How Drinking Water From Plastic Bottles Can Harm Food Allergic Children 

Child drhinking water from glassKeeping up with active children is often a challenge, particularly when they also suffer from food allergies. While many parents are often diligent about verifying the energy bar they just reached for as a quick convenient snack for their kids doesn’t contain some allergen, they are often not concerned with grabbing a bottle of water. It is commonly accepted that adequate hydration, especially for active children, is extremely important for their continued healthy development. So why would a conscientious parent be leery of a bottle of water?

The answer lies hidden beneath a mountain of other questions. How was the bottle manufactured? Does it contain chemicals known to exacerbate allergies? How long has it been sitting on the store shelf, in your car or in your child’s backpack? Most people do not think about these questions, often because water bottled in plastic is so pervasive in American society. However, the type of container your child’s water comes in could affect his or her health, especially if he or she has allergies.

Does it Contain Chemicals Known to Aggravate Allergies?

Many plastic items are made using chemicals to soften or harden the plastic and/or to prevent bacterial contamination over time. However, those same chemicals have also been found to cause hormonal and other biological disruptions in people. And since food allergies are immune diseases, these chemicals also tend to aggravate food allergies. The three most notorious culprits are Phthalates (most commonly found in PVC/vinyl), Polystyrene foam (PS) and bisphenol A (BPA), but only Phthalates and BPA tend to be found in plastic water bottles.

Phthalates are a group/family of man-made chemicals used to treat plastics and vinyl. Both Phthalates and BPA are known as endocrine disruptors because they can interfere with the function and production of hormones and potentially with the development of the brain. Both have also been linked to increased allergic reactions in children.

How to Decipher Recycling Codes and Classification of Plastics

If you look on the bottom of plastic food containers and bottled water, you will likely find a graphic of a triangle with a number inside. The triangle represents the fact that the plastic item can be recycled. The number represents the type of plastic the particular container is made from. Many people have no idea what those numbers actually mean, nor the impact they could have upon children’s health. In recent years, scientists have determined certain types of plastic containers are made using chemicals that disrupt natural hormonal functions in children and adults. The following infographic, which falls in line with guidelines from the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Units (PEHSU), a respected network of experts in children’s environmental health, can help you understand recycling codes:

How long has it been sitting around?

When using some plastics, such as those where the recycle code is marked 1, shelf life and exposure to heat can make otherwise safe plastics less safe. Heat and prolonged storage have been associated with leeching chemicals from the plastics into the water. It’s the reason you now see expiration dates on bottled water.

If you make a habit to leave water bottled in plastic stored in your trunk or other parts of your car, you may not want to drink it. The high heat created inside a locked car could cause the bottle to leech chemicals into the water.

Avoiding Phthalates and BPA

To avoid exposure to Phthalates and BPA:

  1. Try to purchase items that are labeled phthalate free or BPA free. Even better, use glass, stainless steel, ceramic or wood to hold and store foods and water instead of plastics.
  2. Do not microwave food/beverages in plastic.
  3. If using hard polycarbonate plastics, like water bottles, baby bottles or “sippy cups,” do not use for hot liquids and do not heat liquids while they are in the bottle.
  4. If you can’t avoid using plastics, use the recycle code guide on the bottom of plastic containers to avoid the “Big 3” of dangerous plastics: those marked 3 (PVC or vinyl), 6 (polystyrene foam) or 7 (other, can contain BPA).


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