Does the reuse of PET bottles during solar water disinfection pose a health risk due to the migration of plasticisers and other chemicals into the water?

Water Res. 2008 Dec;42(20):5054-60. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2008.09.025. Epub 2008 Oct 1.


Solar water disinfection (SODIS) is a simple, effective and inexpensive water treatment procedure suitable for application in developing countries. Microbially contaminated water is filled into transparent polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles and exposed to full sunlight for at least 6h. Solar radiation and elevated temperature destroy pathogenic germs efficiently. Recently, concerns have been raised insinuating a health risk by chemicals released from the bottle material polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Whereas the safety of PET for food packaging has been assessed in detail, similar investigations for PET bottles used under conditions of the SODIS treatment were lacking until now. In the present study, the transfer of organic substances from PET to water was investigated under SODIS conditions using used colourless transparent beverage bottles of different origin. The bottles were exposed to sunlight for 17h at a geographical latitude of 47 degrees N. In a general screening of SODIS treated water, only food flavour constituents of previous bottle contents could be identified above a detection limit of 1 microg/L. Quantitative determination of plasticisers di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate (DEHA) and di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP) revealed maximum concentrations of 0.046 and 0.71 microg/L, respectively, being in the same range as levels of these plasticisers reported in studies on commercial bottled water. Generally, only minor differences in plasticiser concentrations could be observed in different experimental setups. The most decisive factor was the country of origin of bottles, while the impact of storage conditions (sunlight exposure and temperature) was less distinct. Toxicological risk assessment of maximum concentrations revealed a minimum safety factor of 8.5 and a negligible carcinogenic risk of 2.8 x 10(-7) for the more critical DEHP. This data demonstrate that the SODIS procedure is safe with respect to human exposure to DEHA and DEHP.

MeSH terms

  • Beverages
  • Disinfection / methods*
  • Equipment Reuse / standards*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Honduras
  • Humans
  • Nepal
  • Plasticizers / analysis*
  • Plasticizers / toxicity
  • Polyethylene Terephthalates / analysis
  • Sunlight / adverse effects*
  • Switzerland
  • Water Supply / standards*


  • Plasticizers
  • Polyethylene Terephthalates