Drinking more water is good for health but may bring some associated hazards. Most of us use plastic water bottles which can affect human health and increase plastic pollution affecting the environment. Plastic water bottles are mostly single-use and disposed of frequently, adding more waste to landfills and choking water streams.

Plastic is not biodegradable, so the vast quality of plastic bottles discarded daily has become a menace by negatively impacting the environment around us. Health risks are also involved in storing and drinking water in plastic bottles due to toxic effects and chemical contamination from plastics. Prolonged consumption of plastic bottled water may lead to various health issues. We must avoid using single-use plastic water bottles and switch to other alternatives to protect ourselves from the adverse impact of plastics.


Health Hazards from Plastic Bottles


Single-use, disposable plastic bottles may cause chemical contamination and toxicity to the drinking water. Exposure to sunlight and heat can cause the release of toxic chemicals from the plastic into the water. That means leaving water bottles in open spaces could heat them, and the water may be unsafe for drinking. Many researchers found microplastic contamination when bottles were left in hot weather for a long time. 

There is a chance the water contains traces of harmful chemicals, pesticides, and other impurities that are toxic to your health. After the ban on bisphenol-A or BPA being used in packaging, bottled water companies started the following process to eliminate BPA in their products. But there’s still a risk of harmful chemicals in plastic water bottles.


2024 Study: 240,000 Nanoplastics in a Liter of Botted Water

The most recent study on the subject is from January 2024 published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This study found that, on average, a liter of bottled water included about 240,000 tiny pieces of plastic. About 90% of these plastic fragments were nanoplastics. What is concerning is that the total amount of particles was 10 to 100 times more than what was seen in earlier studies, which mostly focused on larger microplastics.

This research showed as well that apart from all seven types of plastic, the water contained as well as millions of additional particles that did not match any the seven plastic categories and require further research. The most common plastic types were polyamide (PA), a type of nylon that’s often used to help filter and purify water,  polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is used to make bottles for water, soda, and many other drinks and food packaging, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), and polystyrene (PS), which is also used in water purification.

Water contamination results from exposure to toxins and chemicals that lead to serious health issues. Even trace amounts of chemicals can impact the body and generate a range of symptoms. There is evidence of higher levels of microplastics in bottled water, even in popular brands.

A 2018 study published in Frontiers in Chemistry analyzed “Synthetic Polymer Contamination in Bottled Water” and found that in 259 bottled waters from 9 different countries, 93% of bottles tested contained microplastics, in average 325 particles per litre with an average size between 6.5 to 100 μm, as well as 10.4 with a size above 100 μm. Scientists also found that the contamination is at least partially coming from the packaging and/or the bottling process itself as the main plastic particles found are polyester (primary polyethylene terephthalate PET) which is used the make the bottle body and polypropylene (PP) which is used to make the plastic bottle caps.  



A Few More Older Studies on Microplastics in Bottled Water 

After evaluating 18 bottled water products, a German 2013 study found close to 25,000 chemical components in bottled water, which is an astonishing number. Among these components were endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), like BPA, which are man-made compounds that interfere with hormone signalling and can adversely affect human health as they are implicated in cancer, cardiovascular, and metabolic disorders. In the study they found what is called Steriod Receptor agonists and antagonists. Out of 18 different brands of Bottle Water they found these chemicals in 13 of the samples, where they blocked steriod receptor by 90%. The most hormonally active belonged to classes of chemicals called “maleates” and “fumarates”, which are used to manufacture the form of plastic resins used in water bottles.

One other study found that chemicals like BPA, benzene, microbes, and in some cases, arsenic were present in bottled water and which adversely affect human health.


Related: 10 Benefits of Drinking Tap Water vs Bottled Water.


Environmental Impact of Plastic Bottles

Source: Springer


Plastic bottles contribute a major part of plastic waste generated daily, causing plastic pollution and other environmental issues. The disposable single-use plastic water bottles end up in landfills and water bodies, where they affect the ecosystem and cause a threat to the survival of many species. 

Plastic waste is harmful to living creatures due to the release of chemicals contaminating the air, soil, and water. It is a proven fact that whether it is land, sea, or air, the dangers of plastic water bottles concern the environment and human society. Scientists have predicted that by 2050, the oceans in the world will hold more plastic in weight than fish. 

Plastic pollution is affecting land, waterways, and oceans as many marine and land creatures have died from exposure to toxic chemicals released by plastics. Plastic bottles as thrown out block drainage lines and fill up land space causing an unhygienic and polluted environment around us. Around 10% of municipal waste is plastic and is known to be responsible for the death of several marine species. 

