Q. Hello, sometimes I like to store my milk in smaller water bottles to make more room in my refrigerator. Once in a while, I like to warm up some milk before bed to help me sleep. Is it safe to actually microwave these water bottles? I always hear contradicting information about what types of plastics you can heat up, and it would be more convenient to just stick the water bottle in the microwave for a few seconds instead of putting it into a different container. Will my plastic water bottles leach chemicals into my milk if I choose to skip the step of putting it into a different container?
A. You are correct that there is a lot of different information floating around about what plastics are safe and unsafe to heat up. So if you’re wondering, can you microwave a water bottle? Well, the answer can differ, depending on which type of plastic is used. Most of us have heard that heating up plastics will cause them to leach toxic chemicals into our food or drinks. The FDA regulates which plastics are safe to go through the microwave and their test process is very stringent. If a plastic container has passed the FDA test, then the number of chemicals will be no more harmful than 100-1000 less than the amount that is dangerous to animals.
The best way to tell if a plastic container will be safe to microwave it will have a Microwave Safe Symbol that is given by the FDA. It looks like three wavy lines inside of a box and should be easy to find. Even if a container does not have this symbol, it does not automatically mean that the container will be unsafe to put in your microwave oven. It simply means that the container was not tested and approved by the rigorous FDA test. The FDA does not make a point to test every type of plastic container on the market today, it is up to the manufacturer to seek this test themselves so heating up a container without the symbol will be a gamble.
It is important to exercise caution if you are planning on heating up a plastic container that does not have the Microwave Safe Symbol. There have been a number of studies done to figure out just what happens when we heat up plastic that leaches chemicals and the results have varied, but there has been one consistent result found regarding plastics. Many types of plastics, especially ones that have been exposed to extreme heat, have been leaching hormone-like chemicals into our food and drinks.
Experts have found that this chemical is similar to synthetic estrogen. The main cause of concern with this phenomena is that these chemicals can mess with our hormone pathways in the thyroid gland, and can also inhibit our natural testosterone effects. Additionally, many of the plastics that were tested were labeled as BPA free. This means that manufacturers are substituting other synthetic chemicals in the place of BPA that still have potential health hazards. Another study in early 2018 also found that bottled water from the major leading brands were found to be contaminated with microplastics. Suffice to say, caution needs to be taken by consumers when using plastic water bottles.
So, let’s dial back to the original question, “can you microwave a water bottle?” Well, the short answer is no, unless the bottle has a specific Microwave Safe Label on it approved by the FDA. While a plastic container without the label may be safe, it will be best to avoid the potential health risk and move your milk into a cup that has a label on it. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to you or your loved one’s health.