In college, we took a field trip to a sugar cane plant for one of our manufacturing courses. Because I was a nerd, I wanted to be in front so I could listen closely to every word the plant boss said. He showed us the tank, where the canes were converted to sugar cane juice, which led down to a faucet. There was a cup lying around nearby. It was a slightly beat-up metal cup that looked like an artifact from when the Japanese occupied the Philippines. The plant boss picked up the cup, put it under the faucet to get some sugar cane juice and handed it to the student closest to him — ME!! Then he said, “I-try mo”. I didn’t want to seem like a stuck-up intellectual snob who couldn’t get down and dirty in a sugar cane plant … and so I took a sip. Have you ever tried picking up a metal cup with your pinky (it’s heavy!) and trying to sip something without your lips touching the brim? (Well, I did it! But I think I still looked like a snob or worse, a fool.) To this day, that is one of my most vivid memories of college.
Hey, I thought this post was about bottled water! Well, it is. I just wanted to illustrate that clearly, some things aren’t safe to drink out of (like unwashed pre-war metal cups lying around for communal use by 20 plant workers, not to mention filled with diabetic sugar-cane juice) but there are some things that are very well-disguised, like bottled water.
We assume it’s the safest thing on Earth — to drink from a plastic bottle — but what do the studies say about their safety?
5-GALLON PLASTIC CONTAINERS
• These are made from Polycarbonate plastic which is known to contain Bisphenol-A, a known endocrine disruptor and a substance officially declared toxic by the Canadian Government. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that parents avoid clear plastic bottles or containers with the recycling #7 and the letters “PC” imprinted on them as many contain BPA. These 5 gallon containers belong to this category. (What’s more, do you really know if your refilling station does a thorough job of cleaning those bottles you return?)
• A study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that “drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA, and thus suggests that drinking containers made with BPA release the chemical into the liquid that people drink in sufficient amounts to increase the level of BPA excreted in human urine.” (OK, that clearly means that toxic stuff goes through our system. How much do we pee and how much do we retain?)
• PET, used for most mineral water sold in stores, is known to be safer because it is BPA-free. However, the Environmental Health Perspectives published a review saying “there is evidence [that] suggests PET bottles may leach endocrine disruptors under conditions of common use, particularly with prolonged storage and elevated
temperature.“ They do say that more study is needed to validate the study. (Prolonged storage? Elevated temperature? Aren’t those the conditions in supermarket bodegas?)
WHAT ARE ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS?
Polycarbonate may leach BPA, an endocrine disruptor into your water. PET may leach endocrine disruptors into your water. The Endocrine Society, issued a 34-page report that said there was strong evidence of adverse health effects from endocrine disruptors, including harm to the reproductive system, causing malformations, infertility and cancer.
Sometimes you wonder why so many people are getting cancer or why so many couples are having problems getting pregnant. Then you read about studies like the ones above and you think — maybe it’s the bottled water? I haven’t even gotten started on how bad it is for the environment, so I’ll just save that for another post. (Because I might be scaring you too much now. Or I’m thinking I should stop for my own safety — I watch too many Hollywood movies.)
One last thing on bottled water. We always assume the water in the bottles comes from Swiss alps or mountain springs or glaciers but actually a lot of our local mineral water is really filtered tap water. So for our household, we filter our own water from the tap with our Aquasana Drinking Filter (which, for the sake of full disclosure, is another product in our business). I’m very sure it’s safe. It is tested by Underwriter Laboratories and certified by the California Department of Public Health Services. I know how clean my containers are and they’re not made of plastic. We have practically eliminated plastic drinking containers. Our refrigerator is full of glass bottles. Some say stainless steel is also good. Not for me though. I guess I’ve been traumatized by steel or metal drinking containers, pre-war or otherwise.
P.S. I’ll do a future post on the difference between mineral, distilled, ionized, alkaline, etc. So many people ask me about this!