Review of Popular Urban Legends Regarding PET Plastic Bottles


Here is a quick review of popular myths vs. facts regarding PET plastic bottles.

  • Bisphenol A (BPA): PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic bottles do not contain Bisphenol A (BPA) despite the misinformation abundant in media. BPA is used in the manufacture of some plastics such as food and drink can linings, but it is not used in PET plastic food and drink containers (nor those made from HDPE, LDPE or polypropylene). BPA is a component used to make epoxy resins and polycarbonate plastic, which was often used for refillable water bottles sold at retail stores or baby milk bottles, most of which have now switched to BPA-free types by now. At any rate, PET plastics have nothing to do with BPA.
  • Phthalates: Phthalates (primarily DEHP) are substances used in the manufacture of PVC plastics to make them flexible – they are not used in the manufacture of PET plastic bottles. The term “phthalates,” short for “orthophthalates,” refers to a class of additives, which are used in some plastic products, specifically products made with a particular type of plastic – polyvinyl chloride (also known as PVC or vinyl) – to make the material soft and flexible. Vinyl shower curtains, cable and wire, and flooring are examples of flexible PVC products that can contain phthalates.
  • Carcinogens DEHA: This widely circulated claim stems from a student’s thesis that was promoted in the media without peer review. The thesis incorrectly identifies di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA), a plastics additive, as a human carcinogen. DEHA is neither regulated nor classified as a human carcinogen by the U.S. Further, DEHA is not inherent in PET as a raw material, byproduct or decomposition product. DEHA is a common plasticizer that is used in innumerable plastic items.
  • Dioxins: Dioxins are a family of chemical compounds that are produced by combustion at extremely high temperatures. There simply is no scientific basis to support the claim that PET bottles can release dioxin. They can only be formed at temperatures well above 700 degrees Fahrenheit; they cannot be formed at room temperature or in freezing temperatures. Moreover, there is no scientific basis for dioxins to be present in plastic food or beverage containers in the first place.
  • Aceltaldehyde: Acetaldehyde is an organic chemical compound, occurring naturally in coffee, bread, and ripe fruit, and is produced by plants as part of metabolism. It is also produced by oxidation of ethanol and is believed to be a cause of hangovers from alcohol consumption. Acetaldehyde is ubiquitous in the ambient environment.  It is also formed as a product of incomplete wood combustion in fireplaces and woodstoves, coffee roasting, burning of tobacco, vehicle exhaust fumes, and coal refining and waste processing. In addition, Acetaldehyde is formed in the body from the breakdown of ethanol. Potential Aceltaldehyde exposure through bottled water, if any, is inconsequential.

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