What Happens When You Forget Your PET Bottle in the Sun: Research Reveals Worrying Results

What Happens When You Forget Your PET Bottle in the Sun: Research Reveals Worrying Results

With summer in full swing, it's common to see people carrying plastic water bottles everywhere, especially to the beach. However, recent research suggests this might not be as harmless as it seems.

The scientific community has been increasingly vocal about the potential hazards associated with plastic objects, particularly PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. While these bottles are convenient, new studies suggest that prolonged exposure to sunlight could have serious health implications

What Do You Need to Know About PET Bottles and Sunlight Exposure?

A study published in the journal Eco-Environment & Health has shed light on the effects of sunlight on PET bottles. When these bottles are left in the sun for extended periods, they can release harmful and toxic chemicals. This phenomenon occurs because certain organic compounds, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), evaporate at room temperature and are commonly found in paints, detergents, fuels, solvents, plastic bottles, and food packaging.

VOCs in themselves are a mixed bag—while many are harmless, some can pose long-term health risks. The exact impact of these water-soluble substances on health is still under investigation. However, researchers are particularly concerned about the high levels of sunlight that PET bottles might be exposed to, which can cause the release of potentially hazardous substances such as alkanes, alkenes, acids, and aldehydes into the liquid contained within the bottles.

Health Risks

The concern over PET bottles and sunlight isn't just a theoretical one. A growing body of evidence links various chemicals found in plastics to significant health issues. Most notably, some recent studies have suggested a possible link between these chemicals and the development of diabetes. While this research is still in its early stages, it underscores the need for caution when using plastic containers, particularly in conditions that may exacerbate their chemical release.

When PET bottles are exposed to sunlight, the heat can accelerate the breakdown of the plastic. This process, known as photodegradation, causes the release of chemicals into the water. Among these chemicals, the presence of alkanes, alkenes, acids, and aldehydes is particularly concerning due to their potential toxicity. 

How to Minimize Risks

Given the potential risks, it's better to minimize the use of PET bottles, especially in conditions where they are exposed to sunlight for long periods. Here are some practical steps you can take to reduce your exposure to these harmful chemicals:

  • Use Alternatives: Consider using reusable water bottles made from stainless steel or glass. These materials do not release harmful chemicals when exposed to sunlight.
  • Avoid Direct Sunlight: If you must use PET bottles, try to keep them out of direct sunlight. Store them in a shaded area or cover them to minimize exposure.
  • Do Not Reuse PET Bottles: These bottles are designed for single use. Reusing them can increase the risk of chemical leaching, especially after they have been exposed to heat.
  • Check for Damage: If a PET bottle looks worn or damaged, it's best to dispose of it. Damaged plastic can leach more chemicals into the liquid it holds.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up to date with the latest research on plastic safety. As our understanding of the effects of plastic on health evolves, new guidelines and recommendations may emerge.