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Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

Posted September 26, 2012 12:00 AM by cheme_wordsmithy

Stirred by the Hike

Recently I've been doing a lot of hiking up in the Adirondack High Peaks region. The climbs and views are spectacular, and the workout itself can't be beat. The longest (and most recent) hike I did was a 14-mile round- trip over Nippletop Mt. and Dial Mt. Some of the highlights included a beautiful waterfall, a quaint little pond, a young and developing forest of saplings, a nice landscape view from the top of Dial, and a torrential downpour over the last two miles of trail. It was pretty great.

All this to say, I typically use a 100 oz (~3 liter) bladder pack to carry the majority of my water. Though I ended up having plenty, I decided I would also bring an additional 1 liter Nalgene with me as well on the 14 miler. It was an old water bottle, one I had dug up from my parent's place a month or so beforehand. A few days after the hike, I was reminded somewhere about the plastic scare that drove Nalgene and other plastic companies to make their bottles out of new materials. When I checked my own, I found them to be type 7 polycarbonate plastic; plastic which I knew consisted of the infamous BPA.

BPA - Bad Boy or Bad Hype?

Bisphenol-A (shown right), or BPA as it is commonly called, is an organic solid used to make polycarbonate polymers. BPA has had quite a history since 2008, when some government agencies became skeptical about its health safety. In the wake of certain studies and research, the chemical was said to be linked to a number of health problems stemming from its identity as a weak endocrine disruptor (simply put, a chemical that messes with hormones). Its properties are said to mimic those of estrogen, and alarming concerns have been raised about its effects on fetuses, infants, and children.

Many European and U.S. administrations, including the US Food and Drug Administration, European Food Safety Authority, and Environment Protection Agency (EPA), say that current levels of BPA pose no threat to most people. Studies by The Endocrine Society say otherwise, and have led to the ban of BPA in baby bottles and many plastic water bottles.

(<-- Credit: Productwiki Inc.)

I really have mixed feelings about the whole BPA hype. A study conducted by the EPA said it had concluded that the bodies of healthy adults rapidly process and eliminate BPA, so that it isn't a concern. However, anything that says it can mess with hormones sounds fishy to me, so I took the "better safe than sorry" approach. I bought a replacement bottle advertised as "BPA free", so I can use it guilt-free at work and on hikes in the future.

Plastics - They All Leach

Truthfully there are no completely "safe" plastics out there. Due to the nature of the plastic making process, which typically involves many steps and additives, there's good reason to believe that most plastic products leach chemicals at some level. The biggest concerns are from those chemicals that, like BPA, are characterized by "estrogenic activity". Unfortunately, a study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that most plastic products (even BPA free ones) do contain other chemical compounds which mimic estrogen. Alas, perhaps my BPA-free quest was in vain… at least I got a new water bottle out of it.

Seriously though, until more studies are done on the effects of these substances in humans (most have been done on rats and mice), it's hard to say anything conclusive one way or another. CR4ers, I would love to hear your opinions on this subject. Right now, I plan on following the old advice to avoid subjecting my water bottles to dishwashers and microwaves, as extreme temperatures and abrasion are known to exacerbate chemical leaching in plastics.

(Credit: Buy.com Inc. -->)

Of course, if you're looking to go completely plastic free, there are a few good material alternatives to reusable plastic water bottles. More on that in my next post.

References

Bisphenol A - Wikipedia

Study: Most Plastics Leach Hormone-Like Chemicals

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#1

Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/26/2012 12:58 AM

Just go down to the grocery store and buy a liter bottle of Fiji water. It is the best tasting water around and the bottle is really stout for a recyclable. I'm sure the bottle will last a dozen or more trips.

They wouldn't make their bottles out of anything that would leach into their product I'm sure.

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#2

Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/26/2012 7:07 AM

If you worry about the leaching chemicals these work well!

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Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/26/2012 8:14 AM

Is that lead-free pewter?

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Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/26/2012 9:58 AM

nope SS

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Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/27/2012 4:27 AM

I'll not vouch for the following linked article, but what of tin cans ?

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#6
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Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/27/2012 7:49 AM

Interesting. A more recent article mentioning tin cans says that BPA can lead to narrowing of the arteries in addition to hormone imbalances. Again, still inconclusive, but it certainly doesn't paint a pretty picture.

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Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/27/2012 8:47 AM

Good link. I just had to follow up on the till receipt mention. The stuff seems very pervasive (at least in countries where there's a 'supermarket' based source of food).

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#7

Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/27/2012 8:30 AM

Why not use a plain old canteen? Even though I have an old Army water bladder I still carry a canteen when hiking....

Glad you had a fun hike up in the High Peaks! They're my fav place on the planet!!!

ADK member???

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Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/27/2012 8:42 AM

Not yet. Will be soon, though. Just haven't taken the time to sign up.

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Re: Water Bottle Materials (Part 1) - Plastics and BPA

09/27/2012 11:47 AM

Here is my take on it because they use PVC pipe for water in homes these days.

We are hearing all these scary issues about how the things we use are harmful:

Well, if everything is so harmful to us, then how come our average life expectancy keeps increasing.

In the 1970's the average live expectancy for a man was 72 years old, now it is 78 years old.

We've been using plastic spoons, plastic tuperware and plastic cups and glasses for decades.

Do you really think your health is at risk by drinking from a plastic water bottle that was designed for drinking?

You can actually smell the chemical off the PVC pipe used for the plumbing in homes, you really can't smell anything coming off that water bottle. So think your risk is minimized.

Furthermore, I think you stand a greater long term health risk just falling off your bicycle than you do from drinking from that plastic bottle.

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