Drinking bottled of water is a sign of our times; it seems everyone has a bottle of water handy, and I think it makes life a little easier.
If you’re worried about freezing water in plastic, or drinking water from plastic bottles which have become heated in the car for instance, read on…
It is estimated that 25% of bottled water contains tap water. There are claims that heating foods that contain fat in the microwave using plastic containers releases dioxin (a highly toxic compound)) into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Instead, the recommendation is to use glass or ceramic containers.
This means that when heating TV dinners and other frozen food in plastic, that the food should be removed from the container and heated in something else, such as tempered glass covered with paper toweling. Plastic wrap placed over the food may be just as dangerous.
The Office of Communications and Public Affairs discussed the issues with Rolf Halden, PhD, PE, an authority on safe water. Dr. Halden received his masters and doctoral degrees researching dioxin contamination in the environment. He was asked to set the record straight on dioxins in the food supply and the risks associated with drinking water from plastic bottles and cooking with plastics.
Dr. Halden stated that dioxins principally come from various combustion processes, including natural events such as wild fires and even volcanic eruptions. Also, that the critical issue is the incineration of waste, particularly hospital waste, and the burning of household trash in drums in the backyard. Hospital waste is controlled with state-of-the-art emission controls that limit dioxin formation and their release into the environment, but the backyard trash burning does not. The dioxins are sent into the atmosphere where they become attached to particles and fall back to earth. Then they bind to, or are taken up by fish and other animals, where they get concentrated and stored in fat before eventually ending up on our lunch and dinner plates. People are exposed to them mostly from eating meat and fish rich in fat.
When asked about claims that dioxins can be released by freezing water in plastic bottles, Dr. Halden replied “ the statement is an “urban legend;”-in other words, a myth. He said there are no dioxins in plastics, and freezing actually works against the release of chemicals. Chemicals do not diffuse as readily in cold temperatures, which would limit chemical release if there were dioxins in plastic, and we don’t think there are.”
When asked if it’s okay for people to drink out of plastic water bottles, he said that people should be more concerned about the quality of the water they are drinking rather than the container it’s coming from. Many people do not feel comfortable drinking tap water, so they buy bottled water instead. Today, tap water and bottled water are generally comparable in terms of safety. The FDA (Food and drug administration) oversees bottled water, while the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulates tap water. However, some people
don’t trust one or the other. Having, said that, a downside of bottled water is that it is bad for the environment, as many people do not recycle them and the landfill is overloaded with them.
What about cooking with plastics?
Dr. Halden replied that “whenever you heat something you increase the likelihood of pulling chemicals out. Chemicals can be released from plastic packaging materials like the kinds used in some microwave meals. Some drinking straws say on the label “not for hot beverages. Most people think the warning is because someone might be burned. If you put that straw into a boiling cup of hot coffee, you basically have a hot water extraction going on, where the chemicals in the straw are being extracted into your nice cup of coffee. We use the same process in the lab to extract chemicals from materials we want to analyze.”
“If you are cooking with plastics or using plastic utensils, the best thing to do is to follow the directions and only use plastics that are specifically meant for cooking. Inert containers are best, for example heat-resistant glass, ceramics and good old stainless steel.” He also stated not to be afraid of drinking water. It is very important to drink adequate amounts of water and, by the way that’s in addition to all the coffee, beer and other diuretics we love to consume. Unless you are drinking really bad water, you are more likely to suffer from the adverse effects of dehydration than from the minuscule amounts of chemical contaminants present in your water supply. Relatively speaking, the risk from exposure to microbial contaminants is much greater than that from chemicals.”
The bottom line is: it’s okay to freeze water in plastic bottles, but heating in a microwave oven is another story. Use only plastic that is labeled for microwaves; glass or ceramics. Drink tap water when you can, but drink bottled water when you might not be near a tap water source. If you don’t trust your local water supply, purchase a filter. If it’s “NSF approved, that may be best. (NSF International is an accredited third-party certification body that tests and certifies products to verify they meet public health and safety standards)
The important thing is: drink as much water as you can. It may prevent a host of problems including kidney stones and dehydration, which can cause big time problems.