Inside a parked car, the temperature can soar above 60 degrees Celcius on a hot day, and researchers say it climbs every half an hour, because of the closed environment. In fact, it is so hot some could even bake cookies! Now what happens when a plastic water bottle gets left there?
The Leaching Effect
A study conducted by the University of Florida found increased levels of toxicity in 15 brands of bottled water, put under a temperature of 70 degrees Celsius for four weeks.
The process, called leaching, was explained by a medical researcher in the University of Texas, who advised people not to store bottled water in a car, or other places where it’s hard for heat to disperse easily.
‘When you heat things up, the molecules jiggle around faster and that makes them escape from one phase into another. So the plastic leaches its component chemicals out into the water much faster and more with heat applied to it.’
A similar study published in 2008 in the journal Water Research, concluded that bottled water could pose health risks, particularly to climates with extreme conditions that encourage greater toxin release.
The BPA Factor
The toxin in question is bisphenol-A, or BPA, a type of chemical with a dizzying number of commercial uses. For years, BPA has been used in packaging in plastics and metal around the world. It’s used in the inner lining of metal food containers to prevent corrosion.
It’s so prevalent that researchers say it can even be found in the urine of adults due to the amount of food that we consume from plastic and metal containers.
How to Reduce Exposure
Even though it’s almost impossible to go BPA-free in daily life, you can limit the amount of exposure by following simple guidelines found on the plastic packaging.
Most plastics are labelled with a number that corresponds to whether it contains BPA, you just need to look for a triangle.
Number 1, 2, 4 or 5 = BPA free.
Number 3 or a 7 = may contain BPA, which may be released under heat, or when soaped.
Number 6 = made from polystyrene, think small plastic cups used in water dispensers.
Car on fire?
If plastic leaching doesn’t concern you, perhaps a fire might. According to a car mechanic, a plastic bottle of water can set your car seat on fire. That’s if sunlight hits it at the right angle.
Dioni Amuchastegui was on lunch break when he saw smoke coming out of his car seat. It turned out that sunlight was being refracted through a water bottle and was burning up the seat. The temperature of the bottle at that time? Almost 100 degrees Celsius.
The bottled water industry has repeatedly cast doubt on research involving BPA safety. It refuted claims of leaching, saying that they are ‘not based in science and are unsubstantiated’.
For now, the multi-billion dollar industry is set to grow to over USD 280 billion by 2020.
Still, researchers have warned against the long-term use of bottled water – no matter the temperature.
Instead, they’ve advised using glass or stainless steel containers instead. As the materials are unreactive, leaching rarely occurs.
So remember, if your bottled water ever tastes funny, especially if its been in car – that’s a warning sign to dump it.