I am importing this from my old blog as well as updating the information herein based on information received by my youngest son from a teacher at his high school. This isn’t a “dig” directed at the teacher, rather, this is a good opportunity to deal with just a small aspect of things believed to be true when they are in fact, not. Something that afflicts us all! I also deal with a myth regarding plastics at a post correcting some information used by a local pastor in regards to the “great garbage patch/island” floating in the ocean. A fun adventure into other eco-myths.
Here is the import/update:
I have worked at Whole Foods long enough to hear many of the “health myths” that typically float through the customer base there. One of these myths about health and product is found in the scare about plastic water bottles. It started in an email referencing a masters thesis by a student at the University of Idaho. Skeptoid writes this about the study:
The media, according to Snopes, ran with the story even though there was no peer reviews of the students work. They have this part of the myth as false. Another worth-while article to read is on my Carol Rees Parrish, R.D., M.S., entitled, “Bottled Water Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction.” In it it is pointed out that,
In the section entitled “Q&A: Bisphenol A and Plastics,” from the John Hopkins website, this nugget is found in a sea on useful information:
And the Sydney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center links the above pages as responses to the supposed publishing of studies by John Hopkins supporting these claims. The only problem is that they have not published such papers: “Another hoax email that has been circulating since 2004 regarding plastic containers, bottles, wrap claiming that heat releases dioxins which cause cancer also was not published by Johns Hopkins” (source). Like many other areas in life, on needs to find out “where the beef is” in regards to separating myth from fact. A good 4-and-a-half minute video that deals with many aspects of this myth is dealt with by Dr. Joe Schwarcz, author of Brain Fuel: 199 Mind-Expanding Inquiries into the Science of Everyday Life:
Even author of Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, Elizabeth Royte, mentioned in an interview that this is a myth of grand proportions. (You can hear this interview dated 1-22-09 on the Dennis Prager show.) There are much better reasons to stop using water bottles than hocus-pocus… in the interview she even seemingly convinced Dennis of this. Again, the folks at Johns Hopkins sat down with Dr. Rolf Haden, assistant professor at Department of Environmental Health Sciences and the Center for Water and Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who dispelled the myth saying, “This is an urban legend. There are no dioxins in plastics. In addition, freezing actually works against the release of chemicals.” The main reason one would not want to reuse water bottles is that bacteria will grow in the hard to wash bottles, if you do reuse them a time or two, vinegar or baking soda would be recommended.
Another article bullet points some “healthy” information for the consumer of urban legends to consider:
✦ Bottled water regulation is at least as stringent as tap water regulation. Under federal law the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must pass bottled water regulations that are “no less stringent” than Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations. The law does not allow the FDA to set standards that produce a lower quality product. As a result, FDA regulations mirror EPA regulations very closely and are more stringent in some respects because FDA applies additional food, packaging, and labeling regulations.
✦ Bottled water is substantially different from tap. About 75 percent of bottled water is from sources other than municipal systems such as springs or underground sources. Much of the bottled municipal water undergoes additional purification treatments to produce a higher quality product that must meet FDA bottled water quality standards, packaging, and labeling mandates. In terms of safety, tap water has more documented health-related case reports compared to bottled water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bottled water for individuals with compromised immune systems to reduce the risks associated with tap water.
✦ Bottled water containers are a tiny fraction of the solid waste stream. Many people have turned to bottled water to replace other portable drinks containing sugar and calories, producing little increase in total waste. In any case, single-serving plastic water bottles amount to just 0.3 percent of the nation’s solid waste. Bottles used in water coolers are recycled at high rates and have even less impact on landfill waste. Taxing and banning either type of container will not matter much in terms of overall waste.
✦ Plastic bottles are safe for consumers. The chemicals which environmental activists suggest are a problem are not even used in the PET plastic used for single-serving water bottles. Bisphenol A, a chemical found in large five-gallon water cooler jugs and other food containers exists at such low trace levels that there have been no reported health problems and the FDA, along with several scientific organizations around the world, have not found any problem with this substance.
Here is a great 20/20 John Stossel presentation: