Is it Safe to Heat Water Bottles?

I try my best to avoid insulting people, but the person who filmed this How To video is stupid.

Plastic BottlesThe best bloopers are here

I might be stupid too. I have been operating under the assumption that heating liquids in PET plastic bottles was a proven health hazard. When I took the time to try and confirm my assumption, I was surprised to find out that I couldn’t. PET water bottles are a BIG problem for the environment. Something like 85% of them are tossed into landfills or discarded into our environment after a single use. But PET bottles have not been a big problem for human health. NGOs are even promoting a water disinfection method for rural Africa using PET bottles and solar energy (PDF). Reusing PET bottles repeatedly without proper cleaning and air drying can put you at risk of ingesting dangerous bacteria.

I still contend that it is unwise to throw a plastic bottle of water on an open fire and then drink from it. I managed to find a few quotes from chemists and food scientists saying that they make a personal choice not to consume food or beverages that are contained in plastic. If any of my readers know of any new credible research into potential health risks with reused PET bottles, please let me know.

UPDATE: Beth Terry, writer of FakePlasticFish managed to find a scientific paper detailing how PET water bottles leach the toxin antimony faster when they are heated. Thanks, Beth.

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7 Responses to Is it Safe to Heat Water Bottles?

  1. I always wondered the same thing. I’ve seen Bear Grylls do it on the TV show Man vs Wild, but always thought that it would be dangerous.

    I hadn’t planned on trying it. I carry a tin cup for boiling while camping.

    Great article

  2. Wow. Did I ever find the article for you:

    This study of antimony leaching from PET bottles last year shows that the higher the temperature, the more the leaching.

  3. Sally Field says:

    But I have another study BY THE SAME PEOPLE that shows that glass is just as bad (or good) as PET. Glass leaches lead, PET leaches antimony. In both cases, the amounts are about the same. In other words, the amounts are both SMALL.

  4. Plasticless says:

    Thanks for the info, Sally. Elements like lead and mercury are hard to avoid entirely and we have to content ourselves with minimizing wherever possible. A complex chemical like antimony is another story entirely.

  5. Pingback: When A Problem Comes Along… | 1800blogger

  6. Pingback: Antimony: Another reason to avoid bottled water… and polar fleece? : Fake Plastic Fish

  7. Ravi says:

    This method works well and I have tried it because I was skeptical when a friend in the Army described it to me. Keep in mind, this isn’t something someone should do all the time. I only used this method to warm water for shaving in the woods on a cold morning. For those concerned about health issues, remember, this is a method for sterilizing water in an extreme survival situation. Other than that, water should be warmed in a tin or iodine tablets should be used.