Food Myth: Is it Bad to Reuse Plastic Water Bottles?


As young socially aware and environmentally friendly college students, we all try to do our part in making the world a greener place. But try as we might, we also don’t always have the disposable income to turn such a sustainable goal into a reality. The result? Well I often find myself buying a plastic bottle of water and refilling that same bottle for about a week. Not only am I being environmentally friendly by not throwing it out, but I am also saving myself a few bucks. Right?

A food myth is currently circling that has stopped me mid-refill: refilling plastic water bottles could be killing you.

There are claims that refilling plastic water bottles slowly leaks harmful chemicals into the drinking water. I don’t know about you, but cancer-causing chemicals are not what I want to be drinking in my SmartWater. Where did these nasty water bottle rumors come from? The FDA claims they came from an e-mail hoax that went viral. The information claiming this chemical leakage stemmed from a University of Idaho student’s masters thesis. This thesis was not subject to peer review, FDA review or published in a scientific journal.

The FDA told a different story. Most beverage bottles in the U.S. are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and the FDA has determined that the use of PET is safe for both single and repeated use. That’s right, REPEATED USE. Looks like I will be refilling water bottles for longer than a week.

The FDA does note that reusing plastic water bottles without washing them could possibly harbor some bacteria. Plastics are by nature a sanitary material, but the FDA recommends that you wash the bottle out with hot soapy water between uses. Sounds easy enough.

The verdict? The myth has been busted, but do keep in mind that new and existing research is constantly under review. For now, go ahead and use that bottle for the tenth day in a row. No cancerous chemicals are leaking into your water, and if you skip washing it out once or twice, I won’t call you out on it.


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