Are Plastic Water Bottles Safe from the Summer Heat?

August 7,2019

Most people have looked at a water bottle left in the car's cup holder and wondered whether it is okay to drink the contents. After all, Americans consume about 50 billion plastic water bottles each year and many of these will be left in a hot car at some point in the product's lifecycle. Some scientists who study the durability of food containers recommend against drinking water from plastic bottles left in a hot place for a long time concerned that the sizzling heat could allow chemicals to leach into the water. Naturally, members of the International Bottled Water Association disagree.

Inconsistencies in packaging materials used and tons of misinformation abound when it comes to analyzing the FDA's strict standards of beverage safety. A large percentage of bottle water is packaged in plastic containers made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and bisphenol A (BPA). A study at the University of Florida in 2014 analyzed sixteen brands of bottle water sold in China. After four weeks at 158 degrees Fahrenheit, researchers found increased levels of antimony and BPA, which can mimic estrogen release. BPA is a chemical component present in polycarbonate plastic used to make 3 to 5 gallon containers, but is not present in the PET plastic used to make smaller water bottles.

No doubt plastics have revolutionized the way people live and the majority of bottle water is stored in plastic containers. Nonetheless, industry officials say the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has regulations in place to govern bottled water as a packaged food product. As part of its review, FDA assesses the potential leach of plastic substances into the bottle's liquid contents. FDA has found that the levels of migration to food of these substances are well within the margin of safety, including instances when a water bottle was left in a hot car. FDA has not established a shelf life for bottled water and there are no additives used to prevent the effects of exposure to ultraviolet light.

Misleading statements about plastic containers are all too commonly repeated, not only on the internet, but throughout other forms of media. Nonetheless, with all these facts in hand, nothing indicates that contaminants from migration or from the source of the water present a problem in drinking bottled water that was exposed to heat during storage. However, it is best to rely on your senses and not drink any content that looks or tastes funny.