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More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

Posted September 28, 2009 3:00 AM by Sharkles

As consumers, we're bombarded with messages telling us to buy this, not that; to be active; and to do the right thing. Lately, many of the calls to do the right thing refer to environmental initiatives, such as the conversation of fossil fuels. One way consumers are prompted to use less fuel is to opt for a reusable drinking bottle.

Back in 2007, I wrote about my love/hate relationship with my Nalgene bottle. I (still) love it because it's easy, convenient, and doesn't cost anything to fill it up. The problem was (and remains) that these bottles can leech chemicals, like Bisophenol A (BPA), as they age.

Not long ago, a new alternative to plastic bottles began to appear – the SIGG bottle. These sleek, metal bottles are attributed with having ecological benefits, high standards of quality, and the SIGG lifestyle.

The SIGG demographic is largely focused on consumers who are environmentally-conscious, as 1% of their profits are donated to the non-profit organization 1% For the Planet. Fashionistas and the style-conscious are also part of the SIGG scope. In 2008, the company recruited world-renowned fashion designers to create custom bottles, which were then auctioned off as part of an environmental fundraiser.

Looks Good and Serves a Purpose. What's the Problem?

Considering all the positives attributed with SIGGs, consumers felt good about their choice of water bottle. However, early this September, Steve Wasik, CEO of SIGG Switzerland, released a statement warning users that bottles produced before August 2008 contained liners that may be linked to Bisophenol A.

In the release, Wasik claims that the liners in question were produced before BPA was under scrutiny. Until this time, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced, "The science we have reviewed does not justify recommending that anyone discontinue using products containing BPA."

When the risks of BPA leeching began to come to light in early 2008, however, an increasing amount of consumers began switching from plastic bottles like Nalgene to metal or aluminum bottles, like SIGGs. Up until this point of transition, SIGG bottles contained a liner containing trace amounts of BPA.

New Liners, No Worries (For Now?)

Since then, SIGG began using a new "EcoCare" liner in August 2008. According to Wasik, SIGG began developing the new liners in June 2006, in light of the controversy surrounding BPA. After two years of testing, the new liners became commonplace in all SIGG bottles. Testing for the EcoCare lining can be found on their website.

The new liners boast a "powder-based co-polyester liner", as opposed to the "proprietary water-based epoxy liner used in earlier bottles.

People who purchased SIGG bottles before August 2008 can exchange their bottles for a newer one via the instructions on this page.

Thoughts

Sometimes it seems that consumers will never catch a break. We try to stay healthy by drinking bottled water, but we're told that the plastic bottle is killing the environment. We switch to reusable bottles like SIGG or Nalgene, only to learn they contain potentially harmful chemicals that may leech into our bodies. Consumers who ask for glass as an alternative are told that glass is too expensive.

Then there's the fear-mongering that's so prevalent and aiming to keep consumers worried and on their toes – or hopefully, even buying more stuff. I want to know, where does it end?

Resources:

http://www.sigg.com/news-media/news/news-detail/ceo-letters-about-our-liners

http://justbento.com/sigg-water-bottle-controversy-and-water-bottle-conundrum

Related articles:

Poisonous Plastics

Poisonous Plastics – Part Two: Human Effects

Poisonous Plastics – Part Three: What to Do?

Bottled H2 Oh-No!

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#1

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/28/2009 11:25 PM

"We try to stay healthy by drinking bottled water....." Is there any evidence that this is actually true?

I mean that drinking water out of a bottle is somehow better than the water most developed countries supply via the tap above the sink.

It seems like a classic marketing scam.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/29/2009 1:41 AM

I have no links or resources to back or contradict my thinking, but: A single-use plastic bottle has probably sat on one or more shelves for considerable time before purchase, allowing time for chemicals to leach into the water, so it is probably wise to avoid them, within reason.

I have a Nalgene jug that I have used periodically for well over 40 years, holding both water and wine at different times. It still seems to be as flexible as it was when I bought it, so not a lot of chemicals can have leached out. The majority of any leaching that did occur, probably occurred in the first few filling/emptying cycles. The only odors I have ever detected were from the contents, or once from mildew, when it was not dried properly before storage. I plan on continuing to use it.

