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Drink Safe – The Dangers of Plastic

My kids don’t drink enough water. They’ll do milk and juice, but water has never been their beverage of choice. In an effort to put more water in their diets, I started sending them to school with water bottles. I noticed right away that they were quite thirsty for cold water after school. I started putting the water bottles, half-filled, in the freezer the night before school and sending them with the kids the next morning. They loved the ice cold water! I was ecstatic to have found a way to add water to their diets.

Then came the news, new to me, that using and/or re-using polycarbonate plastic water bottles (including Nalgene and Lexan) was not safe. Apparently, the toxins (especially Bisphenol A or BSP) from the polycarbonate plastic were leaching into the beverage. The amount of leaching was increased with re-use of the plastic, if the plastics were washed in hot water, such as in the dishwasher, and if they were cleaned with harsh cleaners. BPA, in large amounts, is said to have caused birth defects and miscarriage in mice. It may also disrupt prostate and breast tissue development in children, may cause tumors and may effect sperm count. It may also be linked to the creation and enlargement of fat cells.

So began my journey to find a safe alternative for my kids. First, I began searching for safe containers for the kids. It seemed that stainless steel was the product of choice, but the cost is quite high for young kids that may not treat them well or keep track of them. Don’t get me wrong… their safety is of utmost importance. But I couldn’t find the reasoning in buying a $20 stainless bottle that is likely to end up in the lost and found at school. The next safe alternative would be glass, but just the thought of putting a glass bottle in my son’s backpack makes me cringe.

I had to find out if there was a safe plastic alternative, so my Google search went on…

What did I learn? Fortunately, there are some plastics that do not use BPA and are safe to use. There are others that should be used with caution and some you should completely avoid. How to tell which is which? The recycle number on the bottom of the bottle is your first clue, if there is one. For instance, on the bottom of the water bottle I was giving my son, the number inside the recycle symbol is a #1. This is the type of plastic that should be used with caution and is not meant for re-use, as the toxins from the plastic leach out more over time.

The safest, re-usable and recyclable plastic is one marked as #2 HDPE (High Density Polythylene). This type of plastic is commonly whitish in color and used in bottles for milk, water, juice, detergent, shampoo, etc.

The safest, re-usable but not recyclable plastics are marked as #4 LDPE (Low Density Polythylene) and #5 PP (Polypropylene).

For a quick reference guide of plastics, check out “Safe Use Plastics Quick Guide [http://www.nontoxiclife.com.au/pdf/SAFE%20USE%20OF%20PLASTICS%20QUICK%20GUIDE.pdf]” from NonToxicLife.com.

Quick Tips for Toting Water

  • Stainless steel, both inside and out, with no epoxy finish, are the safest alternative
  • Glass bottles are also safe, but are very fragile.
  • Use plastics #2, 4 & 5 safely. Use #1 sparingly.

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