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The Human Cost of Plastic Bottles

Clean water is vital for all aspects of our health and well-being, so it’s great that so many people in the UK drink so much of it; but it’s not just about quantity.

Water UK says:

‘In the UK 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used each year, with the average person in the UK now using 150 plastic water bottles every year – that’s more than 3 a week.’

Apart from producing an awful lot of waste and pollution, increasingly, we’re discovering just how big an impact this plastic-habit is having on human health.


IAS and NIAS. All plastics contain a mixture of Intentionally Added Substances (IAS), ingredients that have been consciously added to improve the performance of the material.

But packaging also contains Non-intentionally Added Substances (NIAS). NIAS occur a result of side-products and break-down products of the manufacturing process, contamination from things such as ink and are also produced during the recycling process.


According to The Plastic Health Coalition, plastics may affect our health via three pathways:

  1. We eat, drink and breathe microplastics every day. These small plastic particles may harm our health once they have entered our bodies.

  2. Plastic products contain chemical additives. A number of these chemicals have been associated with serious health problems such as hormone-related cancers, infertility and neurodevelopment disorders like ADHD and autism.

  3. When plastics and microplastics end up in the environment, they attract micro-organisms, such as harmful bacteria (pathogens). If microplastics containing these pathogens enter our body, they may increase the risk of infection.

Legislation has a part to play here. For example, in 2011, the European Commission banned the use of Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles, amidst fears that it could affect the development and immune response of young children, and there is mounting pressure for BPA to be banned across the board. But for now, BPA is still allowed to be used in many food contact materials, and the labels on of the BPA-free plastics rarely state which chemicals have been used instead and how safe they are.

So, legislation is slow, and much more research is needed before we know for sure which substances are harmful, in what quantities and to what degree.

In the meantime, what can we do to reduce the risk to ourselves and those we love?



Don’t buy single-use PET bottles if you can help it

DO use metal or glass water bottles and fill up from the tap

Don’t reuse PET bottles, they only last for 6 months and are susceptible to leaching and degrading when exposed to extreme temperatures or particularly fatty or acidic contents

DO download the free Refill app and tap into a global network of places to reduce, reuse and refill

Don’t believe the bottled water marketing hype that says bottled water is cleaner than tap water.

Check out your local water supply first.

DO watch this animated short from The Story of Stuff

The Story of Bottled Water - YouTube


For more information contact:

Image: White plastic bottles - Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash (ST ref: 1065)


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