Plastic bottles cause hundreds of harmful and unknown chemicals in water

If someone felt a taste associated with plastics while drinking water from a plastic bottle, there could be a specific reason for it, note chemists from the University of Copenhagen. 

We were surprised by the large amount of chemicals found in the water after keeping it in the bottle for 24 hours. Hundreds of substances were present there, including some that had never been detected in plastic before, as well as compounds that are potentially harmful to health. After washing the bottle in the dishwasher, there were thousands of substances.
– reports prof. Jan H. Christensen, one of the authors of the publication that appeared in the Journal of Hazardous Materials.

Approx. 400 substances came from the bottles alone, and over 3.5 thousand. from detergent cubes used in dishwashers . A significant proportion of these compounds are yet to be identified, and a toxicity of 70% is unknown. already defined relationships.

Researchers are worried, for example, by the presence of the so-called photoinitiators, which have the potential to interfere with hormones and promote cancer. 

Scientists also found plastic softeners, antioxidants and other manufacturing compounds. Some of the compounds may come from changing substances in the bottle into other substances. Scientists have discovered, for example, DEET – an insect repellent . This substance could have arisen from the decomposition of one of the plastic softening additives.

Even with known substances specifically added to plastics, the toxicity of only a small fraction of them has been studied. So consumers do not know if the other compounds are harmful to their health.
– emphasizes the co-author of the work, Selina Tisler.

In experiments, the Danish team reconstructed the way most people use plastic bottles – they left tap water in new and used bottles for 24 hours before and after washing in the dishwasher.

In addition to the compounds present in the detergent, more substances from plastics were released into the water after washing. Probably because the operation of the dishwasher helped to release them. 

We all make sure that our drinking water is pesticide-free. However, when we pour water into containers from which we drink, we are effectively introducing hundreds or thousands of compounds into it. While we cannot yet say if they are harmful, I will personally use a glass or steel bottle.
– says prof. Christensen.

Researchers suspect that the manufacturers deliberately add only a small fraction of the compounds detected. Most of them could have got into the bottles unintentionally, during production or formed during chemical changes, as happened with the already mentioned DEET.

According to the researchers, the obtained results reflect both gaps in knowledge and in legal regulations.

This study shows how little information we have about chemicals permeating from objects in contact with our beverages and food. It is a general problem that the regulation of concentration measurements during production lags behind. Fortunately, both in Denmark and in various centers around the world, ways are being sought to better regulate this area.
– emphasizes prof. Christensen.

Chemists are counting on manufacturers to take greater responsibility themselves now.

Hopefully, companies that put their names on reusable plastic bottles will be more careful about the products they order from vendors. Perhaps they will start to impose greater requirements on them regarding the testing of substances in their articles.
– says Selina Tisler.