IS MY GATORADE BONG BAD FOR ME?
So, we’ve all done it at some point - MacGyvered together a bong from whatever we’ve got handy. A plastic drink bottle, a piece of garden hose from the neighbour’s front yard for a stem, some foil for a cone piece and a bit of blu-tack or duct tape to seal it. Heck, the Gatorade bong is almost an Aussie tradition, and rite of passage when you start out smoking bongs.
DIY bongs are a quick easy solution when you’re in a jam, and while your home-made contraption will do the trick, have you ever wondered, is my Gatorade bong bad for me?
We get asked this question a lot at The Bong Shop, and while it’s easy to say yes, and then recommend one of our glass bongs instead, we prefer to be more thorough when we answer this question.
HERE'S A FACT:
If you’re actually burning or melting any plastic during the use of your bong, the fumes will be toxic. This goes for any kind of plastic, whether it be from the bottle or the hose or any other components.
In recent years the discovery of chemical leaching of phthalates in bisphenol-a (BPA) has seen a move towards BPA free plastics being used in plastic drink bottles and food containers. They are now most commonly made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - including Gatorade bottles and water bottles.
While there is no solid evidence that re-using PET bottles will raise risks of chemicals leaching into the water, this changes when heat is applied. If you’ve ever had a drink from a plastic water bottle that you’ve left in a hot car, you can probably remember the taste of that while you’re reading this. It’s not pleasant, it makes the water taste plasticky, and it can be toxic. The same effect can occur when hot smoke is pulled through a bong. And who wants to inhale plasticky tasting herb?
Disposable drink bottles are designed for single use. Degradation of single-use plastic due to heat, multiple re-use, and cutting or burning the plastic to insert stems or to add a shotty, can also accelerate any leaching of chemicals from the plastic into the water. These chemicals have been found to interfere with eostrogen and other reproductive hormones.
Without getting too science-y on you, we do like to back these statements up, so there are some references below which outline the research done in this area for the nerdier stoners amongst us who want more information on why re-using single-use plastic bottles can be harmful:
The second case against making your bong from a single-use plastic bottle, is that bacteria and fungi can grow in damp or partially full bottles once they have been opened. These bacteria generally come from your hands and mouth coming into contact with the mouth of the bottle. Manufacturers of single-use water bottles note that as you reuse bottles there may be tiny cracks that develop. Bacteria and fungi can grow in those cracks and be more difficult to remove by cleaning. These cracks develop much faster in a bottle used as a bong, as it is exposed to heat, and movement when it contracts and expands during smoke inhalation, accelerating the degradation of the plastic.
In an article in a 2007 issue of the journal Practical Gastroenterology, experts pointed out that commercial bottled water manufacturers don't recommend that consumers reuse their disposable bottles. In addition, "reuse of plastic water bottles can lead to bacterial contamination unless washed regularly," and making sure there is no “physical breakdown prior to use.”
Even reusable plastic water bottles could hold bacterial contamination risks, if you don't wash them or reuse them despite “visual evidence of wear and tear,” according to the article. “Bacteria that may settle in the cracks and scratches of the bottle appear to pose a greater health risk than the possibility of chemicals leaching from the plastic during daily risk."
Add to this, the heat and organic material from the herbs in the water when you smoke through it, and you have an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Even more so if you’re sharing your bong with others. Without proper care, your smoking device can actually make you sick, because of biofilm. https://cannabis.net/blog/smoke/what-is-biofilm-the-reason-you-need-to-clean-your-bong-water And while biofilm applies to all bongs, not specifically PET bottle bongs, they are more susceptible due to the degradation factors.
The most commonly used material for your everyday garden hose, is Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a solid plastic made from vinyl chloride. It is made softer and more flexible by the addition of phthalates, and can contain traces of bisphenol A (BPA). Heating PVC can also release dioxins. Phthalates, dioxins, and BPA are suspected to be endocrine disruptors.
You can find out more information about endocrine disruptors here: https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/chemicals-and-contaminants/endocrine-disruptors
If your garden hose stem is getting heated, melted or burned during use of your bong, you are at risk of inhalation of these toxic chemicals.
ALUMINIUM FOIL / TIN FOIL
I’m sure we’ve all been stuck for a cone piece at some stage and used aluminium foil or cut a piece of a soft drink can to make our own cone. Studies on the use of aluminium have shown links to Alzheimers, however the research on this appears to be inconclusive. https://www.dementia.org.au/files/helpsheets/Helpsheet-DementiaQandA19-Aluminium_english.pdf
SO, WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
In a pinch, your home-made bong is going to do the job and get you through, and while the effects of the chemicals outlined above, may not cause health issues in the short term, in the long term, with prolonged or regular exposure, the likelihood of a negative impact on your health is undeniably increased.
In short, if you’re going to make one, use it as a short-term, one-off or temporary solution. Don’t burn or melt plastic during use and avoid getting it hot. Keep it clean and throw it out when it gets dirty or shows signs of degradation.
Also, grow up. Making a DIY bong from a drink bottle is cool when you’re starting out, but if you’re a seasoned or regular smoker, and this is your bong of choice, your daily go-to, have a bit more respect for yourself and your herb. Take better care of your health. Have some pride in your smoking implement.
WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
While I would be remiss in not stating the fact that smoking anything, out of any kind of implement, is going to have negative health effects - which are well documented. There are far better alternatives than using a home-made plastic bong. If you’re going to smoke bongs, get a good one, a glass one, that is purpose-designed, and it’s going to be far better for you than a Gatorade garden hose bong.
And this is the part where we recommend you use one of our glass bongs instead....