Everybody knows that to stay healthy you have to drink a lot of water – around two quarts a day. To keep up with this hydration regime, many people keep a water container handy at work or play. A good water container needs to be easy to clean for good hygiene and constructed of safe materials.

Single-use plastic water or fruit juice containers are not easily cleaned so they shouldn’t be reused. Unfortunately though, even some of the most popular, plastic, repeated-use containers could be constructed of dangerous chemicals that are endocrine disruptors.

The human body’s endocrine system regulates various body functions ranging from metabolism and growth to reproductive health. It does this by sending messages in the form of hormones, produced by special glands, throughout the body via the bloodstream. These hormones deliver their messages to organs like the liver by attaching themselves to receptors on the cells of the target organ. Endocrine disruptors (pretty scary sounding term!) are chemicals that mimic, inhibit or disrupt the human hormones that are sending the messages to organs and tissues.

There are many synthetic chemicals which are suspected of being endocrine disrupters. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently investigating 87,000 (known) chemicals that may be endocrine disrupters.

The general guidance for plastic bottles is to avoid those with bisphenol-A(BPA) found in the very popular No. 7 polycarbonate bottles used for sport bottles and baby bottles. Continual use, repeated dish washing and storage of acidic drinks such as fruit juices in these containers could cause chemicals to leach out; therefore, increasing exposure. When you do clean these containers use warm water, a mild detergent and rinse thoroughly.

No. 2 and No. 4 Polyethylene as well as No. 5 polypropylene containers are better choices, but the best of all are containers made of glass and stainless steel. www.kleankanteen.com

When it comes to an alternative to polycarbonate baby bottles, remember the tried-and-true glass bottles with latex (natural rubber) nipples. http://store.babycenter.com

If you are an outdoor enthusiast where proper hydration is key, then you may want to switch to a stainless steel container.

The other advantage of these bottles is that they don’t impart taste to the liquid stored and are, therefore, perfect for those other “beverages” used to chase off the winter chills.

So in summary, don’t reuse single-use plastic bottles, limit the use of your existing polycarbonate bottles to your outdoor adventures or switch to stainless steel, use glass for longtime storage of drinks especially fruit juices and drink a lot of water.

McCaskill is an environmental engineer with the Maine DEP’s Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management.

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