Bottled water is not for reuse

“I’ll have some bacteria with my water, please.”

What do you think is the most popular resuable bottle on the market?  KOR?  Not yet.  Camelbak?  Nope.  Could it be Nalgene, the pioneer of the reusable category?  Zip.  It turns out the most popular reusable water bottle in America happens to be a bottle not intended for reuse – an empty bottled water bottle.  Don’t believe me?  Go to any gym and ask someone holding a bottled water bottle the question, “did you just buy that or did you refill it?”, and you’ll inevitably get the response “I refilled it”…followed by defense, “but I throw it out after a week”.

I can certainly relate to the practice of reusing bottled water bottles as a matter of convenience.  Back in 2004, in an effort to be healthier, I began drinking more water in lieu of drinking Coke or fruit juice.  I much prefer chilled over room temperature water, so without giving it much thought I filled an old 32 0z Gatorade bottle with filtered water from our sink and threw it in the fridge.   The Gatorade bottle I chose to reuse was perfect – it held the right amount of water, had a medium sized spout, and was easy to carry.  For the next six months, I continued to refill that bottle, stopping only occasionally to run hot water with mild soap in it for cleaning.  Little did I know.

One day, in passing, my wife stated “you know that Gatorade bottle you keep drinking out of is a complete bacteria petri-dish”.  She related how the bottle wasn’t intended for reuse, and the fact I didn’t thoroughly clean it meant that my backwash was breeding some interesting organisms in my supposedly “healthy” new water habit.  I told her she was crazy and didn’t know what she was talking about.  Secretly, I “Googled” the subject of reusing bottled water bottles and about fell out of my chair.  Of course my wife was right :)

One Canadian study focused on kids reusing bottled water bottles in school found bacterial contamination in about a third of the samples and even fecal coliforms in some.  Yeah…fecal matter.  The bacteria comes from our human hands and mouths after repeated use without washing and drying the bottle.  So why not just wash the bottled water bottle?  It gets worse.

Bottled water bottles are made out of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which, while considered safe for its intended “single” use, has been found to break down over time.  The more you wash them, the faster they break down.  As stated in a recent National Geographic article:

“…the plastic used in single-use bottles can pose more of a contamination threat than the water. A safe plastic if used only once, #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common resin used in disposable bottles. However, as #1 bottles are reused, as they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a possible human carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disruptor. And because the plastic is porous you’ll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse the bottles.”

Oh great….so now I have that going for me.   At least my wife caught me early in the process and set in motion my pursuit of a reusable water bottle I could wash (which led me to start KOR…but that’s another story).

If you’re a closet reuser of bottled water bottles, do yourself a big favor and buy a good reusable bottle – if not from KOR, consider a bottle from one of our fine competitors Nalgene, Camelbak, Klean Kanteen, and Sigg.  Your health will thank you!

Directions for a Bottled Water Bacteria & Cancer Cocktail:

- take 1 bottled water bottle and drink original contents
- refill bottle with water from another source (filtered)
- drink water, fill up bottle again, drink water, fill up bottle again, etc.
- watch bacteria (even e-coli) build up within bottle after 1 week
- attempt to wash bottle with soap and warm water
- cause bottle to break down through washing, releasing DEHA (potential carcinogen) and benzyl butyl phthalate (potential hormone disruptor)
- stir it all up and wash it down

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