On a similar note, I have a couple of 5 gallon water jugs, presumably polycarbonate, that I have used for home wine-making nearly every year for 36 years. I used to have a couple of glass ones too, but they broke (in one case, losing 5 gallons of wine that was ready to bottle). Any leaching that may have occurred from the plastic ones, happened many years ago. I plan on continuing to use them.

I did try using a plastic 'glass' for holding water at my bedside within the last year. Even though this container was already 20 or 30 years old, after the water sat most of the night, I could smell the plastic when I drank the water. I have no idea whether any of the odor came from leaching into the water, but I threw it away and now use a glass glass.

In summary, I suspect that any container that is used repeatedly for the same purpose will leach out the majority of any 'leachable' substance during the first few filling cycles. Note the difference between leaching and dissolving: The pits that are always visible in old (unlined) aluminum pots indicate that the aluminum has been slowly dissolving into the food being cooked.

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#3

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/29/2009 8:14 AM

Don't worry Kate, I think we are all past the age when bisphenol-A will do us any harm. If I recall the major problem with bis-A is that it mimics a hormone that will affect the development of children. Glass baby bottles must be making a comeback.

I don't understand why a stainless steel bottle would need a liner. Maybe they should make the things out of 316 stainless?

As far as bottled water is conderned it's a complete waste as a lot of it is just tap water anyway. Everybody likes to complain because you're paying $3 for a gallon of gas. Ever calculate what you pay per gallon for bottled water? About $6....

Buying a stainless steel bottle and filling it from the tap is far more economical and envoronmentally reasonable.

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#11
In reply to #3

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/30/2009 11:44 PM

I think we are all past the age when bis-phenol-A will do us any harm. If I recall the major problem with bis-A is that it mimics a hormone that will affect the development of children.

I think I think you should think much harder...or allow someone qualified do it for you.

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Anonymous Poster
#18
In reply to #11

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/01/2009 1:28 PM

Please avoid name calling and personal attacks. Your comments contribute nothing, add no new information, and only ask that someone defer to "the expert position" which has proven to be frequently wrong. I believe that we are regularly exposed to unsupportable and unreasonable fears based on incomplete or misapplied statistical information that does not accurately reflect the true risk. We see conclusions based on assumptions and extrapolations that are untested but claim to be truth. We almost never get raw data, or anything but the information supporting the "theorists' politically correct" position.

Science is about always seeking truth and routinely questioning theories and conclusions. Keep the discussions open and to the point please. I'll listen to any thoughtful argument that refers to the topic material. Comments such as yours are unwelcome.

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#4

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/29/2009 8:46 AM

I had a SIGG bottle but when the top broke and the bottle cracked after being dropped one too many times I purchased a Nalgene bottle. (Okay, I was suckered in by the cute animal on it - it's my "otter bottle"!)

At home I have a Pur filter in my fridge. There's also a water filter at work. They get me through most of the day. Although I try to fill up my Nalgene bottle on the go I will purchase bottled water if the tap water is iffy (or smells like chlorine!). It may be clean but I do not like to drink from a swimming pool. I'm sure a little of it won't kill me (otherwise they wouldn't put it in there) but I drink about three 32-oz bottles of water a day - that adds up over time.

I know I could probably find a BPA-free bottle but the Nalgene, like Sharkles said, is a convenient shape. Corporations know that consumers want safe items. Is it just like junk food - make it and they will buy it? I just don't get it.

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#12
In reply to #4

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/30/2009 11:47 PM

I just don't get it.

No worries lab rat...

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#5

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/29/2009 9:23 AM

Acquire a stainless-steel drinking bottle. Problem solved.

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#6

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/29/2009 11:00 AM

My company opened a new water purification division this year in Ontario, Canada. We offer commercial and residential water purification equipment, but we also have a U-Fill water station for locals to fill 18.9 liter bottles for home and camp use. I had to determine what type of bottles we were going to carry, so I had to do some research to get up to speed. In the end we decided to go with P.E.T. bottles which are BPA free rather than Polycarbonate bottles because our potential clients would be made up of a fair number of families with young children.

