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Kids health

Are Plastic Water Bottles Safe For Kids?

What you need to know about plastic water bottles so your family can stay hydrated and healthy.

By Grace Draznin
Are Plastic Water Bottles Safe For Kids?

As the weather warms up, it's more important than ever that your family stays hydrated. You probably already send your kid to school, camp or their extracurriculars with a reusable water bottle but sometimes the convenience of a plastic water bottle wins out. You stop into a coffee shop for a treat and your kid is suddenly extremely thirsty so you buy a bottle. We get it. But before you make plastic water bottles an ongoing habit, it's important to understand the risks associated, especially as temperatures rise.

What You Need to Know About Plastic Water Bottles and Your Health

We've all seen parks littered with garbage, plastic bags, food containers and, of course, single-use plastic bottles. According to Statistics Canada, plastic bottles made up nearly 6,000 of the 43,000 tonnes of plastic leaked into the environment in 2019.

What we can't see is the damage that drinking from a single-use plastic bottle could cause us. Research shows that over time, plastics break down and can form smaller particles known as microplastics, which can be broken down further into nanoplastics—particles less than 1 micron in size. These particles are so small they can enter the body's cells and tissues. Microplastics have been found in human blood, lungs and reproductive tissues.

Another concern that cannot be seen by the human eye is the presence of chemicals in single-use plastic bottles. According to the Health and Environmental Alliance (HEAL), hazardous chemical families such as heavy metals and bisphenol a (bpa) are involved in the manufacturing process of these plastics.

What Happens When a Plastic Water Bottle is Exposed to Heat

Whether you're leaving your plastic water bottle in the car on a hot, sunny day, placing it on a sun-exposed picnic table in a park, or simply just holding it while getting your steps in on a summer walk, the increased temperature makes the chemicals in plastic more likely to contaminate the beverage inside. When a plastic bottle is exposed to heat, chemicals can leach into your water faster than at room temperature or cooler.

Six water bottles sit on a table outdoors.

Jenna Wheeler, critical care physician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital, says that plastic water bottles should be thrown out about 12 hours after sun exposure. She adds that they should not be reused. "Single-use water bottles are meant to have water in them and then get disposed of or recycled when they're finished," says Wheeler.

The Health Risks of Drinking From Plastic Bottles

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Drinking from a plastic bottle—especially after it's been exposed to heat—can lead to potential health consequences. For instance, studies show that heavy metals found in single-use plastic bottles are endocrine disruptors that interfere with your body's hormones. Endocrine disruption can lead to an increased risk of cancer and reproductive issues.

Wheeler highlighted that exposure to plastic chemicals can affect children's development. "It's hard to say exactly in every child what the effect is going to be, but we do know globally that those chemicals do affect the development of all of the organs," she says.

Research on how microplastics affect human health once consumed is quite limited. With that said, existing studies show that microplastics interfere with reproductive health in a similar manner to heavy metals and chemicals.

A young boy and teen girl stand on a hiking trail, drinking from reusable water bottles.

Hydrate But Invest in Reusable Water Bottles

We know that having a reusable water bottle on hand is not always realistic. Wheeler emphasizes the importance of drinking water even if it's not from a stainless steel or glass bottle, especially in the summer heat. "I would rather see someone use a plastic water bottle to drink that day when they're out in the sun than to be worried about not having a stainless steel bottle, and then not hydrating," she says.

Check out some of our favourite reusable water bottles to help you avoid plastics this summer. Stanley water bottles are great for keeping your water both cold and chemical free!

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