Text by West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro
If your water bottle is made of polycarbonate plastic—and most Nalgene and Camelbak bottles sold over the last few years are—it’s probably unsafe for you to use.
Nalgene, the largest manufacturer of outdoor water bottles, announced today that it will stop selling bottles made of polycarbonate. Polycarbonate contains a manmade chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), which leaches from the plastic at levels dramatically higher than previously thought.
The chemical has been linked to breast and prostrate cancer, brain damage, and disruptions of the endocrine system. While there have been worries over BPA in water bottles for years, the evidence is now clear and compelling: You should ditch your polycarbonate bottles and use something free of BPA, such as stainless steel or a new, BPA-safe plastic called Tritan.
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NEED TO KNOW
IS BPA SAFE?
Please. Let’s use some common sense here. With billions of dollars at stake, corporations, government, and scientists are wrangling over the definition of “safe.” And while human-bisphenol studies are few, this week’s National Institutes of Heath report noted that BPA shows “association” with “higher levels of testosterone in men and women, recurrent miscarriage, and chromosomal defects in fetuses”. Does that sound safe to you? Especially when the solution is a new BPA-free water bottle that costs less than 15 bucks? I don’t think so.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY BOTTLE HAS BISPHENOL A IN IT?
Look on the bottom of the bottle for a number surrounded by three arrows. Polycarbonate bottles are categorized as number seven. Note that seven is the catchall “other” category for plastics—all polycarbonates are seven, not all sevens are polycarbonates.
WHERE DO I BUY A BPA-FREE BOTTLE?
REI has the new Tritan Camelbak bottles and BPA-free Nalgenes in all its stores. Elsewhere, stainless steel bottles from Guyot, Klean Kanteen, and Sigg are options, too.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER PLASTIC BOTTLES?
Nalgene’s old-school bottles, milky colored and soft sided, are made of high-density polyethylene and free of BPA. Thin-walled, soft plastic bottles like Evian uses are plain old polyethylene.
I’M A TOTAL GEEK. WHAT DO ALL THE NUMBERS MEAN?
1—polyethylene tetephtalate (PET)
2—high density polyethylene (HDPE)
3—polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
4—low density polyethylene (LDPE)
7—other (polycarbonate, fiberglass, nylon, more)