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Safety Risk of Unfinished Water Bottles Left in Hot Cars

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water bottle pouring drink

Photo: Neil Tackaberry via CC

It’s important to stay hydrated this summer, to stay cool and to avoid heat exhaustion due to extreme temperatures. It’s equally important to drink the right water, however.

As tempting as it might be to keep drinking the unfinished water bottles left in your car this season, there’s a risk that the water could be contaminated. KPRC consumer reporter Amy Davis, from KSAT’s Houston sister station, sent in an unfinished bottle of water to a testing lab to see what they’d find.

As Laura Bojonia of Envirodyne Laboratories shared with KPRC, the lab found bacteria levels that would warrant health warnings from a local public water system. “We had total coliform counts greater than 2,420 [and…] heterotrophic plate counts greater than 73,000.”

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Total coliform is a common ingredient in airborne dirt and dust, however its presence can encourage E-coli growth. The vehicle’s heat is a perfect incubator for bacteria, as Bojonia related. Bacteria such as E-coli can trigger vomiting and diarrhea symptoms in both adults and children.

The lab also tested the contents of an unopened water bottle, which revealed no coliform, E-coli or other bacteria strains. But, even though a sealed water bottle has a better chance of being safe to drink, it’s still wise to keep water bottles chilled. Refrigeration helps slow bacteria growth.

Stay hydrated and healthy this summer by drinking cool water bottles fully — then pitch any heated water that remains, to avoid imbibing E-coli and other bacteria.

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News Sources: KSAT 12, Click2Houston