For a few years now, various Ã¢â‚¬Å“urban legendsÃ¢â‚¬Â involving plastic water bottles have been circulating around the world. They variously claim that freezing, reusing, or microwaving plastic water bottles containing PVC (polyvinyl chloride) release the carcinogen, dioxin, into the contents of the container.
There appears to be no scientific concern with respect to the Ã¢â‚¬Å“reuseÃ¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“freezingÃ¢â‚¬Â claims and the FDA has taken the position that, while microwaving temperatures can cause some chemical components to migrate from plastics into food, there is no reliable evidence that such contaminants pose a serious health threat.
Now, however, as the saying goes, Ã¢â‚¬Å“the plot thickens.Ã¢â‚¬Â The Daily Mail is reporting that a far more serious potential risk exists with respect to countless millions of plastic water bottles.
In research done by Dr. William Shotyk of Heidelberg University, the well-known expert found traces of antimony in bottled drinking water. The report will be published in the upcoming issue of the journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Antimony is a chemical used in the manufacture of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles used by most bottled water companies. It is also a potentially lethal toxin that can cause illness and depression in small amounts and violent vomiting and even death in high concentrations.
Although the amounts of antimony found by Dr. Shotyk were all below recommended levels (6 ppb [parts per billion]), the troubling finding was that those levels doubled when the bottles were stored for three months. Since the Ã¢â‚¬Å“sell-byÃ¢â‚¬Â date on bottled water can be up to two years, that finding has prompted calls for extensive additional testing.
According to Shotyk: “I don’t want to shock people but here’s what I know: Antimony is being continuously released into bottled drinking water. The water in PET bottles is contaminated.” Dr. Shotyk has vowed never to drink bottled water again, according to the Daily Mail.
In the study, ground water and 15 types of bottled mineral water were tested in Canada. The ground water contained 2 ppt (parts per trillion) of antimony. The bottled water had an average 160 ppt of antimony when opened immediately after bottling. Ground water stored in PET plastic bottles had 630 ppt of antimony when opened six months later.
In Europe, 48 brands of water in PET bottles as was ground water from its source at a German bottling plant. While the water had only 4 ppt of antimony before being bottled, that level jumped to 360 ppt in newly bottled water and then to 700 ppt, in water stored unopened for three months.
While the figures were dismissed as nothing more than Ã¢â‚¬Å“trace elementsÃ¢â‚¬Â by the Canadian Bottled Water Association, epidemiologists like David Coggan of Southampton University have called for further research since not enough is known about the effects of antimony and at what level it becomes dangerous to humans.