Children and Water Bottle Safety

By Pam Henderson

Generations of children have grown up healthy and thriving despite drinking water from garden hoses, riding bicycles without hands on the handlebars and daring each other to eat dirt (or in my family’s case, cat food). I survived all of those things with only one incident of stitches and zero broken bones.

Like many children from my generation who were told otherwise, I grew into adulthood without my “eyes staying that way” or without carrying swallowed gum in my stomach for seven years. But, I did recently learn that one of the habits I gained as an adult can be rather, well, dirty. In fact, some contend it’s even dirtier than licking a toilet.

I thought that I was doing well as a fleeting nutrition-conscious adult when I grabbed my 16.9 oz bottle of pure spring water to drink during my drive to work each morning. Taking something that is already packaged “to go” is seconds quicker than waiting for the water dispenser on our frig to fill up a travel mug. When I took my emptied bottle into Dunebrook, I’d fill it up again and again, sometimes 3 or 4 times in a day. Then, I’d fill it up one last time in the evening and set it beside my bed to drink as I awoke through the night. I’d continue using the same bottle the next day and the day after that until it just became too flimsy.

Health experts now say that plastic water bottles are nesting grounds for bacterial growth. Many of these germs breed in moisture. It’s really hard to get a water bottle completely dry – and it’s really hard to get it completely clean. So, for all of those years when we’ve been blaming our encounters with germs on the individuals in public restrooms who don’t wash their hands with soap, or who put their dollar bills in their mouth as they’re counting out change to the cashier (which gets returned as change to us), or who sneeze and then extend that hand to ours for a greeting, we could have been incubating germs all on our own.

Even reusable drinking containers can be dangerously crawling with viable bacteria cells. TreadmillReviews noted in their 2017 report, “Water Bottle Germs Revealed 2017,” which had studied 12 water bottles, that more than 300,000 colony-forming units per square centimeter may be crawling around your bottle – invisible to your eye. Just how many is 300,000 cells? As TreadmillReviews comments, it’s “many times worse than licking your dog’s toy.”

In addition, some plastic bottles have chemicals, such as bisphenol A (or BPA), according to  Brent Bauer, MD, from the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program.  The chemicals may leak into your bottled water when they’re exposed to heat. Water bottles heat up, for example, when left in a car on a hot day or when put in a dishwasher. Dr. Bauer shares that the FDA says that low levels of BPA are safe. Still, more research is being done because there are concerns of BPA’s health effects, including its impact on behavior in children and increased blood pressure. More products are being manufactured as BPA-free.

Re-using a plastic, disposable bottle may seem like it makes environmental sense. Yet, rather than filling up the landfill with your garbage, you’re using up precious water to clean it. That really negates the environmental friendliness of re-using a disposable bottle again and again.

TreadmillReviews recommends using stainless steel over plastic bottles with a straw top. Be sure to thoroughly wash it with soap and water after every use. Follow these tips and your body might just appreciate a few hundred thousand less germs.