What we don’t know might be killing us
Since few studies have been done regarding the effects of plastic on our bodies, it’s hard to know what real long-term health issues might be attributed to different plastics in the future.
Typing “is drinking out of plastic water bottles safe?” into a Google search produces many results, but the first article that comes up is from factsaboutbpa.org. Steven Hentges, Ph.D. assures us that there is no sound scientific reason to NOT drink from plastic bottles. He has a doctorate in organic chemistry, and while that is an impressive educational background, it doesn’t mean he is studying the effects of BPA on the human body.
Furthermore, the “Facts about BPA” website is funded by the leading manufacturers of bisphenol A (BPA), so believe what they have to tell you about safety at your own risk. Steven Hentges, Ph.D. works for the American Chemistry Council, a lobbying group that spends millions of dollars every year to make sure they protect their business interests.
Business and Mr. Hentges aren’t villains here, but if you value your health, you should know where the information you are reading comes from, who is telling you the story, and what that person has to gain. No product is perfect, but some choices are better than others.
Prepare to be grossed out. An in-depth study and data collection between journalists and a scientific team (check it out!) found that microplastics are definitely in your bottled water. They looked at 250 bottles of water from 11 different companies to check the levels of microplastics in the water. Here’s what they found:
“For plastic particles in the 100 microns, or 0.10-millimeter size range, tests conducted for Orb at the State University of New York revealed a global average of 10.4 plastic particles per liter. These particles were confirmed as plastic using an industry standard infrared microscope.
The tests also showed a much higher number of even smaller particles that researchers said are also likely plastic. The global average for these particles was 314.6 per liter.”
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic. It’s like what you find on the beach— how sand is made up of broken down rocks, shells, coral, etc. Sometimes microplastics (think: glitter in your nail polish, or flakes in that sweet paint job) are produced, but most of the time they are broken down from bigger pieces of plastic debris. One of the most significant problems of plastic pollution comes from single-use plastic bottles, so that microplastic garbage in your bottled water probably came from other, broken down, plastic containers. Now, that is sad.
We may not understand all of the effects plastics are having on our bodies, but we know they are in bottled water. One of the results of plastic in our bodies that scientists are starting to understand is in the endocrine system.
The endocrine system is made up of a network of glands that secrete hormones inside the body. You know this as the system that regulates:
Growth and development
Homeostasis (the internal balance of body systems)
Metabolism (body energy levels)
Response to stimuli (stress and/or injury)
Some studies were conducted, contested, and re-conducted to try to understand what plastic does to the endocrine system. Even PET plastic, the kind of plastic that is used to make single-use water bottles, has been linked to an endocrine disruptor in the form of an estrogen mimic.
Why should you care? Estrogenic effects of plastics have been linked to:
increased mood swings
low sex drive
And this is not just in women, plastics mimic estrogen and cause estrogen levels to go up in men as well.
There isn’t enough research to connect plastic and cancer. However, there is some evidence that increased estrogen levels can lead to precursors of breast cancer and there is now research that connects all plastics (not just BPA) to increased synthetic estrogen.
ALL OF THE RESEARCH?
Short answer: There just isn’t enough research being done. Is this intentional?
Objective and unbought scientists must start looking at the short and long-term effects of what ingested microplastics in our bottled water do, and if cancers can be definitively linked to plastics. Is drinking water out of single-use plastic dangerous? The data isn’t definitive.
But maybe the answer is to stop creating the plastic garbage in the first place because a real danger that we can prove right now is the plastic pollution crisis. Reach for a better option, a truly recyclable option, like a paper carton, or the new hybrid reusable aluminum PATHWATER bottle. Better yet, refill a bottle you carry with you and stop buying single-use everything!