Top Bottled Water Risks: Are You Drinking This Toxic Rip-Off?

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Bottled water risks - Dr. Axe

Bottled water risks include more than just draining your bank account. You see, those single-use bottles found in supermarkets, gas stations and gyms across the country are what I like to call “toxic rip-offs.” Why? Because you’re paying way more for a product that contains harmful compounds. Case in point: A recent German-led study found that a single bottle of bottle water contained nearly 25,000 chemicals. More on that later.

And to be clear, I’m not talking about those hard plastic, reusable water bottles know for their BPA toxic effects. I’m referring to the ones people use once then either recycle or toss in the garbage. It’s time we explore how expensive, unhealthy and unsustainable bottled water is, along with some very harmful side effects of the bottled water industry.

While I don’t want to discount the fact that some people are relying on bottled water to survive, for instance, families whose drinking water is contaminated from ever-more-common flooding, lead-contaminated, outdated infrastructure, fracking chemicals or pipeline spills, it’s safe to say that most Americans drinking bottled water are doing it out of convenience rather than necessity. (2, 3, 4)


Fast Facts: Basic Bottled Water Stats

  • The average American drinks about 31 gallons of bottled water a year. (4)
  • Less than 30 percent of plastic water bottles are recycled. (5)
  • Bottled water is full of hormone-disrupting chemicals. Anti-estrogens and anti-androgens are present in the majority of bottled water. (6)
  • Estrogenicity in water from plastic bottles is three times higher compared to glass.
  • Contamination of bottled water results in human exposure to endocrine disruptors.
  • Bottled water risks include an increased cancer risk. A recent study found 11 out of 18 bottled water sampled induced estrogenic effects in a human cancer cell line. (7)
  • People in the U.S. buy half a billion bottles of water a week, more than enough to circle the globe 5 times. (8)
  • Laboratory testing conducted by Environmental Working Group found popular bottled water brands to contain mixtures of 38 different pollutants, including bacteria, fertilizer, Tylenol and industrial chemicals, some at levels no better than tap water. Some even contain high levels of cancer-causing chlorination byproducts. (9)
  • In the United States, 24 percent of bottled water sold is either Pepsi’s Aquafina or Coke’s Dasani. Both brands are bottled, purified municipal tap water.
  • Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, told The New York Times that “there is no reason to believe that bottled water is safer than tap water.”
Bottled water risks - Dr. Axe
  • In the U.S., public water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which requires multiple daily tests for bacteria and makes results available to the public. The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water, only requires weekly testing and does not share its findings with the EPA or the public. (10)
  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some bottled water risks include fluoride exposure. Fluoride can occur naturally in source waters used for bottling or it can be added. (11)
  • Bottled water testing has found things like kerosene, styrene, mold and yeast, algae and even crickets in samples. 

The Top Bottled Water Risks

Chemicals in the Bottled Water. Some of the chemicals detected in bottled water are linked to abnormal hormone function and an increased risk of cancer, among other ills. Most convenience-size beverage bottles sold in the U.S. are made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This is referred to as #1 on the bottom-of-the-bottle recycling code. Believed to be a relatively safe single-use plastic, evidence is emerging that PET may leach antimony trioxide, a catalyst and flame retardant in PET.

In fact, the longer the water is sitting in a PET bottle, the more chemicals released into the water. Warm temperatures also are believed to accelerate leaching. (Translation: Leaving bottled water in hot cars is dangerous.) Workers chronically exposed to antimony trioxide report issues like respiratory and skin irritation, irregular periods and miscarriage. Phthalate endocrine disruptors also leach from PET. (11)

One study found antimony levels in bottled water increased anywhere from 19 to 90 percent after 6 months of storage at room temperature. (12) Antimony is considered a carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization.  (13)

A 2009 study investigating the estrogen contamination affects of bottled water found widespread contamination. The researchers say part of the estrogen mimickers found in the water originated from compounds leaching from the plastic packaging material. (14)

Perhaps it’s the sheer number of chemicals detected in bottled water that’s most concerning. In 2013, German researchers published a study showing a single bottle of water contained nearly 25,000 different chemicals. The scientists focused on testing bottled water for its capability to interfere with estrogen and androgen receptors in the body.

They found most bottled water tested resulted in some hormone interference. And it didn’t take a high level of chemicals to do this. As little as one-tenth of an ounce inhibited estrogenic activity by 60 percent and androgenic activity by 90 percent. According to the scientists involved in the study, this hormonal activity is on par with prostate cancer drug flutamide. On the flip side, tap water did not show signs of this hormonal interference. (15, 16)

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