HEALTH CENTER

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Plastics by Michelle Jaco

MJ_ (425x640)The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends the reusing of plastic bottles to reduce the amount of waste households generate, but this environmentally conscious effort in preserving Mother Nature also bears health concerns of bodily intoxication, bringing to question: Can the risks of preservation outweigh the good from the bad?

The most common types of plastics found in drinking containers can be identified with a numeric number located in the center of the triangular recycling symbol, imprinted at the bottom of the container.  The most common types of plastics containing drinkable contents are as follows: PET (polyethylene terephthalate) No. 1, HDPE (high density polyethylene) No. 2, LDPE (low density polyethylene) No. 4, PS (polystyrene) No. 6, and No. 7 which is made from various materials.  No. 6 plastic should be avoided, for it has been said to be toxic once heated, but No. 7 plastic has been shown to cause the most harmful of effects.

No. 7 plastics contain BPA (Bisphenol A), a synthetic compound, which can interfere with the reproductive development in animals and has been linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes in humans.  A study from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that drinking from the miscellaneous No. 7 containers increased the levels of BPA found in their subject matter’s urine, suggesting that drinking containers made of BPA contaminate and leach into the consumed liquid, thus exposing the body to this harmful chemical.  The heating of a No. 6 and No. 7 plastic containers also promote the leaching of plastic to product at an accelerated rate.

While researchers continue to discover the risks surrounding various product consumption, much has also been uncovered regarding formerly accepted truths.  DEHA (di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate) was once believed to be cancerous, as well as leach from plastic to liquid.  The American Cancer Society has disproved such myths.  Furthermore, DEHA is not used in No. 1 PET plastic bottles, nor is the chemical cancerous.

The reusing of plastic bottles has also gained a reputation for the spreading of bacteria.  There are some truths to this claim, however the potentially harmful effects do not stem from the reuse of the containers themselves but from improper sanitation and hygiene.  Dependent upon the type of materials used, most plastic containers are manufactured with the intention of a single-use.  All reused plastic bottles are subject to high levels of bacteria growth due to direct contact with the hands and mouth.

Still, bacteria growth exhibited from reused plastic bottles should be avoided.  The shape of most water containers promote bacteria growth, due to the narrow sized mouthpiece of the bottle, which prevents a thorough clean.  Containers designed for reuse often possess wider mouth openings.  Bacteria forms in colonies and typically multiply around the mouthpiece, because of its moist environment.  Bacteria grows best in warm moist locations, so the capping of a reused bottle traps humidity inside the container, providing for the perfect bacterial nesting space.  Drinking from a contaminated container is subject to bacterial infection.

To avoid the harmful effects posed from plastic containers, try using the alternative.  Stainless steel bottles are considered the safest option compared to their plastic counterparts, for steel does not leach into its liquid contents.  Glass is also recommended, however it is not as durable as steel.  If you must use a plastic bottle, avoid reusing disposable ones and purchase a well-made reusable bottle.  Make sure to properly clean and sanitize the bottle after every use, wash with soap and hot water, and thoroughly drying before the next use.

Closing Note:

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, between 25 and 40 percent of bottled water comes from tap water; it is essentially filtered tap water.  Lastly, the US Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water, has weaker regulation than the US Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates tap water quality.

References:

http://www.plasticsinfo.org/Functional-Nav/FAQs/Beverage-Bottles/default.asp

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/bpa-chemical-plastics-leach-polycarbonate-drinking-bottles-humans/

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/bacteria-grow-keep-reusing-water-bottles-79320.html

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/reusing-water-bottles-increase-bacterial-content-79309.html

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/safety-reusing-bottled-water-containers-79281.html

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/plastic-drink-bottles-safe-reuse-drinking-water-79290.html

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.