The retail sector in the UAE is hit on two fronts by the pandemic – on the supply side, governmental intervention creates logistical issues, while on the demand front, customers are stockpiling essential commodities. Stockpiling reduces repeat visits to the shopping centre, and allows people to stay indoors without fear of disruptions in the supply of essential goods. Commodities such as fruits and vegetables, grains, five-gallon bottled water packs and other non-perishables have become a part of every resident’s shopping lists. Owning to low costs and durability, PET bottles are high in demand, and health concerns are only going to raise the same higher. However, much like other consumables, bottled water also does not last forever, and there are compelling reasons for why consumers should not only be aware of the expiry date of their bottled water stockpiles, but also what the correct manner of storage for bottled water should be.
Does Bottled Water end up “deep in water” over time?
First things first. While the pristine water stored within bottles cannot go bad itself, it is susceptible to the risk of contamination due to the container in which it is stored. Retail bottles are generally made of Polyethylene terephthalate, and larger jugs are made of high-density polyethylene. Both run the risk of leeching toxic chemicals as well as small micro-plastics into the contained water.
While some market-players would want to convince you that the use of “expiry dates” is only due to bottled water’s status as a consumable, or due to the machinery that a plant employs, the issue isn’t as clear as water. The International Bottle Water Association claims that the dates on the battle are only a means to assist stock rotation in retail locations, and that there is no scientific evidence which supports the requirement of expiry dates on bottled water. Manufacturers also claim that the presence of expiry dates is merely a residual trait left from the use of the same bottling machinery that bottles sodas and juices, which do have an expiry date.
However, studies have indicated that the plastic bottles that water is stored in comes with the risk of contaminating the water with toxic chemicals such as antimony. At 75 degrees Celsius, the plastic can begin leaking antimony, a carcinogen, within 5 days. This temperature may seem hard to touch, but areas in direct sunlight often touch such levels throughout summer. Leaving water in vehicles parked in the sunlight is arguably not a good plan for this pandemic.
Your water can also be contaminated by bisphenol A (BPA) during the course of bottling as well as storage. Upon entry into your body, BPA is metabolized to form bisphenol-A-glucuronide, and is excreted via urine. However, it can persist within the body and cause endocrine disorders as well as metabolic disorders. As BPA enters our bodies through various sources and not just bottled water, we tend to accumulate the substance in far greater quantities than in which our body can filter it out. Thus, consumers should try to seek out BPA free water bottles.
Regular ingestion of such toxic materials, as well as micro-plastics can lead to accumulation in your body, leading to issues in gut health, immunity as well as respiratory functions.
When storing water stockpiles, consumers should ensure that the bottles are stored at room temperature or cooler, out of direct sunlight. As plastic is porous to a certain extent, it is advisable to keep stockpiles away from any solvents or chemicals, as well as places and materials with high odours in order to avoid contamination.
Even apart from contaminants, there are other things consumers should be aware of as they choose their bottled water. Enthusiasts claim that ingested water should be alkaline, rather than acidic, as acidic water can cause a slew of discomforts to the unwary consumer. Alkaline water has also been touted to enable faster rehydration, and can be a definite panacea to issues such as acid reflux.
Broken Seals – How are opened bottles to be handled?
While the above segment should help you in keeping your water safe before the seal is opened, read on to ensure that you handle your water safely once the seal is broken and the water is exposed to the horrors of the external world. To be fair, once open, the lifetime of bottled water rests entirely in the hands of the consumer. Ensuring that the bottle remains tightly closed and refrigerated heightens the lifetime of the water greatly. Bottled water which is continuously refrigerated can remain of good quality for upto a week after opening .
As most bottled water is not chlorinated, it is susceptible to proliferation of bacteria, viruses, and algae. A high chance of contamination arises from backwater – the flow of tiny amounts of water from your mouth back to the bottle when you drink straight from the bottle and touch the opening with your lips. Bacteria in your mouth can flow into the bottle, where it can spread. Humid conditions are ripe for the spread of mildew, and the same can contaminate water in less than 1/3rd of a day.
It is important to remember that a plastic taste arising from the water is not enough to implicate the water as toxic, and that the absence of such taste is not enough to out-rule the possibility of contamination. Consumers should ensure that bottled water is not put into direct sunlight, or other places where there is intense heat (which can cause contamination to occur) such as car trunks etc. Bottled water should be consumed within two weeks of opening, in order to avoid any bacterial or algae growth. In case there is any doubt regarding the taste or odour of water contained in any contained, it is always advisable to resort to boiling the same in order to make it safer for you and your family.