The water we provide is municipal water run through a very high end commercial R/O etc etc purification system. Two main advantages are no chlorine and virtually no fluoride, but a disadvantage is no minerals (which is a whole other debate). Our cost to consumers is about .21/liter.

Here is where the Canadian government is at with BPA from:

http://www.chemicalsubstanceschimiques.gc.ca/challenge-defi/bisphenol-a_e.html

News Release
2009-106
June 26, 2009
For immediate release

OTTAWA - The Government of Canada is moving forward with proposed regulations to prohibit the advertisement, sale and importation of polycarbonate plastic baby bottles that contain bisphenol A, otherwise known as BPA, to reduce newborn and infant exposure to this substance, announced the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health.

BPA is used in the production of polycarbonate, a clear hard plastic used to make many products, including baby bottles. When in contact with hot or boiling liquid, bisphenol A can migrate from the plastic into the liquid and easily be ingested.

"Our Government is acting to protect its most vulnerable citizens-newborns and infants," said Minister Aglukkaq. "Canada is the first country to move ahead with regulations to prohibit polycarbonate baby bottles that contain bisphenol A. We want parents to feel confident that they can safely bottle-feed their newborns and infants."

The Government has concluded that exposure levels for newborns and infants up to 18 months of age are below those that could cause health effects. However, due to the uncertainty raised in some studies relating to the potential effects of low levels of BPA, the Government wants to further limit exposure.

These actions are the latest measures by the Government of Canada to regulate chemicals that are harmful to human health or the environment under Canada's world-leading Chemicals Management Plan.

Health Canada has now published these proposed regulations in Canada Gazette Part I for a 75 day public comment period to consult with interested parties.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/29/2009 11:07 AM

From what I know drinking nothing but deionized water is bad for your system because it changes the balace of the light metal salts in your body. Every "filtered tap water" bottled water I've seen has some combination of minerals added back to "improve taste."

DI water does make one heck of a pot of coffee though. But you want hard, iron free water to make beer. And soft iron free water to make whisky. Go figure.

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#13
In reply to #6

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/30/2009 11:53 PM

Good for CAN new research has shown BPA has greater effect to all ages of humans than rats, go figure.

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#8

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/29/2009 11:24 AM

Exchange of old bottles or old plastic container for every new piece bought to the shop and putting the responsibility of conversion / recycling on the manufacturer company could be one way to assign responsibility of handling plastics for a safe recycling / conversion. The public also needs a lot of education in disposing plastics.

Many Ph D's are worth trying in this scope ful area.

Or a revolutionary material of safety and bio biodegradability got to be evolved.

All seems to be in the reach, but who is to bell the cat?

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#9

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/29/2009 7:02 PM

No disprespect intended to yourself, or your well written blog, but isn't there something wrong here ?

We're discussing bottled water when literally millions of people around the globe have no safe drinking water at all. Not even a simple ****** well in the ground.

The topic (of this blog) is important, but I don't think we should proceed to far on such matter without at least bearing in mind the essential nature of the 'product', and wider issues involved.

Just felt like airing a 2 cents - I'll fully read your blog later and come back with some constructive input if I can. Hope you'll forgive my minor rant, but on occassion I feel we end up looking to closely at problems of our own creation, rather than adressing how to solve stuff for others. Sorry - I'll be constructive next time, I do have views on the topic of bottled water and the general issue of plastic contaminants, but it's a bit late here rght now.

You certainly know how to write up a topic and provoke thought, sharkey !

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

09/30/2009 8:53 AM

Kris,

Great comment (they all have been, so thanks everyone!)– no disrespect taken at all. I think the shortage of clean water in many parts of the world is alarming and sad. It is also, truthfully, something that we're not reminded of enough.

With topics like plastic contamination, it's easy to say that BPA is potentially harmful and explain why. With bigger issues, like lack of clean water, it's harder to give a clear-cut answer – we know that those people deserve to have their basic needs met, but few people know how too make it happen.

You certainly know how to write up a topic and provoke thought, sharkey!

Thank you! That is always my goal. But your comment is also thought-provoking for me as well. After all, most people know this is a problem, but it doesn't seem to be making much progress. Volunteers and organizations try to alleviate some of the problem, but while their efforts are appreciated, there will always be people who have to go without.

