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Polycarbonate controversry
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Miguel Marcos
(miguelmarcos) - F

Locale: Middle Iberia
Polycarbonate controversry on 12/10/2007 02:54:20 MST Print View

MEC has decided to eliminate all polycarbonate-based items from their inventory based on concerns about bisphenol A, "which has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in animals." There are lots of backpacking items that are made from polycarbonate plastic. I haven't reached a conclusion but it's something to keep in mind.

Jake Calabrese
(trekmore) - F

Locale: Colorado
Nalgene current has a boycott of sorts on this on 12/10/2007 08:00:36 MST Print View

Same issue... I posted the link in another post...

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: Polycarbonate controversry on 12/10/2007 09:05:38 MST Print View

the biggest PC controversy is with the rigid "nalgene" bottle. Note, PP (soft) bottles are immune to this.

Also, it's unlike a fork or spoon would result in significant exposure...

Of course, my take is that I expose myself to far more carcinogens / toxins by simply living in a modern city. If in consuming more water and getting outside more someone does happen to ingest a minuscule (most of the studies show that to get enough exposure from a PC container you'd have to abrade the inside and ingest the plastic itself) amount of BPA, the trade off is probably favorable.

The people who freak out about this are also the ones that won't ride a bike due to the potential for genital issues (though it has been shown that said issues are usually due to improperly fitted / adjusted seats)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Polycarbonate controversry on 12/10/2007 15:30:13 MST Print View

I suspect MEC has fallen for yet another Urban Legend.

To be sure, ingesting bisphenol-A would not be good for you, but this does not address the question of whether you are going to get any significant amount of it from a PC bottle. No-one has ever proved that there is a real practical hazard.

I dare say it will end up in Snopes one day, like the PET bottles.

Simon Harding
(SimonHarding) - F
More silliness on 12/10/2007 16:17:21 MST Print View

I figure between the childhood vaccines I had (autism), the metal fillings I have and the aluminum pans we ate out of (I grew up poor Whiskey Tango) (alzheimers/brain damage), my affection for a shot of whiskey once or twice a week, and a glass of wine or two once or twice a week (Cirhossis), my affection for Copenhagen (Cancer), I can just toss this plastics stuff on top of it all.

In the end, something has to kill one off. I just hope to die with my boots on, doing something I love, and not in a hospital bed.

I use the soft bottles (PP) and one or two hard bottles (Danger!)

One thing I do not do, is let my kids microwave food in plastic, nor do I let them eat from a bag, unless we are backpacking. That exposure is little enough I think being worried about it is borderline paranoid.


Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: Polycarbonate controversry on 12/10/2007 17:56:36 MST Print View


Not sure why you would call this an urban legend since numerous researchers at reputable universities have looked at this potential (but complicated) problem. I have personally talked with some of them about some of the animal research, and was sufficiently convinced to steer away from polycarbonate when possible. I have a Ph.D. in Materials Science and worked in the polymer industry for several years. I also grew up on a farm where hearing damage from tractor noises, lung damage from grain dust, and health concerns from pesticides/fertilizers came second to getting the work done. So I feel I have some perspective on this.

Will one swig from a Nalgene bottle cause me, of course not. However, children and fetuses are much more susceptible to synthetic hormones like bisphenol-A since they are still developing physically. The adult body can more easily compensate for this. Certainly a balance needs to be struck. Unfortunately, humans are accumulating compounds like this from multiples sources, so if a source is identified, why not avoid it? We have both plastic and ceramic bowls in our home, so when I microwave something, I make sure I use a ceramic one, particularly for my young children. The tobacco industry would like us to think that cigarettes and snuff are OK too.

