Reusable water bottles: Breeding ground for bacteria?

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. -- It's a hot day at Heather Farms Park, and 8-year old Everett is drinking a lot of water from his trusty bottle.  "I'm filling this up with water even though I haven't cleaned it in a few weeks, I'll be fine," Everett said.

But across the park, 10-year-old Bianca Santini thinks it's crazy to drink from an unwashed bottle.

She may have learned that from a much-publicized study by the website "Treadmill Reviews" which analyzed various reusable sport bottles and found most to be a breeding ground for bacteria.  The average unwashed bottle contained more than 300,000 bacterial units per cubic centimeter. That's more than what's in your average pet's water bowl.  It's pretty scary stuff, but there's just one problem with it; what qualifies as unhealthy?

"It's really not science," said Dr. Lee Riley at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. He said bacteria are everywhere and just because an object contains them doesn't make it "dirty."

"Container bottles...any sort of environment…you're always going to find some sort of bacteria. Is it dangerous? No," he said.

He said people often confuse bacteria with viruses which CAN be dangerous.  But our bodies actually NEED a steady flow of bacteria to stimulate the immune system and aid in proper digestion.

"If we don't have these kinds of bacteria in our intestine we will be very, very unhealthy," Dr. Riley said.

In fact, bacteria are not only a part of us, they are an equal part of us.  The average human body contains about as many bacteria cells as it does normal body cells, and getting a few more bacteria from our water bottles probably will not kill us.

Are reusable water bottles a breeding ground for nasty germs? Connect with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and tell us what you think!