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, considering that millions of children in third-world countries are dying each year from diarrhea caused by contaminated drinking water. Providing families of these children with brass containers to store their water could save many lives.
Of course, in the western world, gastrointestinal infections are less frequent and rarely cause death. Nonetheless, bacterial contamination of your water is an important issue.
This recent study is important not only because it could lead to lives being saved in other parts of the world, but also because it provides further evidence that using plastic bottles may not be in your best interest.
Using plastic containers to store your water can not only increase your exposure to bisphenol A, this study suggests that doing so could also increase your exposure to potentially harmful bacteria. Since many plastic bottles are also difficult to clean, this could worsen the problem even more. So if you are reusing the water bottles that come in soda-like containers you are particularly at risk as the only way to clean those bottles is in a dishwasher.
The answer here is not to start storing your water in brass bottles, however. In the long run, the metallic ions that leach from these brass containers and kill bacteria could actually disturb your zinc/copper ratios and contribute to problems like Alzheimer's disease.
Of course, if your main concern were dying from diarrhea induced by contaminated water, using brass containers to store it in would qualify as the lesser of two evils and be a sensible choice.
Consuming pure water is an important part of overall health, as is making sure you are drinking enough of it. Since we can't all find pure glacier water, the next best choice is to use your own tap water, along with the best water filter you can find.
My first choice for water containers is glass, and I only use plastic bottles when I travel. I used to use colored high-density Nalgene bottles, but some recent information 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 from the safe plastic. I found them at www.campmor.com and just purchased a dozen so I don't have to worry about replacing them 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 accumulate bacteria. 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 due to the obvious safety reasons.
Finally, please remember another important reason to avoid plastic water bottles. While toxin exposure from plastic water bottles and potential bacterial growth can certainly harm your health, our overuse of them is pushing the health of planet earth in the wrong direction.