I would not dismiss this particular issue so casually. Calling it an urban legand is a disservice.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Re: Re: Re: Polycarbonate controversry on 12/10/2007 19:59:00 MST Print View

Might want to make sure those ceramic bowls aren't from China!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Why I simply don't buy into it on 12/10/2007 20:17:13 MST Print View

I won't repeat my long rant that went up onto my blog this week (lucky you all!) but simply put....every year there is either an email or newspaper/magazine article spread on the danger of something. Quite often it is disproved down the road, after damage has been done to the company.

In previous years it has been baby bottles, single use water bottles, microwave wrap, plastic bags, plastic dishes, etc.

Notice the common thing in all of this? Plastic.

People are scared of plastics. They don't quite trust them.

If one goes through Snopes and many other sites they can find links to studies and wether or not things are urban myths or not. For instance, people STILL send out emails about Dioxin being in freezer bags and microwave wrap (and no, they do not contain that!).

My biggest point in this? Those polycarbonate items are being used to EAT and DRINK out of, not to cook food or boil water in them. If you worry about the use of Lexan bottles on backpacking trips, you really need to think it out:
Do you use a butane/propane powered stove? Do you eat food full of fake dyes and flavors? Do you eat more than 2,000 mg of sodium a day? Trans fats? Do you drive a vehicle to the trail head? At home do you eat out of to-go containers? Microwave meals at work? Coffee cups? Plastic wrapped salad bags?

My point being is that even if there is a remote issue of anything with polycarbonate items, it is so low on the you-need-to-worry-list. You are exposed to actual things on a daily basis. Do you live in a city? Do you have a tightly sealed house? Do you commute daily in a car? Are your dinner dishes from China?
Your vehicle is belching out so much more in bad stuff than a lifetime of polycarbonate could hope to attain. The car in my avatar runs on biodiesel, and it still is polluting the world. The only thing not polluting is if I walked my butt to the trailhead.

As for polycarbonate? I have no fear using Lexan bottles, cups, sporks, spoons, etc. I also have no issue having my 10 year old use them. Far better to use these bottles thousands of time than toss that many water bottles into the dump!

(Disclaimer: I also use aluminum pans, Teflon sprayed pans, drink soy and eat soy, and heck, my kid? He has been consuming soy based items since 3 days after he was born. Oh yeah, and I also immunized him as well. I tend to look at the big picture.)

Edited by sarbar on 12/10/2007 20:19:27 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Occasionally I worry.. on 12/10/2007 21:07:31 MST Print View

I was reading a report recently about Australians developing vitamin D deficiency by not having enough exposure to the sun. Apparently enough people have taken the UV danger warnings too far the extent of depriving their bodies of the necessary amount.
BTW, while a gallon of wine a night is not that good for you (and neither is a gallon of water or carrot juice) a glass is beneficial.
Maybe is the same as working 8 hours a day can be good but 22 hours is too much, but how would I know, I am not an expert.
Since I don't intend eating my Nalgene ( never realized that I was supposed to...) cook and eat my Gatorade bottles, scrape and eat the Teflon coating, drink my shampoo, etc I will just occasionally worry about people that die early because they worry too much.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Re: Re: Why I simply don't buy into it on 12/10/2007 21:19:43 MST Print View

Right on Sarah!

(Except technically you would probably still be polluting if you walked to the trailhead. You'd likely be wearing shoes that are produced in a factory with some sort of emissions, eating a snack produced similarly, and if walking long enough might even create your own emissions. )


Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Polycarbonate controversry on 12/10/2007 21:33:04 MST Print View

This is merely the latest eco-reactionary BS version of the old "Air and water are both extremely toxic. The proof; everyone who ever died has breathed the air and/or drunk the water during their lifetime."

Pure dehydrated camel dung!

Wandering Bob

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Why I simply don't buy into it on 12/10/2007 21:34:35 MST Print View

With you Sarah, except for one thing:

> People are scared of plastics. They don't quite trust them.
Me, I just reckon many people prefer wild rumours and scandals to using their brains. If they have any, that is.

