Can retailers be expected to put public health at the fore of their efforts?
In a world that’s profit-driven and managed in a mode of survival against all competitors, it seems highly unlikely.
In the final analysis, when it comes to your health and the health of your family, the onus to shop and consume wisely falls directly on the shoulders of the buyer. Retailers have health codes to deal with, but they are unlikely to go beyond "acceptable" means to ensure public health.
The photos above show drinking water in plastic bottles being stored in the direct sun under a thick plastic sheet. There’s little doubt that the 27°C temperature soared higher under the plastic wrap this past Sunday afternoon when the photos were taken at a St. Catharines gas station.
Would you even know they had been stored like this? Would you drink from those bottles?
There is mounting evidence that doing so is a very bad idea.
A University of Florida study found that the levels of bisphenol A (BPA) grew in plastic water bottles under extreme heat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned to keep hot or boiling liquids out of packaging containing traces of BPA due to its reactivity with heat.
Another study showed 16 brands of bottled water sold in China, stored at high temperature, contained high levels of Antimony (from realsimple.com).
What’s so bad about BPAs and Antimony?
According to National Geographic, "A slew of studies document negative reproductive, developmental, and metabolic effects in a menagerie of wildlife— rhesus monkeys, zebrafish, nematodes, and mice. Even human studies have linked BPA to a range of health issues."
They further noted that, "The compound has since become so ubiquitous that of the 2,517 people tested in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 93 percent had detectable levels of BPA in their urine."
Breastcancer.org noted, "Research suggests that all plastics may leach chemicals if they're scratched or heated. Research also strongly suggests that at certain exposure levels, some of the chemicals in these products, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may cause cancer in people."
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Antimony has been linked to cardiovascular and respiratory problems. They say, "Antimony oxide is added to textiles and plastics to prevent them from catching fire."
Cheryl Watson, a professor in the biochemistry and molecular biology department at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, advised people not to store bottled water in places that have a significant amount of heat, like a garage or a car parked outside (today.com).
Watson also found products labeled “BPA-free” may contain Bisphenol S (BPS) instead, a chemical that’s very highly related to BPA in structure and appears to act much like BPA, causing the same disruptions of hormone signalling.
“It’s a shell game,” she said. “As we get the word out to the public that BPA is dangerous, they substitute other chemicals that are different, but only slightly different.”
BPA and BPS are organic compounds commonly used in curing fast-drying epoxy resin adhesives. It seems highly unlikely they would be healthy to consumer under any circumstances.
The Florida study and the FDA warned against water bottle storage at or above 158°F. The water bottles at the gas station were in 80°F heat.
What was the temperature inside the plastic tarp in the above pictures? We don't know but it should be noted that inside a car parked in the sun on a hot summer day, the internal temperature can reach between 131 and 172 degrees Fahrenheit. Those temperatures are high enough to leach chemicals from the plastic into the drinking water.
You may want to think twice before grabbing that water bottle off your car dashboard or from under the seat. And when purchasing bottled water, how sure are you of where, and for how long, it was stored?