Admittedly, this is a topic that I should research more. But, as a community, this might be an interesting discussion to have – how can we improve the bigger picture? Should the global community step in? Sounds like a good idea for a future blog entry....

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#14
In reply to #9

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/01/2009 12:02 AM

I drink beverages from

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#15
In reply to #14

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/01/2009 6:27 AM

That looks rather like the scrotal sack off a camel

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#20
In reply to #15

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/08/2009 12:10 PM

Never heard them referred to as wineskin's but what do wine know

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#16

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/01/2009 10:35 AM

Kate,

Why is it that the world seems to be more interested in saving the planet than the human being? Everything you read about is making product to be environmental frenidly and when it comes to the human being we should understand that the company has to make profits and we should accept what ever they put in our drinks and food. It seems that companies do not care what happens to us as long as they fatten their wallet.

Thank you

Jim

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#17
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Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/01/2009 11:54 AM

Hi, Jim -

Great question – it's one that I wish I had the answers to.

I read an article for a class recently that suggested that intellectualism and human-focused ideas are no longer valued in our culture. Rather, the author suggested that the majority of cultural aspects are focused on business in some sense – from the language we use, to the career choices we make, many people chose the path that results in the most money in their pockets.

While I didn't completely buy into everything the author was saying, I agreed with him and you in regards to business outweighing humanity. I can't help but think of Dow Chemical/Union Carbide and the Bhopal Disaster, or Exxon and their oil spill. In each of these instances, living creatures were sacrificed for their profits, and to this day, neither company has really owned up to their actions. Unfortunately, I don't think big business is going to change their ways any time soon.

I think the best thing people can do it to be aware – partially why I choose certain topics for this blog. The more we're aware of, the better we can protect themselves. I have a running mental list of things that I avoid – from BPA (when possible) to high-fructose corn syrup; I also try and go out of my way to avoid supporting companies that I think are immoral or that use crappy tactics. My single voice might be small, but if I can protect myself and bring awareness to others, then I feel as though I've contributed to the larger conversation.

Thanks for your comments

-Kate

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#19

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/08/2009 12:07 PM

Great discussion and comments, If you understnd how BPA was first detected it makes it even more fun.. seems a gent at Standford got a new tool which allowed him to get below 10 parts per billion and he informed Naglene of the issue. Further BPA has been used in Epoxy for too many years to line cans for food packaging.

Also when we talk about enviromental health, one fact has never been broached and that is cradle to grave impact. Plastics can be both good and bad. Thermoplastic can be 100% recycled, though the mind set has to change which means that I may turn that bottle into fiber, or make another bottle or even generated energy from its componets.

Further as the gentleman stated it is heat and first use to clean the product. The odor as one stated such as a new car smell is in fact a leachent. The most intersting facts can be gather from your local water supplier to your city or community when they list what is in your water... and what is allowed

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#21
In reply to #19

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/08/2009 12:17 PM

when they list what is in your water... and what is allowed

Such as the allowed amounts increasing parallel to the degree of contamination present...?

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#22

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/15/2009 10:37 AM

As consumer's we still have to regard "caveat emptor". There are a lot of pitfalls along the road to progress, but on balance we are the beneficiaries of technology.

For example, I have been fitted with a dental device because I am a grinder and have over the years sprung my jaw muscles. The alternatives were to 1) do nothing and suffer the pain, 2) look into a pharmacuetical way to relax or 3) wear an acrylic device as many hours of the day as I can stomach. Does it leach something into my system? I don't know, but it seems to be the best choice available.

We have to take our foot off first to get to second.

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#23

Re: More Poisonous Plastics: Consumers Can’t Catch a Break

10/15/2009 11:20 AM

The unstated issue is that BPA is undesirable because of its estrogenic activity. Do the replacement materials, while eliminating BPA, eliminate the estrogenic activity? To use an extreme analogy, cyanide is certainly arsenic free, but would you want to ingest it?

Problem is that many popular copolyesters also have estrogenic leachates. SIGG switched to a copolyester, as have many baby bottle manufacturers; could this just be trading one set of problems for another?

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