My wife used to worry about all these scares, but when she read that someone had 'proven' that drinking TEA would give her cancer, she finally rebelled! :-)

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Re: Why I simply don't buy into it on 12/10/2007 22:23:19 MST Print View

I've always enjoyed your posts, so it's nice to talk with you. I agree that it's easy to catch the most recent layman's headline and be scared about living life. I also think it's good to make judgements based on real data. Most people here have weighed the contents of their backpacks to see how much of a difference reducing individual piece weights make, so why treat something like this differently?

So I'm not talking about the USA Today headlines. I'm talking about research papers that are in refereed scientific journals. What are you basing your dismissal on (you didn't state that, and I think it's pretty important)?

I think that there are better options out there than PC. I personally believe that smoking affects far more people than bisphenol-A from PC, but that doesn't lessen some of the potential effects that it can have on young children and fetuses.

Edited by TomClark on 12/10/2007 22:32:12 MST.

Steve O
(HechoEnDetroit) - F

Locale: South Kak
polycarb and "bisphenol a" exposure on 12/10/2007 22:45:44 MST Print View

The problem with bisphenol A is that it is a hormone, and thus is active at very low doses. Also, hormones effect the body in subtle and complicated fashions. They also have many secondary effects (and tertiary, etc).

An expert panel took a look at bisphenol A and released their final report (PDF) a couple weeks ago. (@ 384 pages, you'll want to skim this one via the table o' contents!)

They concluded that considering the exposure to the general population, there was really just a bit of concern with fetuses and children. It seems that behavioral problems are the main cause of their concern.

They also concluded that exposure through beverages and foods (stored in lexan) was the major pathway of exposure. This would put polycarb addicts in a risk category above the general population in my opinion. A previous poster mentioned that hot beverages should be avoided... I second that (opinion again).

They also recognized that we have a lot more to understand here which leaves the window open for other issues.


Disclaimer: this was a breakneck skim job here, and a late night one at that, so you might want to read the PDF for yourself. Fun!

Edited by HechoEnDetroit on 12/10/2007 22:54:34 MST.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Why I simply don't buy into it on 12/10/2007 22:52:19 MST Print View

My views are based on a number of things I have read up on, while doing research on plastics and safety. I do have a number of the links posted up on my website though. They come from a wide area of science, drs and yes, studies done by Nalgene and others. (And yes, those could be called bias!)

For me personal safety comfort level is pretty high with using plastics. In the big scheme of things I have more to worry about with my visits to the shooting range. We often shoot in indoor ranges, and yes, you get exposed to lead in small tiny amounts.

I don't worry about my son using Lexan bottles. At 10 he is skinny, tall and about as manly as a boy can be. If anything, his high consumption of soy milk (he doesn't like dairy milk) should be the thing to wag tongues at. But alas, no boy boobs! (And he drinks 2-3 cups a day!)

When it comes down to it, yes, I drink out of a Lexan container daily. My glasses at home are made of polycarbonate, I don't like glass or metal to drink out of. I have Nalgene bottles in all our vehicles. I hike with them. I keep them clean and full of our tasty well water. Yum!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Re: Why I simply don't buy into it on 12/10/2007 23:02:23 MST Print View

Bisphenol A (BPA) is a key industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic, epoxy resins and other products. Following the four-step procedure recommended by the United States National Academy of Sciences (NRC, 1983), a safety assessment of BPA concludes that the potential human exposure to BPA from polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin food contact applications is minimal and poses no known risk to human health. This conclusion is based on the following key points:

1. BPA is not carcinogenic and does not selectively affect reproduction or development. The No-Observed-Adverse-Effect-Level (NOAEL) for BPA, confirmed in multiple laboratory animal tests, is 50 mg/kg body weight/day;

2. The estimated dietary intake of BPA from polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin food contact applications, based on the results of multiple migration studies with consistent results, is less than 0.000118 mg/kg body weight/day; and

3. This potential human exposure to BPA is more than 400 times lower than the maximum acceptable or "reference" dose for BPA of 0.05 mg/kg body weight/day established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is derived from the NOAEL.

