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Surprisingly, not all bottled water is safe. I spend money to drink better water than the tab water but find out most bottled water is not what I think it is after all. It is pretty disappointing. When my brother-in-law informed me that most bottled water contain microplastics, I had to find out if water my family and I drink is safe. In this post, I share with you, how bottled water can be toxic and what you should watch out for when buying bottled water.
How Bottled Water Can Be Toxic
Bottled water can be toxic in several ways. First, bottled water is found to have microplastics in the water and we end up ingesting these microplastics. Second, plastic bottle can leach harmful chemicals into the water. Third, some bottled water does not have healthy minerals and its pH level is too acidic. Let’s take a look what they all mean.
Microplastics In Bottled Water
In recent global study by journalism organization Orb Media, microplastics were found in 93% of bottled water tested. Microplastics are small plastic particles exist in our environment. They are less than 5mm in diameter. There are two kinds of microplastics. Primary microplastics are manufactured to be used in the product such as scrubbers in exfoliating facial scrubs. Secondary microplatics are derived from larger plastic debris and are found in our marine or land environment. In this bottled water case, it will be secondary micro plastics that are found in the bottled water. (Microplastics)
In the study, 250 bottled water was purchased and tested in nine countries. On average, they found 10.4 particles/ liter that were 100 microns (0.10 mm) or bigger. Smaller particles were also discovered and there were 314 particles per liter on average. Some bottles had thousands of particles while some had no particles found at all. Only 17 of the 259 bottles tested had no plastics found in water. 93% of tested bottles contained plastic particles. That means most of the bottled water in the market have micro plastics present in water. Popular bottled water companies that have microplastics in their water include Aquafina, Dasani, Nestle Pure Life and San Pellegrino. So where are these plastic particles come from? Plastics found in bottled water included polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and nylon. 54% of plastics found in bottled water is polypropylene. Polypropylene is usually used in bottle caps. Since polypropylene is used in bottle caps and was found in the bottled water the most, one theory is that opening a bottle may have contributed to particles found inside. There hasn’t been any study done how microplastics affect on human health yet. The World Health Organization is launching a review into the potential risks of plastic in drinking water. I assume ingesting plastic particles everyday for a long period time wouldn’t be good for us. I certainly do not want to ingest plastic particles every day. (Microplastics found in 93% of bottled water tested in global study) (Plastic Particles Found In Bottled Water)
Plastic Leaching Chemicals
Most disposable water bottles are made from plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is used for beverages, microwave food trays and food packaging films. While this plastic is fully recyclable, it leaches endocrine-disrupting chemicals according to research. One research warns that endocrine disruptors such as phthalates and antimony may be leached into water from PET containers. Another study done by University of Florida concluded that most of their tested water bottles leached antimony and Bisphenol A(BPA). In the study, the temperature at which bottled water is stored influenced the degree of leaching. Prolonged storage and elevated temperature especially contributed to leaching of these chemicals. Therefore, if a seller stores the bottled water in a warm place for a long period of time or if you leave a bottled water in a hot car, chemicals from plastic will likely go into the water more and faster. (Polyethylene Terephthalate May Yield Endocrine Disruptors)
(Effects of storage temperature and duration on release of antimony and bisphenol A from polyethylene terephthalate drinking water bottles of China.)
So what are antimony, phthalates and Bisphenol A(BPA)? Antimony is a toxic material used in making the bottle material, PET. Research has found that the longer water sat in the plastic bottle, the more antimony leached. Although levels found were below Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit, the chemical leached into water is toxic, therefore there should be more research done about this. Antimony can cause diarrhea, nausea, dizziness, depression and vomiting . (Antimony leaching from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic used for bottled drinking water.)
