I don’t normally go into shoe-shopping trips and expect to leave with a fear of drinking water – but… that was the case the other day when I tagged along with “Chuck” actress Mekenna Melvin (Josh’s gf Alex McHugh). Before we went shoe shopping, I was discussing my dehydration, and my need for bottled water, and how I normally keep at 24-pack in my car at all times, but alas, my car was not there (such deep and meaningful conversation, I know.) Anyway. Mekenna decides she doesn’t want me to have water ever again, and therefore chooses to share a not-so-fun fact (okay she didn’t really not want me to ever have water…just keep reading.)
Apparently, according to her, bottled water in plastic bottles, when left in heat, is actually horrible for you. She explains some sciency reasoning (one I can’t remember) but basically suggests that if I continue to drink out of plastic water bottles that have been sitting in my car, I’ll die…or well, consume a lot of chemicals or something.
So even though she was super chill and all, and a fun interview (we talked everything from TGIF to sale racks to relationships to mutual friends) – I now have a new fear. Thanks Mekenna. I hope a secret agent captures you, or something.
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Here you go:
Two quotes to abate your fears:
“The FDA has reviewed test data on the safety of the plastics used in water bottles — including the potential for hazardous chemicals leaching or “migrating” from the plastic into the water — and established that they pose no significant risk to human health… Studies done on water bottled in FDA-approved polyethylene terephthalate (PET), for example, did find trace amounts of potentially hazardous substances believed to have migrated from the plastic. The important point to take away, however, is that these amounts were minuscule and well within the safety limits set by FDA and EPA regulators.”
” Dr. Richard E. Barrans Jr. of the PG Research Foundation in Illinois, on the other hand, believes that all plastic bottles labeled #1 through #7 are perfectly safe for food storage… The chance of being injured by a car as you are on your way to the store to buy bottled water is much, much greater than the chance that your health will be impaired by drinking water from a plastic container”.
And one to keep you vigilant:
“A new European study published in 2009 … found evidence of a man-made estrogen-like compound leaching into water packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles… [which has] the potential to inferfere with estrogen and other reproductive hormones… However, the authors of the study say more research is required to determine whether, or to what degree, this poses an actual health risk to humans.”
So apparently the jury’s still out, but I don’t think you need to lay awake at night afraid. Or not drink water when you are dehydrated, even if it comes from a bottle in your car. Failure to drink enough water is definitely, demonstrably bad. A few days without water can cause irreversible neurological damage. So keep that brain nice and wet, ok?
One quick note though that is bugging me about one of those quotes… I don’t know how Dr. Barrans got his numbers, but even if he’s got a good reason for making strong claims about the probabilities, I think the point he’s making is a bit over the top. So maybe keep you water cool if you have the option, but don’t sweat it when it gets a little warm… (Hah, punny.) I looked some stuff up and the problem seems to be that there are some missing numbers.
As far as I can tell anyway, no one really knows even what percentage of cancer diagnoses might have something to do with water bottles, and even if someone did know that, you’d also want to know what their contribution to the population’s cancer they made (e.g., maybe hot water bottle will always be fine on its own, but not if you also have a cellphone, eat a bunch of tuna, fly frequently, and are exposed to second-hand smoke often). More importantly, researchers (as far as I know) don’t have the crucial conditional probability (and I don’t have the resources to estimate it): you want to know that given you are drinking heated water from your car, what is the probability you will develop cancer. You then want to compare/relate that to the probability that you’d develop cancer given that you did *not* drink heated water bottles from your car. But since we don’t have those numbers…
p (pedestrian) = (7 / 60) / 24 = 0.004
p (killed as a pedestrian) = 4,378/281,000,000 = 0.00001
p (injured as pedestrian) = 69000/281,000,000 = 0.0002
p (killed or injured as a pedestrian) = 0.00021, or ~ 0.02% chance
p (occupant of car | U.S. resident) = 1/24 = 0.04
p (killed in car) = 14,587/281,000,000 = 0.00005
p (injured in car) = 690000/281,000,000 = 0.002
p (killed or injured in car) = 0.00205, or ~ 0.2% chance
p (cancer diagnosis) = 1530000/281,000,000 = 0.005
p (dead 5 years later | cancer diagnosis) = 0.5
p (cancer diagnoses leading to death < 5y) = 0.0025, or ~ 2.5% chance
1. U.S. Census Motor Vehicles Accidents and Fatalities Report-
2. Health & Nutrition: Health Conditions, Diseases –
So… p ( cancer death) is an order of magnitude higher than p ( injury or death in a car) which is an order of magnitude higher than p (injury or death as a pedestrian). So I guess my issue with Barrans is that he doesn't seem to acknowledge that there is at least a good reason for people to be extra concerned about possible risk factors for cancer.