Neurotoxins Quiz > November 26, 2008

EarthShare member the Natural Resources Defense Council tested 1,000 of what item and found that 20 percent of them contained possible carcinogens and neurotoxins?

A) Water bottles

B) Television remote controls

C) Makeup compacts

Answer: Water bottles

Phthalates and BPAs

In addition to contributing 2 million tons of garbage to landfills, plastic water bottles may also be hazardous to your health.

EarthShare member National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) conducted a four-year study of the bottled water industry and found that while the water itself was generally safe, nearly 20 percent of the bottles tested were contaminated with possible carcinogens and neurotoxins.

Specifically, phthalates—chemicals used to increase the flexibility of plastic—can creep into water from the plastic bottle or cap/cap liner. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also found that longer term exposure to phthalates has the potential to disrupt the endocrine system, causing reproductive issues, damage to testes and breast tissue and damage liver and testes; and cause reproductive issues, and cancer. , known to cause disruptions to the endocrine system

In addition to phthalates, experts have put out warnings about bisphenol A(BPA)—a chemical used in creating clear plastics like baby bottles and food storage containers—and its possible health effects, including brain problems in fetuses and prostate and breast problems in adults.

As a result of the potential health problems arising from phthalates and BPA many health experts recommend abstaining from plastics 3, 6, and 7. You’ll be able to tell the difference by looking for the little triangle printed on the bottom of plastic packaging.

Public Health Initiatives

While the Safe Drink Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to determine safe levels of chemicals in drinking water, many organizations including the NRDC are urging lawmakers to enforce stricter requirements for the bottled water industry, including:

  • Setting strict limits for ‘contaminants of concern’ in bottled water, such as arsenic, E. coli, parasites, pathogens and phthalates
  • Applying rules to all bottled water, including carbonated brands and those sold in state or out of state
  • Requiring bottlers to update their labels to include the water’s source, how the water has been treated and whether it meets the health criteria set by the EPA and the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC)

Head over to the NRDC’s action page to get in touch with your local and state officials, and write to the FDA to encourage bottlers to voluntarily disclose their water source and treatment method on the label.

Alternatives to Bottled Water

Of course, one of the best ways to avoid any harmful chemicals associated with the plastics from bottled water is to drink tap or filtered water. Drinking water in the U.S. is regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and new right-to-know provisions require water suppliers to provide annual water quality reports to consumers. To get a copy of yours, just contact your water utility (the company that sends your monthly water bill).

If you dislike the taste of your tap water, try filtering it. The NRDC recommends purchasing only those filters certified by NSF International, which denote the contaminants they remove. More from the NRDC about water filters.

You can also reduce your consumption of bottled water by investing in a reusable container. The caveat: some containers contain the kind of harmful plastics used in bottled water. Look for reusable containers without plastics 3, 6 or 7, or skip plastic containers altogether and go for a stainless look. SIGG USA is one of many safe and eco-friendly manufacturers of lightweight, stainless steel reusables.

Instead of reaching for a plastic bottle of water the next time you head to the gym or leave for the office, grab your reusable alternative. Of course, if you can’t avoid bottled water altogether, use this information to make the safest possible choice—and make sure to toss your empty bottle in the recycling bin.

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