Phthalates are endocrine disruptors. They are very harmful to us, especially to our children. They are linked to infertility, birth defects, breast cancer, autism spectrum disorders, asthma, low IQ, type II diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues and behaviour issues. (Phthalates are everywhere, and the health risks are worrying. How bad are they really?) Phthalates detected in some bottled water may be either leached from the plastic packaging materials or got contaminated during bottling processes. Although phthalates level didn’t exceed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s concentration limit in the research, phthalates are toxic chemicals and I don’t want my daughter to ingest them through water. (Phthalates residues in plastic bottled waters.) (Concentrations of phthalates in bottled water under common storage conditions)
Bisphenol A(BPA) is a chemical that makes a certain plastics or resins. It is an endocrine disruptor and causes infertility, heart disease, breast and prostate cancer, fatal brain development, Asthma, type 2 diabetes and reproductive disorders. It is especially damaging to fetuses, infants and children. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics such as office water coolers or 5 gallon bottles. Usually bottled water uses Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which doesn’t contain BPA. However, many BPA-free bottles replaced BPA with fluorene-9-bisphenol, or BHPF. Then does BHPF get leached from a bottle into the water and is it safe? A study done by Peking University in Beijing found BHPF in water from 23 of 52 water bottles and baby bottles tested. They also found that BHPF binds to the body’s oestrogen receptors and blocks their normal activity. Frederick S. vom Saal, an endocrinologist studying hormone disruptors at the University of Missouri-Columbia says there’s no level at which BHPF or BPA are safe. (BPA-free water bottles may contain another harmful chemical). (Your BPA-free water bottle may contain another harmful chemical)
Acidic PH Levels In Bottled Water
Another problem with bottled water is acidic pH levels. Some bottled water have pH (potential of Hydrogen) level that is too acidic. Water can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Pure water or neutral water has pH of 7. Numbers lower than 7 are acidic, and numbers above 7 are alkaline. Ideal pH level of drinking water should be between 6.5 and 8.5. Healthy streams or lakes will have pH level between these numbers. So does Tap water generally. (Drinking Water PH Levels)
So are acidic water and alkaline water bad? How do they affect our health? Let’s look at acidic water first. When you think of bottled water, you may think it is coming from glaciers, lakes or springs. However, many brands come from a municipal supply. Bottled water includes every type of drinking water including tap water, filtered water and spring water depending on a brand. Some brand may add fluoride or minerals. Some brands’ bottled water will be highly filtered or purified. Popular bottled water companies such as Nestlé Pure Life, Aquafina or Dasani use water from public water sources.
When bottled water companies make bottled water, water may or may not go through filtering or purifying process to remove any chemicals or contaminants. Usually when water is sourced from a municipal supply, bottled water manufacturers will filter or purify water before bottling, Types of purification include reverse osmosis, distillation, carbon filtration and deionization. However, filtration or purification also gets rid of healthy minerals from water making water more acidic. For example, reverse osmosis is the most popular water filtration method because it is the least expensive method of purifying water. It removes bacteria, contaminants, heavy metals, chemicals, poisons, viruses and parasites but also eliminates good minerals that your body needs. According to Dr.Lawrence Wilson from L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc., reverse osmosis produces an extremely mineral-deficient water. He explained that drinking mineral-free water such as reverse osmosis or distilled water for more than a few months will leach vital minerals out of our body. This water without healthy minerals is similar to acid rain. (Reverse Osmosis Water – A Poor Product)
(Differences Between Drinking Water And Distilled Water)
Drinking acidic water can also harm our teeth. This is because acidic liquids have a corrosive effect on teeth. Our enamel starts to erode at a pH level of 5.5 so when you drink water with a pH level lower than 5.5, your teeth will start to erode. A 2015 study done by the American Dental Hygienists Association concluded that most of bottled water brands tested were acidic. In the study, of the 12 bottled water brands tested, 10 had a pH of less than 7. Only two of those 12 were alkaline. The study recommends dental professionals to educate their patients the tooth decay and dental erosion caused by drinking acidic water. (Is Your Drinking Water Acidic? A Comparison of the Varied pH of Popular Bottled Waters.)
