Which Plastic Bottle is Safe for Your Family?

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Plastic Water Bottle Safety

It’s a great idea to carry around a bottle of water throughout the day to ensure you stay properly hydrated. Refilling water bottles can be convenient, economical, and healthy. However, it is worth paying attention to the material your water bottle is made of, since many kinds of plastics can actually turn your daily quota of water into something harmful. Some kinds of plastics are safer than others, but many people choose to go with a different material to ensure maximum safety.

Problem Plastics

  • Most plastics are coded on the bottom with a number surrounded by a recycling triangle. This number will tell you if your recycling service will accept an item. It also tells you if it’s safe to reuse that bottle for food and liquid storage, if you know what to look for. Plastics are coded 1-7, each number representing a specific type of plastic, with 7 being a catch-all, “miscellaneous” category.
  • Bottled water is usually sold in #1 plastic containers. These are probably fine for single use, but avoid reusing #1 bottles, as they’re hard to clean, and because this type of plastic is porous, these bottles can absorb flavors and bacteria that you can’t get rid of.
  • #3 plastic is used in plastic wraps, food containers, soft bottles, wrappings for meat and cheese. Known as PVC or vinyl, these plastics are made with chlorine and release dioxins which have been linked to cancer, hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure, heart disease, autoimmune disease, weight problems, and chronic fatigue. Phthalates, which make these plastics flexible and are used in products ranging from shampoo to floor coverings, have been cited in studies linking their exposure to developmental problems in infants and an increase in testicular cancer in adults. Avoid reusing these plastics.
  • #6 Polystyrene or styrofoam is used in takeout containers, plastics cups, and cutlery. The chemicals found in polystyrene can leach into beverages and foods (especially fatty foods) and are believed to interfere with hormones.
  • Despite their popularity, the hard colorful polycarbonate sports bottles identified by the #7 code often contain and may leach a harmful chemical called BPA.


  • BPA, short for Bisphenol A, is found in a wide variety of everyday items, including plastic beverage containers, eyeglasses and compact discs.
  • BPA is a xenoestrogen, a known endocrine disruptor, meaning it disturbs the hormonal messaging in our bodies.
  • There is evidence that BPA might initiate early onset of sexual maturation. It also might be associated with heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer cell growth, and other health problems.
  • The biggest risk seems to be for fetuses, pregnant women, infants, and children. Due to concern in the public and scientific community, many bottle manufacturers in the S. stopped selling bottles made with BPA.
  • Several countries (though not the United States) have instituted bans and limitations on using BPA plastics in baby bottles or food containers.
  • Generally, any plastic bottle with the identification recycle code of 1, 2, 4, 5 or 6 is free of BPA. While #3 plastic can contain it, #7 often does. However, just because a plastic doesn’t contain BPA does not mean it’s safe or healthy to use.

Better Materials

  • If you’re going to reuse a plastic bottle for daily water consumption, #2, #4, and #5 plastics are your best choices. They transmit no known chemicals into your food and they’re easily recycled.
  • Some plastics today are made from renewable resources such as corn, potatoes and sugar cane. Although you can’t recycle these plant-based plastics, you can compost them in a municipal composter or in your backyard compost heap. These “green plastics” are called PLA (Polymerized Lactic Acid), and may be a better choice.
  • Non-plastic water bottles made out of glass and stainless steel are inert and safe to use, and as such they are usually preferable to any type of plastic. Aluminum bottles are becoming very popular, but keep in mind that they must always be lined with plastic resin, so research which chemicals are in the epoxy lining before you buy.
  • Make sure that you clean your water bottles thoroughly and regularly. Even safe materials can harbor bacteria when they’re not properly cleaned.



  1. Which Plastic Water Bottles Don’t Leach Chemicals? http://trusted.md/blog/vreni_gurd/2007/03/29/plastic_water_bottles
  2. Plastic Containers Buying Guide http://www.thegreenguide.com/buying-guide/plastic-containers
  3. Plastic Water Bottle Safety http://www.vegfamily.com/whole-family/plastic-water-bottle-safety.htm
  4. Corn Plastic to the Rescue http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/plastic.html?c=y&page=1
  5. No BPA For Baby Bottles In U.S. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/05/AR2009030503285.html

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