Plastic Water Bottle Safety Tips

Updated September 14, 2022
Woman buying bottled water in convenience store

With concerns over plastic on the rise, many savvy consumers are on the hunt for safe plastic water bottles. Single-use bottles are typically bought in a package at the store and made with thin plastic. Reusable water bottles are made of thicker plastic and designed to be used multiple times. But which are the best option for you. And which ones are best for the environment?

How to Find a Safe Plastic Water Bottle

There has been a lot of controversy when it comes to using plastic water bottles. Because so many people drink from plastic water bottles on a daily basis, it is important to understand any safety and environmental issues. There are a number of issues and concerns to consider when looking for a safe water bottle to use.

Get the Facts Regarding BPA (Bisphenol A)

You've probably heard of BPA and water bottles. But do you know what BPA is? BPA, otherwise known as bisphenol A, is used in the creation of plastics. However, organizations like the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences have found that BPA can leach into food from plastics and resins in canned food coatings.

The research on BPA and water bottles is not clear. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says that BPA in food is considered safe at current levels. But other research suggests that exposure to BPA can negatively impact fetuses as well as infants. As more research continues to be conducted, clearer answers regarding BPA and plastic use and reuse will become evident.

If you are concerned about BPA getting into your water and you use a single-use water bottle, you might want to avoid refilling and re-using it. If you do refill it, consider doing so only a few times and avoid repeated exposure to extreme temperatures. The Mayo Clinic suggests that putting any plastic in the microwave or dishwasher can make the bottle break down and BPA leach out.

In a study of 16 different plastic water bottle brands, all of them leached BPA. These bottles were kept at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for four weeks. However, all the brands but one were below the government regulations for BPA.

Reconsider Single-Use Plastic Bottles

Consumers may also be concerned about reusing plastic water bottles that state they are intended for single use. According to the Centre for Food Safety, single-use plastics can typically be reused. However, they add the following guidance: "with all plastic types, migration increases with temperature and time of contact."

For many people, choosing a re-usable glass or metal water bottle makes more sense for safety and environmental reasons. Single-use containers end up in the trash (and eventually a landfill) even if you use them a few time. But a reusable bottle made from sturdy materials like glass or metal can be washed and re-used hundreds of time. And even though re-usable bottles can be pricey (especially the trendier ones), if you carry a water bottle regularly, they are generally more budget-friendly.

Consider Choking Hazards

Water bottles are easy to carry and a simple way to get your kiddo hydrated on the go. However, water bottle caps, as well as the seal, can pose a choking hazard to young children. StatPearls Information provided by the U.S. Library of Medicine states that choking is one of the top causes of death for children under five years old. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe, follow a few simple guidelines.

  • Always dispose of the cap appropriately if it becomes damaged and you are unable to reseal the bottle.
  • Always monitor children when they are using a plastic water bottle.
  • Hold the cap while children drink from the water bottle, and then remove the bottle when they are finished using it.
  • Never allow children to play with the cap or seal even if they are being watched.

Check the Seal

Prior to drinking from a newly purchased water bottle, be sure to inspect that the seal beneath the cap is secure and not broken. If it looks like your plastic water bottle has been tampered with, you can report it to the store manager, FDA, or police department. Even though food and beverage tampering is not overly common, it is still something to be aware of when making a consumable purchase.

Keep Water Bottles Clean

Plastic water bottles that are reused can carry germs. In fact, a 2017 study showed that bacteria levels in re-usable water bottles can be very high and that they can also be susceptible to rapid microbial growth.

Therefore, if you intend to reuse a water bottle, industry experts suggest that you properly clean it by hand washing it with hot (not scalding) soapy water. Rinse, and air dry your water bottle prior to using it again. Do not put single-use plastic water bottles in the dishwasher since they are not designed to be dishwasher safe. But this might be another reason to consider a water bottle that is designed to be re-used. Many of them are dishwasher safe and allow you to clean the bottle at higher temperatures.

Tips for Using Plastic Water Bottles Safely

There are things you can do to reduce safety and environmental concerns regarding plastic water bottles. Try out these tips to stay enhance water bottle safety:

  • Avoid reusing a water bottle that has been frozen. The bottle may get deformed or damaged.
  • BPA-free plastic can still leach chemicals, so opt for stainless steel, glass, or glass reusable cups and mugs when possible.
  • Don't reuse bottles that have scratches as these can trap bacteria.
  • Opt for disposable plastic water bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is labeled 1, or high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is labeled 2. Both are considered safe.
  • Recycle your water bottle when you are finished using it.

Staying up to date with current research and knowing what your water bottle is made out of can help keep you in the loop when it comes to water bottle safety. If you are planning on reusing a water bottle on a regular basis, consider purchasing a dishwasher-safe model made from porcelain, glass, or stainless steel. And remember that that reusing a water bottle is better for the environment than recycling a disposable one.

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