How about alkaline water? Neutral water pH is 7 and pH level of water from 8 to 14 is alkaline. Typical alkaline water has a pH of 8 or 9. Some alkaline water companies promote pH level between 8.5 and 10. Alkaline water is often marketed as healthy water. However, alkaline water may not be as beneficial to our health as some people claim it to be. There has been debate about alkaline water whether it is beneficial to our health or not. Some people believe it can neutralize the acid in our body so they believe it is healthier than any other water. They also say it can prevent chronic diseases like cancer, support immune system, cleanse colon or slow the aging process. However, some health professionals do not agree with choosing alkaline water over neutral water. Well known author and nutritionist, Dr. Bob Arnot, M.D. said in a recent Men’s Health Journal article that our body is designed to adjust to its optimal pH balance no matter what we ingest. For instance, once alkaline water enters our stomach, our body simply pours in greater amounts of acid to neutralize it. Some health professionals also say there’s not enough scientific evidence to support that alkaline water is better or good for our health. There has been a few studies done alkaline water has helped certain health conditions. However, more research is needed to back up the claim that alkaline water is better or good for our health. (PH Paranoia: Understanding Alkaline Water Claims)
On top of that, not all alkaline water is the same. Alkaline water can be divided into natural alkaline water and artificial alkaline water. Natural alkaline water is water from springs and contains natural minerals. Artificial alkaline water, on the other hand, is usually made from tap water and it undergoes a process called ionization or electrolysis. Ionization or electrolysis makes water to have a certain pH and makes water artificially alkaline. However, this water has none of the minerals that natural alkaline water has. Study done by World Health Organization says that there are health risks from drinking demineralized water. It concluded that demineralized water lacks some essential minerals to our health and have possibility of getting toxic metals or bacterial contamination from it. (The Dangers Of Alkaline Waters)(Alkaline Water: Benefits and Risks)
Also, alkaline water can be a burden to people with a kidney problem. Kidneys keep your body pH within normal range. For instance, when the body becomes more alkaline, kidneys start to excrete more bicarbonate ions into the urine to keep pH balanced. However, when you drink heavily on alkaline water on daily basis, kidneys can fail to excrete all of the bicarbonate ions and it can put extra burden on kidneys. Therefore, alkaline water is not good for people with kidney disease since it can damage kidneys more. (Alkaline Water: Why You Should Not Drink It)
As I have mentioned above, acidic water can be damaging to us and alkaline water may not be as healthy as being marketed to be. Ideal pH level of drinking water should be between 6.5 and 8.5, not too far from neutral 7. PH level range 6.5 and 8.5 is neither too acidic nor too alkaline to have negative health effects. In addition to the possible negative effects of highly acidic or alkaline water mentioned above, pH extremes such as pH above 11 or pH below 4 can cause skin, eye and mucous membrane irritation according to the World Health Organization. (Health Effects of pH on Drinking Water)
Not all bottled water is safe and most of them actually possess health risks. Most of bottled water tested in the study contained microplastics in the water. That means we can ingest tiny plastic particles when we drink water. Also, most of bottled water is packaged in plastic bottles usually made by PET. Since bottle material is plastic, it can leach chemicals such as antimony, phthalates or fluorene-9-bisphenol, or BHPF into water from the bottle. This happens especially if the bottled water is exposed to warm or hot temperature or stored for a long period of time. Many bottled water is also either too acidic or alkaline. Drinking acidic water can erode and damage our teeth. Acidic water is also mineral deficient and it can take vital minerals out of our body. Alkaline water, on the other hand, is often promoted to be healthy but some health professionals believe there should be more evidence to support that alkaline water is better or good for our health. Artificial alkaline water does not contain natural minerals as natural alkaline water does. It just has high pH level to make water more alkaline artificially without healthy minerals. Alkaline water is also not ideal for people with kidney diseases since it can burden kidney function.
These are a lot of things to consider before choosing a safe bottled water! Hopefully, this post helped you understand all of the toxic possibility of bottled water. In my next post, I will write about safe bottled water brands you can choose from.
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If you want to find out which bottled water brands are safe, please read my post ‘Safe Bottled Water Guide: Which Bottled Water Brands Are Safe?‘