Re-using your water bottle can cause cancer, according to a frightening e-mail circulating in Dubai.

Washing your bottle will trigger the break down of the plastic, releasing dangerous cancer-causing chemicals into the water, the e-mail claims.

The risk is confirmed by Doctor Graeme Smylie, Medical Director of Dubai London Clinic.

“I have been aware of this particular risk for several years,'' he said.

“The e-mail highlights an inherent problem with mineral water bottles and that is the deterioration of the plastic casing over time.''

Dr Sonia Otsman, oncologist at Al Noor Hospital, Abu Dhabi also confirms the reports.

“In my opinion the e-mail is correct,'' she said. “I used to reuse water bottles myself and for my children but have since stopped.''

But Abdul Sattar Ebrahim, Marketing Manager for Oasis Water Company, disputes the accuracy of the e-mail.

“We have not come across any proven cases of poisoning due to chemicals coming out of PET bottles. The only reason we would not recommend reusing PET bottles is related more to hygiene than chemical safety,'' he said.

While the risk of getting water-bottle cancer is frightening, Dr Smylie insists the chances are slim: “An individual is exposed to carcinogens all the time in the modern world and mostly the cells of the body are efficient at repairing any damage done.''

Masafi's Quality Assurance Manager, Rey Avila, says the solution is to recycle, not reuse.

“Our stand at Masafi is clear – do not reuse a PET plastic bottle. We recommend disposing of your used bottle in an environmentally-friendly manner like a recycling centre,'' he said.

Dangerous PET

  • The plastic (called polyethylene terephthalate or PET) used in these bottles contains a potentially carcinogenic element (something called diethylhydroxylamine or DEHA).
  • Repeated washing and rinsing can cause the plastic to break down and the carcinogens (cancer-causing chemical agents) can leak into the water.
  • It is better to invest in a bottle meant for multiple use.
  • The bottles should not be kept for more than a week.
  • Keep bottles out of the heat.