There are more than seven million tons of additional plastic waste deposits on the earth annually. The qualities of plastic bottles such as lightweight and durability also make them difficult to recycle or break down. 


Related: Is Microplastics Leaching into your Coffee?


Chemical Contamination in Plastic Bottled Water

Plastic’s chemical properties can lead to plastic-related toxins being released into the water when water is kept in plastic bottles for a long time. These chemicals include polyethylene terephthalate, high-density polyethylene, and bisphenol A (BPA). These chemicals are harmful to human health as well as to the environment.

Many chemical contaminants can be found in drinking water that can severely affect our endocrine system. The endocrine system is important for coordinating the functioning of the entire body. The plastic materials used in water bottles include some chemicals that may cause endocrine disruption. These chemicals can leak out of the plastic into the water when bottled water is exposed to very low or high temperatures. The chemicals include Bisphenol A and phthalates. 

As we drink bottled water with chemical contamination, endocrine disruptors may build up in our bodies and eventually affect the endocrine system. Some researchers have found that the chemicals generate abnormal responses in the human body cells and can even stimulate the growth of cancer cells. 

The substances that the scientists found in plastic bottled water through their experiments have toxic effects on organisms, potentially acting as carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. They also discovered the presence of plastic softeners, antioxidants, and microplastics in the drinking water contained in plastic bottles.


Alternatives to Plastic Water Bottles


There are many alternatives to plastic water bottles, like glass and metal water bottles and paper cups, that could serve as a healthier and safer alternative to bottles made of plastic. These alternatives are more environment-friendly because they are reusable and recyclable, unlike plastics that pile up in landfills and water bodies, increasing the pollution level of our environment. They are also more economical as drinking tap water is much more affordable than drinking bottled water.

Some of the best alternatives to single-use plastic water bottles are as follows: 

  • Glass bottles: Glass water bottles are reusable and do not contaminate water, even kept for a long time. It can safely go in the dishwasher; you can often sterilize them efficiently, thus ensuring the prevention of any bacteria growth. Glass bottles eliminate the chances of chemicals leaching into your water, thus avoiding any health hazards. 
  • Metal bottles: Metal water bottles may prove an ideal alternative to plastic bottles and for people concerned about glass bottle breaking. You can easily clean and sterilize metal water bottles, and there is less risk of chemical contamination of water. Please chose a good quality stainless steel water bottle over one made of aluminum, as it is very unlikely to corrode, it doesn’t react with hot or acidic liquids, and is very durable. You can differentiate a steel bottle from an aluminum one from its weight.     
  • Paper cups: In many situations, glass or metal water bottles may not be suitable. You can use disposable paper cups to provide an affordable, biodegradable alternative to plastic water bottles.


Related: Plastic-free Tea Bags: Which Brands Are really Plastic-free? 


Conclusion: Avoid Bottled Water and Use a Water Filter on Your Tap

Awareness about the negative impact of plastic bottles on your health and the environment will drive you to switch to plastic-free alternatives to drinking water bottles. It is an important step, but you could also be sure to protect yourself from consuming microplastics contained in tap water or by using a water purifying system. To remove tiny plastic particles from your drinking water supply, consider installing an advanced water purifier or RO system that leaves your water healthy, clean, and delicious.


Browse more articles related to microplastic pollution.

Browse the I’m Plastic Free directory to discover plastic pollution solutions.


  • Arek
    January 17, 2023 at 11:39 pm


    • I'm Plastic Free
      January 20, 2023 at 3:01 pm

      Thank you!

  • Fadhi
    February 16, 2023 at 1:42 am

    I would like stop using plastic water bottles

  • PackNet
    July 4, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    Plastic water bottles have a detrimental impact on our environment and switching to sustainable alternatives is crucial for a greener future.

  • Shreya
    November 5, 2023 at 11:21 pm

    Very nice this help for my debate competition

    • I'm Plastic Free
      November 6, 2023 at 1:50 pm

      Hi Shreya,
      Thank you, we’re happy you found them useful!
      Kind regards,

  • Zain
    March 7, 2024 at 12:31 pm

    This was really helpful for my school essay. 😀 👍

    • I'm Plastic Free
      March 10, 2024 at 9:11 am

      Hi Zain,
      We are happy to hear that this article was helpful for your school essay.
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