Does Freezing Plastic Water Bottles Cause Cancer?

There have long been stories circulating on social media claiming that the freezing of water in plastic bottles can increase your cancer risk. On the surface, some of these facts seem pretty convincing. Originally there seemed to be supporting references from the likes of John Hopkins, and the American Cancer Society. But if you take a moment to look a little closer, you start to wonder if any of the claims hold water.

Interestingly, these claims were later debunked, and these institutions do not support these claims. The original emails were from people who falsely cited their work with credible institutions such as Johns Hopkins.

This article takes a deeper look at where these myths started, how they were debunked, and tips for decreasing cancer risk.

Cold Water Bottles on Ice
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Where the Claims First Started

In the early 2000s, different versions of emails began circulating in the U.S. warning that the freezing of water in plastic bottles causes a chain reaction that releases a dangerous toxin, called dioxin, into the water once it thaws. Dioxin is a man-made compound that has been linked to a variety of health problems, including cancer.

The stories were based on claims made by Dr. Edward Fujimoto on a television show in Honolulu back in 2002. What might have been easily forgotten news was suddenly turned into a media firestorm when a staffer with the American Cancer Society, believing the claim to be valid, began forwarding the report through the organization's social channels.

By 2007, an email credited to John Hopkins Hospital also began making the rounds, further embedding the myth about the link between dioxin and plastic bottles. However, this email was falsely attributed to Johns Hopkins, and they do not support these claims.

A Myth Debunked

In response, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement denying any claims that the substances used to make plastics can leach into foods. The FDA is the agency that regulates not only the safety of our foods and drugs but so-called "indirect food additives" (substances that come into direct contact with food as part of the packaging process).

In their statement, the FDA stated that the levels of chemicals that might leach into foods from plastic containers were well within the margin of safety. They further stated that there was no evidence that plastic bottles or packages contain dioxin.

Overall, drinking water from plastic bottles is just as safe as any other type of container. However, it's best to clean any container with hot soapy water before refiling them to decrease the risk of bacteria or fungi growing.

What About Bisphenol A (BPA)?

BPA is known for its hormone-disrupting effects and is linked to many health issues, including infertility, weight gain, and diabetes. Growing evidence also suggests BPA exposure increases cancer risk.

By 2013, the FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging. But the FDA still considers the chemical "safe" to use in other food packaging materials.

How to Reduce Your Cancer Risk

If ever faced with a piece of science that seems either "shocking" or questionable, give your healthcare provider a call to get a professional opinion. When it comes to making positive changes to better reduce your risk of cancer, there are 6 things you should always aim for:

  • Keeping up with recommended cancer screenings
  • Staying current on vaccines
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke
  • Lowering alcohol consumption
  • Practicing sun safety
  • Eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding excessive red meat
  • Exercising regularly


Stories have long been circulating about the risk of freezing water in plastic bottles and increasing the risk of cancer. Over time, what were originally deemed as credible claims were eventually debunked. The medical institutions that were supposedly backing these claims denied having anything to do with them.

The FDA monitors the substances used to package food. They issued a statement denying any claims that the substances used to make plastics can leach into foods.

A Word From Verywell

Medical hoaxes like this are more harmful than you might think. They create the perception that danger exists where there is none, leading people to seek solutions that either waste their time or, worse yet, put them in harm's way.

If you're worried about your risk of developing cancer, talk with your healthcare provider. They will be able to give you accurate information to help ease your mind.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is cold water bad for you?

    Drinking cold water is only bad for you if it triggers existing conditions such as achalasia (a rare disorder making it hard to swallow or drink) or migraines.

  • Is it bad to freeze plastic?

    While there is no evidence that freezing plastic is bad for you, the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration does note that it is best not to cook in non-microwave approved plastics. It also a good idea to avoid reheating foods in non-microwave approved plastic containers such as a margarine or yogurt tub.

  • Do plastic bottles release toxins?

    The plastic used for bottled water is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which the FDA has deemed safe for food packaging under normal use. In their statement, the FDA stated that the levels of chemicals that might leach into foods from plastic containers were well within the margin of safety.

    The evidence is ongoing regarding the safety of leaving plastic water bottles in extremely hot temperatures (>40C or 104F) for long periods of time. It’s also important to note that plastics not deemed safe for the microwave (i.e. margarine or yogurt tubs) should not be used to warm food. 

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Researcher dispels myth of dioxins and plastic water bottles.

  2. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Cancer update email -- It's a hoax!

  3. Cancer Council. Does drinking water from plastic drink bottles cause cancer?

  4. American Council on Science and Health. Plastics: Anatomy of an email scare.

  5. American Cancer Society. Rumors and myths brief: microwaving plastic email.

  6. Food and Drug Administration. Packaging and food contact substances (FCS).

  7. Vaclavik, VA, Christian EW. Essentials of Food Science. New York, NY: Springer Science & Business Media.

  8. Prins GS, Patisaul HB, Belcher SM, Vandenberg LN. CLARITY‐BPA academic laboratory studies identify consistent low‐dose bisphenol A effects on multiple organ systemsBasic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2019;125(S3):14-31. doi:10.1111/bcpt.13125

  9. Khan NG, Correia J, Adiga D, et al. A comprehensive review on the carcinogenic potential of bisphenol A: clues and evidence. Environ Sci Pollut Res Int. 2021;28(16):19643-19663. doi:10.1007/s11356-021-13071-w

  10. Food and Drug Administration. 2014 updated review of literature and data on Bisphenol A.

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to prevent cancer or find it early.

  12. Elvevi A, Bravi I, Mauro A, Pugliese D, Tenca A, Cortinovis I, Milani S, Conte D, Penagini R. Effect of cold water on esophageal motility in patients with achalasia and non-obstructive dysphagia: A high-resolution manometry study. J Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2014;20(1):79-86. doi: 10.5056/jnm.2014.20.1.79.

  13. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Code of federal regulations title 21.

  14. Zimmermann L, Bartosova Z, Braun K, Oehlmann J, Völker C, Wagner M. Plastic products leach chemicals that induce in vitro toxicity under realistic use conditions. Environ Sci Technol. 2021;55(17):11814-11823. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.1c01103.

Additional Reading

By Brandi Jones, MSN-ED RN-BC
Brandi is a nurse and the owner of Brandi Jones LLC. She specializes in health and wellness writing including blogs, articles, and education.

Originally written by Lisa Fayed