An independent analysis by the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), using a similar methodology, has confirmed the safety of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin food contact applications. The SCF estimated total dietary intake of BPA from all food contact sources to be in the range of 0.00048 to 0.0016 mg/kg body weight/day, which is below the Tolerable Daily Intake set by the SCF of 0.01 mg/kg body weight/day.

The use of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins for food contact applications has been and continues to be recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, the Japanese Ministry for Health, Labor and Welfare, and other regulatory authorities worldwide.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: polycarb and "bisphenol a" exposure on 12/10/2007 23:06:38 MST Print View

"They concluded that considering the exposure to the general population, there was really just a bit of concern with pregnant mothers and children. It seems that behavioral problems are the main cause of their concern."

The thing is, you can do everything perfectly and by the book and still have a kid with issues. And for that child you will have moms who smoked like chimney's and drank like crazy who produce perfect kids.

For those of you with children who have special needs you understand where you question if anything you did caused the problems...and often there is just no reason the child has issues.

My son has Aesperger Syndrome and has been "different" since the day he came to this world. Was it because of things I ate and drank? No. I had a vegan, nearly organic lifestyle. Rather I had health issues that caused me to have to have him early, before he was developed entirely. His being forcibly delivered before his brain was totally wired caused his behavior issues. I got a nice case of Preclampsia and he would have died in me if I had carried him 9 months.

And yet, without plastics, I doubt he would have survived. A preemie babies world is of plastics. From the tiny BP cuffs for them to the little bottles that feed them. To the plastic wires that they had attached to his scalp to monitor him. There are people who question baby bottles for the same reason they question Nalgene bottles. Yet, I would use those baby bottles in a heartbeat. The ability to feed a child that cannot latch on and nurse is priceless.

Plastics have a place in our lives. Maybe not everyones, but in mine they do!

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Most Brilliant Post of the Day on 12/11/2007 07:17:18 MST Print View

"Since I don't intend eating my Nalgene ( never realized that I was supposed to...) cook and eat my Gatorade bottles, scrape and eat the Teflon coating, drink my shampoo, etc I will just occasionally worry about people that die early because they worry too much."

wow, that was great, Franco, absolutely brilliant...

As Sarah has so eloquently stated here and on her blog, there are far BIGGER issues to worry about. Cut all the other "dangerous" crap out of your life, THEN consider BP-A. Note, Sarah has obviously cut out way more than the vast majority of us, and STILL has bigger things to worry about than BP-A.

I would hasten to bet that a SINGLE meal at a typical fast-food burger joint loads your body with way more toxins, carcinogens, and artificial hormones than a year of drinking from PC would... aka, anyone who freaks out about PC and still, occasionally, eats fast food is, unknown to them, a hypocrite... I won't even get into people who drive to work when they could (far more people could than want to believe they could) bike to work, or people who eat boxed food, or...

Now, realize I still do all of those things... that's why I don't worry about PC...

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Polycarbonate controversry on 12/11/2007 08:06:06 MST Print View

Educate yourself and make an educated decision. Some things we get exposed to really are statistically significantly bad; cigarette smoke for example; thalidomide here in Japan as another example.
From the few hours of research I did on Nalgene, I choose to still use it as an adult. I see they are now releasing a BA-free series of bottles (in addition to the softer type which were always BA free).

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Polycarbonate controversry on 12/11/2007 08:18:01 MST Print View

Steve, thanks for that link to the report! I skimmed it and read the conclusions. I would summmarize it as follows;
Don't give hot (95'C) beverages to kids or pregnant women served from nalgene which contains BA.

Simple rule of thumb. Even so, results were contradictory and 'minor' at worst. If you let your kids ride around with no seatbelt, bike w/o helmets, etc.. they have bigger worries.