By John Ensor •
Published: 25 Aug 2023 • 9:00
Plastic water bottle.
Is reusing single-use plastic bottles safe? The debate rages on.
In today’s world, where the planet seems to be giving us a stark warning, sustainable consumption is paramount. Yet, the deluge of information, or perhaps misinformation, leaves many of us perplexed about the best practices to safeguard both our health and the environment, writes 20 Minutos.
The primary concerns about reusing water bottles revolve around two factors: the chemical components in the plastic and the potential bacterial growth within the bottles. There’s still much to uncover about the migration of chemicals from bottles to the water they contain. However, a study from the University of Copenhagen, which examined chemical migration in drinking water stored for 24 hours in new, used, and dishwasher-washed bottles, revealed the presence of microplastics.
Another study by the Central University of Ecuador highlighted that ‘the migration of microplastics increases with exposure time, UV light and temperature increase.’ Moreover, researchers suggest that the transfer of microplastics to water intensifies with mechanical friction, such as when bottles are opened and closed.
In Europe, health authorities maintain that there’s no significant danger to health. To ensure bottle safety, their production is governed by Regulation (EU) 10/2011. Bisphenol A, once commonly used in plastic bottle production, was banned in Spain’s Waste Law. Yet, its use varies across the European Union, prompting calls for unified regulations. Mª Carmen Lopez, a professor at the CEU Cardenal Herrera University in Valencia, notes, ‘Other chemical substances, like phthalates, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and antimony, might be present in water bottles. Still, their levels are well below the safety threshold. However, if bottles are subjected to inappropriate storage conditions (like high temperatures or prolonged exposure to sunlight), these compound levels could rise.’ Hence, it’s advised not to expose them to direct sunlight or excessive heat.
The real danger of reused bottles might be bacteria. Humidity, heat, and plastic degradation can foster bacterial growth, especially in the micro-cracks that form with wear and tear. Bacteria often originate from our hands and mouth. If these bottles are used to store protein-rich liquids like milk or broth, the bacterial growth can be even more pronounced.
In conclusion, if you choose to reuse, wash the bottle thoroughly with soap, avoid dishwasher cleaning to prevent cross-contamination, and limit its reuse to two or three times. Especially avoid using bottles with visible cracks.
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Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina.
He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.
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