assured to have minimal levels of BPA in their lining reasoning that it is “literally impossible to certify that something is 100% BPA free and to scientifically validate such a guarantee” according to their website.Learn how to clean your SIGG bottle
Made with an epoxy resin that may contain BPA, aluminum bottles – even lined ones – are not the more guaranteed choice of bottle material especially due to their susceptibility to corrosion.
Stainless steel bottles, without a plastic liner, are a safe choice. According to Nalgene they do not manufacture their stainless-steel bottles with these linings.
While manufactured using polycarbonate material, the Nalgene bottles are a safer choice among others, promising a bare minimal level of BPA in their product. The company says they monitor reports of “some concern” and “potential heath risks” by the FDA but lean on the concluding scientific agreement that the overall health risk and data are uncertain.
A new item, PlastiPure bottles is advertising itself as not only BPA-free, but also of other chemicals that can cause Estrogen Activity (EA).
A study published in July by the National Institute of Health Sciences found that in sampled commercially available plastics, there were some instances where BPA-free products leaked chemicals with more EA than products known to have BPA. Supported by grants from NIEHS, PlastiPure says their technology has finally reached an EA-free material for their products.
Constantly have itchy eyes, nose and throat? Is it hard to concentrate? Experience dizziness or nausea? You might be suffering from Sick Building Syndrome (SBS). The EPA defines SBS as “situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.” The main factors that contribute to SBS are impurities and toxins found in the air. These contaminants are mainly found within newer buildings that have better sealing and insulation. Although this professional sealing leads to a more energy-efficient home, it has the result of trapping pollutants within the circulating air of the homes ventilation system.
So how can you remove the contaminants from your home while remaining cost effective?
According to NASA research, having houseplants is a key way to filter the toxins found within the home. While plants go through the process of photosynthesis they pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it to oxygen. In addition to the plants natural cycle, NASA found that houseplants were also able to eliminate large amounts of trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. Trichloroethylene is commonly found in paints, adhesives, and varnishes. Benzene is a part of tobacco smoke, detergents, and gasoline. Formaldehyde is usually located within household cleaners, carpeting, and foam insulation. Since all of the items listed are very common to the home, it is vital to remove these toxins in the most efficient and environmentally safe way possible. NASA’s research of plants that removed the most toxins.
The research suggests that for every 100 square feet an indoor plant should be placed. Each plant should be potted in a 5-6 inch container to maximize the efficiency of air cleaning. On average, a single houseplant will show improvement in air quality within a 24 hour period.
Another benefit of having houseplants is the ability to improve mood. It has been shown that colors have a subliminal effect on human behavior. Green traditionally represents nature, good luck, and fertility. People find that the coolness of the green helps to promote tranquility and is believed to have healing abilities. The color green is also purported to relieve stress as well as being one of the most restful colors for the eye. Having the color green in a room, in the form of plants, serves the purpose of creating a comfortable ambiance as well as purifying the air that you breathe. Plants are the eco-friendly and budget friendly alternative to cleaning the air and changing the mood in a room.
What’s in The Water after Treatment?
In America, we enjoy one of the cleanest water drinking supplies in the world, supplied from our many water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Contrary to water’s pristine view, it can be contaminated by surrounding farms, manufacturers or urban areas. The water we use is passed through municipal water systems or private sources for purification for our human use. The quality of water is highly regulated and tested for contaminants, but some chemicals linger even after treatment.
Many of the technological conveniences that we rely on to make our lives more comfortable contain various unregulated chemicals that end up in our water. We enjoy fragrances and artificial flavors that enrich our senses. Artificial coloring for looks and inexpensive plastic for its ease of use. All these products we use in our day to day lives are coated with and contain synthetic chemicals that are released in small amounts into our water systems. Neither large scale municipal water systems, septic systems, sewage treatment plants nor private water sources, such as wells or aquifers, remove all of these chemicals.
Researchers refer to these chemical compounds as either tentatively identified compounds (TICs) or pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs), many of which we wash down our drains daily. The list is endless, but includes antidepressants, caffeine, birth control pills, beauty products such as nail polish or deodorant and household cleaning products such as carpet cleaners and air fresheners.
High Levels Could Pose a Problem
Most contaminants found in water are probably not hazardous to our health but if they reach unsafe levels they can pose a threat. Studies have revealed that minute concentrations of chemicals are in many water supplies, some of which are not regulated because of the assumption that low levels pose no risks.
Although human health effects to these contaminants are unknown, many people agree on following a precautionary principle. If you have reasonable suspicions then take the necessary precautions to avoid any possible effects on the quality of your water. Solutions such as adding a filter system into your home are inexpensive and can further treat drinking water to remove most of these chemical compounds including things like chlorine.
Using Natural Cleaning Products
We had A Hazardous Materials Stockpile in Our Home
I’ve been cleaning house since I was 18 years old and on my own. I spent all of my twenties as a bachelor, and kept a nice house so I wouldn’t scare off my guests. All those years I bought household cleaners from the supermarket; the regular commercial stuff like ammonia-based window cleaner, drain cleaner, aerosol polish, detergents—you name it. It all worked pretty well. Then I got married, had kids, and started moving around the country. During our last move, I gathered all our household cleaners together; we had over twenty containers of chemical substances. That’s when the thought occurred to me that we had amassed a small hazardous material stockpile in our own home! And where did most of it all go when I used it? You guessed it; down the drain.
Out with the Old, In with the New
When we moved into our new home, I cleaned the place with our old poisons to get rid of them (I didn’t want to dump them in the trash) and replaced them with toxin-free cleaners like natural soaps, citrus-based surface cleaners, and soda-based laundry and dishwasher agents. So far, I’ve found all the earth-friendly products to work as well as, or better than the hazardous stuff. For me they’re more efficient, fun to use, and I’m not worried about it going down the drain or poisoning my family.
Keep Your Home, and the World Healthier
I believe if more people start using non-toxic cleaners in their homes, it will benefit the environment and keep us healthier. That’s why when greenfeet.com approached me to write reviews about the natural cleaners they carry, I jumped at the opportunity to share my experiences with these products. I’m here to answer your questions about cleaning naturally, and how products from greenfeet.com can help.