Researcher Dispels Myth of Dioxins and Plastic Water Bottles
Question: What do you make of this recent email warning that claims dioxins can be released by freezing water in plastic bottles?
Answer: No. This is an urban legend. There are no dioxins in plastics. In addition, 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 dont think there are.
Question: So its okay for people to drink out of plastic water bottles?
Answer: First, people should be more concerned about the quality of the water they are drinking rather than the container its coming from. Many people do not feel comfortable drinking tap water, so they buy bottled water instead. The truth is that city water is much more highly regulated and monitored for quality. Bottled water is not. It can legally contain many things we would not tolerate in municipal drinking water.
Having said this, there is another group of chemicals, called phthalates that are sometimes added to plastics to make them flexible and less brittle. Phthalates are environmental contaminants that can exhibit hormone-like behavior by acting as endocrine disruptors in humans and animals. If you heat up plastics, you could increase the leaching of phthalates from the containers into water and food.
Question: What about cooking with plastics?
Answer: In general, 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.
Question: Is there anything else you want to add?
Answer: Dont be afraid of drinking water. It is very important to drink adequate amounts of water and, by the way thats 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.
And heres one more uncomfortable fact. Each of us already carries a certain body burden of dioxins regardless of how and what we eat. If you look hard enough, youll find traces of dioxins in pretty much every place on earth. Paracelsus the famous medieval alchemist, used to put it straight and simple: its the dose that makes the poison.--Tim Parsons
Public Affairs media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Lowe at 410-955-6878 or email@example.com.
Reproduced with permission of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.
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