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12 April, 2007

Random queries no. 105

One of a series of genuine search engine enquiries which successfully brought visitors to the Ministry.  Can I help?

is it a hoax that bottled water left in a car cause breast cancer if you drink it?

I haven't been able to find a specific rebuttal, but I'm extremely confident that's an urban myth. I presume the theory is that direct sunlight and hence the heat of an enclosed car would cause a (apparently breast-specific) carcinogen to leach out of the bottle's plastic. I strongly suspect the bottle manufacturers had thought of that when selecting polymers.

The most compelling argument so far as I'm concerned is that leaving a plastic bottle of water in direct sunlight is a recognised purification technique (UV kills faecal nasties) used by hill walkers and even proposed as suitable for purifying entire drinking water supplies in India i.e. letting bottled water exceed 65°C in sunlight is a good thing. The linked article specifically mentions the use of plastic containers.


[Update 17/04/07: I've managed to trace this non-issue to the abstract of a non-peer-reviewed Master's thesis about the reuse of plastic water bottles, misreported by a sensationalist newspaper. The scare story has been expressly debunked, not least by the suggestion that the student was accidentally measuring chemicals in his/her own lab equipment.
Specifically, the thesis claimed that potentially dangerous quantities of DEHA were leached from PET bottles, but DEHA is not a recognised raw material or degradation product of PET. Even if DEHA somehow got into the water from a different source (say, a plastic beaker in a lab...), it wouldn't matter, as that's approved for human consumption too.]

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