By Kristen Chandler
Approximately one in 13 children suffers from food allergies. The “Top Eight” (eggs, milk, soy, peanuts, shellfish, tree nuts and wheat) account for 90 percent of food allergic reactions. Then you have the rarer allergies like those to cinnamon, coffee and corn. It’s not surprising that most food allergy families prepare most of their meals at home. People who suffer from food allergies, especially those with severe allergies, can’t accept just anything from anyone.
So, imagine you’re away from home and you get really thirsty, and someone hands you a bottle of water. You accept it and drink some, but a few minutes later your lips begin to burn and tingle and possibly swell. But is it actually possible for someone to be allergic to bottled water? While it is rare, aquagenic urticaria, or an allergy to water, does exist. However, most allergic reactions people have while drinking water from a plastic bottle are usually the result of an allergy to the plastic and not the water itself.
What Causes an Allergy to Plastic Water Bottles?
With food allergies, it’s usually difficult to pinpoint what in the food causes the allergic reaction. Sometimes people are allergic to the food itself, and sometimes it is the protein in the food that causes the allergic reaction. Where an allergy to plastic water bottles is concerned, it is usually the chemicals found in the plastic that are responsible for the allergic reaction.
Most plastic containers, toys, etc. contain chemicals. These chemicals are used to make the plastic either softer or harder as needed, and also to prevent contamination. However, these chemicals can be just as bad as the contamination they are meant to block.
The two most common chemicals found in water bottles are Phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). Polystyrene foam (PS) is also used in plastics, but the former two are more likely to be found in plastic water bottles. Also, both Phthalates and BPA have been known to get in the way of hormone production. Disrupted hormone production can reduce fertility and eventually lead to breast, testicular and prostate cancer. Since food allergies affect the immune system, both Phthalates and BPA could cause an allergic reaction or an increase in reactions among food allergic children.
How to Understand Recycling Labels
On recyclable plastic water bottles, you’ll find a triangle with a number in the center. This triangle is usually found on the bottom of the bottle. The number represents not only what the plastic will be recycled into but more importantly what the plastic is made from.
Below is a graphic briefly explaining plastic recycling codes. You can read the full article associated with this graphic here.
Avoiding Allergic Reactions to Plastic Water Bottles
In order to prevent an allergic reaction to plastic water bottles, of course consider using glass or stainless steel containers instead. But if you do go with plastic, look for BPA- and/or phthalate-free bottles. Also, keep in mind which plastic recycling codes mean what. Numbers 2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (PP) are the best choices. On the other hand, try to avoid numbers 3 (PVC), 6 (PS) and 7, which are the most likely to contain BPA or phthalate. Number 1 (PET or PETE) is a moderate hazard. The chemicals contained in this plastic can break down and leach into the product contents over time.
Prolonged storage or exposure to heat can speed up the chemical breakdown process in plastic. Therefore, you should not store bottled water in places it could be exposed to heat, like in garages or the trunk of your car. Plastic water bottles should not be microwaved either.
Do you have an allergy to plastic water bottles? If so, we would like to hear from you. Leave us a comment below!