Drinking from brass water containers could help protect against water-borne bacteria such as E. coli. This is because, according to researchers, bacteria are less likely to flourish in brass water containers than in earthenware or plastic ones. These findings are especially prominent for poor regions of the world where water-born diseases continue to be a serious health threat. In these areas, 2 million children die each year from diarrhea.
Thus, in an effort to determine if brass truly is superior to other forms of water containers, researchers conducted a series of experiments.
Is Brass the Better Choice?
Brass and earthenware containers were filled with a diluted culture of E. coli bacteria. After six, 24 and 48 hours, researchers counted the surviving bacteria and found:
- The amount of E. coli in the brass containers dropped significantly over time.
- After 48 hours they fell to undetectable levels.
Why does brass eliminate bacteria? For starters, brass is an alloy of zinc and copper. Containers made of brass shed copper particles into the water and the copper acts by interfering with the membranes and enzymes of cells -- meaning death for bacteria. The amount of copper a human would drink in 10 liters of water stored in a brass container wouldn't even account for the daily recommended level of that mineral in a healthy diet.
Also, brass water containers proved to be better than cheaper, plastic ones. In light of this evidence, researchers hope people with make the healthy switch to brass containers.
Nature April 8, 2005
The results of this study are incredibly important, consideringthat millions of children in third-world countries are dying eachyear from diarrhea caused by contaminated drinking water. Providingfamilies of these children with brass containers to store theirwater could save many lives.
Of course, in the western world, gastrointestinal infectionsare less frequent and rarely cause death. Nonetheless, bacterialcontamination of your wateris an important issue.
This recent study is important not only because it could leadto lives being saved in other parts of the world, but also becauseit provides further evidence that using plastic bottles may notbe in your best interest.
Using plastic containers to store your water can not only increaseyour exposure to bisphenol A, this study suggests that doingso could also increase your exposure to potentially harmful bacteria.Since many plastic bottles are also difficult to clean, this couldworsen the problem even more. So if you are reusing the water bottlesthat come in soda-like containers you are particularly at risk asthe only way to clean those bottles is in a dishwasher.
The answer here is not to start storing your water in brassbottles, however. In the long run, the metallic ions that leachfrom these brass containers and kill bacteria could actually disturbyour zinc/copper ratios and contribute to problems like Alzheimer'sdisease.
Of course, if your main concern were dying from diarrhea inducedby contaminated water, using brass containers to store it in wouldqualify as the lesser of two evils and be a sensible choice.
Consuming pure water isan important part of overall health, as is making sure you are drinkingenough of it. Since we can't all find pure glacier water, thenext best choice is to use your own tap water, along with thebest water filter you can find.
My first choice for water containers is glass, and I only useplastic bottles when I travel. I used to use colored high-densityNalgene bottles, but some recentinformation I came across suggests they are unsafe.
Plastics that are safer to use for storing food and beverages,none of which are known to leach harmful substances, include:
- Polypropylene, designated "#5 PP"
- High-density polyethylene, designated "#2HDPE"
- Low-density polyethylene, designated "#4 LDPE"
Now I use the wide-mouth Nalgene bottles that are made fromthe safe plastic. I found them at www.campmor.comand just purchased a dozen so I don't have to worry about replacingthem when they invariably get lost or left behind on my many trips.The wide mouth allows them to be easily cleaned so they don't accumulatebacteria. I bring my water to my office with me in a glass container,as that is better. It is just difficult to travel with glass dueto the obvious safety reasons.
Finally, please remember another important reason to avoidplastic water bottles. While toxin exposure from plastic waterbottles and potential bacterial growth can certainly harm your health,our overuse of them is pushing the health of planet earth in thewrong direction.