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PET bottles may exceed acceptable carcinogenic risk levels

Abstract of Meeting Paper – Society for Risk Analysis 2001 Annual Meeting
D. Lilya, University of Idaho Environmental Engineering Program
This study identified and quantified migration compounds from reused PET bottles and evaluated both non-carcinogenic and carcinogenic risks.
A preliminary survey of the university community found that 88% of the participants reused polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles used for bottled water, some for as long as six months. These bottles are not made or regulated for reuse and may not possess the physical characteristics necessary to be safely reused. Bottles are only approved for a single use and the long-term safety of bottle reuse has not been investigated.
Four compounds, 1,4-benzenedicarboxaldehyde, benzoic acid butyl ester, 4-ethoxy-benzoic acid ethyl ester, di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA), were found to migrate from PET bottles exposed to conditions of reuse. It was found that PET bottle reuse increased organic chemical migration and concentrations increased with length of reuse. Original and reused PET bottles were found to have different migration potentials based on the color or brand of bottle. A preliminary screening of other types of non-PET reusable water bottles found that migration was not limited to PET alone and might also pose a health concern. The analytical procedure used was better than current FDA testing procedures because it allowed a detailed risk assessment to be conducted.
PET bottles may exceed acceptable carcinogenic risk levels, especially for di(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA), under different reuse exposure scenarios, however little is known about the toxicity of most PET migration compounds. More research is needed on the toxicity of the migration compounds from both PET and non-PET bottles before a risk assessment can adequately predict the human health risks associated with prolonged bottle reuse.
Reuse of PET bottles may be increasing organic chemical migration into the water being consumed and consumers may be exposing themselves to elevated levels of migration compounds for which few toxicity data exist.
Protocol:  For this study, 1 liter PET bottles were exposed to realistic but extreme reuse parameters, such as sunlight, heat, storage time, and physical degradation, which are known to increase chemical migration into the water being consumed. Water samples were then extracted using a solid phase extraction, followed by GC-MS. Migration compounds were tentatively identified by GC-MS analysis using Wiley and NIST libraries and were verified and quantified when possible using known standards. Measured concentrations and toxicity data were obtained for the identified compounds and were used to evaluate the noncarcinogenic and carcinogenics risks.

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