Plastic water bottles: safe or not?
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Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Plastic water bottles: safe or not? on 02/15/2008 09:47:53 MST Print View

For the past few years (I think) there have been various reports pertaining to the health risks posed by using Nalgene bottles and, I assume, other plastic bottles.

Although it's outside of my area of expertise, the research on the topic indicates that the danger comes from Bisphenol A (BPA)leaching into the water. I think there's also reason for concern about Pthalates as well.

Unfortunately, the available information on this topic seems a little muddied by, among other things, the vested interests of the businesses selling the potentially harmful products. This leaves me with a few questions that I was hoping some of you might be able to answer:

1. Is there any scientific consensus regarding the safety of Nalgene bottles?

2. What other plastic bottles are potentially dangerous? Are the Platy and Evernew containers that we tend to favor safe?

I'm considering switching to Sigg bottles, extra weight and all...

Dave

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Plastic Water Bottles, Safe or Not? on 02/15/2008 10:28:49 MST Print View

After reading about pthalates and how they mimic estrogen, I did have the same concern as you. The article that I read specifically singled out the Nalgene bottle, probably because of its popularity, and went on to say that any bottle with a "1" in the recycle symbol was considered safe, as it did not contain this chemical. (On a relative scale no doubt.) Anyway, I've been using Propel bottles for a while now, but a Sigg bottle would be a sure thing against leaching. Um, unless they're coated with something inside. Anybody up to speed on Sigg?

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Shady on 02/15/2008 10:41:24 MST Print View

>>...went on to say that any bottle with a "1" in the recycle symbol was considered safe, as it did not contain this chemical. (On a relative scale no doubt.)

Hi Monty. Yeah that just rings a little hollow to me too. Who sets these safety standards? And do they have any applicability in my life given my standards?

Er...yeah. Not to get all existential there, but...

More pragmatically, in the absence of trustworthy information, I think it seems prudent to err on the side of conservatism and just drink from metal bottles. I've taken a Sigg waterbottle to work everyday for years. But my girlfriend takes the Nalgene. That's daily usage of a really shady product that someone let into the market. Someone call Ralph Nader.

Apparently there is a lining baked onto the inside of Sigg bottles, but it is non-toxic and (for whatever this is worth)tests (conducted by who? Sigg?) indicate that there is 0.0% leeching.

Dave

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Plastic water bottles: safe or not? on 02/15/2008 11:17:03 MST Print View

Not to mock anyone...but in the big picture if you are worried about your health you might want to consider how clean your WATER is that you drink over the container. Be it city or well water there are a lot of things lurking in the water you don't know about. Ever had your water tested? Living on wells we did twice a year.

For me, my plastic use is well thought out. I think about everything I do in life and what my odds and chances are. For me, I realize that my car is the biggest source of pollution I use. Sitting in traffic in downtown Seattle or driving to a trail head 100 miles away is only producing more junk.

I also think about where my goods I buy come from - how much fossil fuels were burnt to make and ship the item. This is thinking globally! This is a big reason why Fuji water bottles are such a horrid deal - they ship the water so far.

If worried about polycarbonate you might also want to consider what is in your food. Read labels on everything you eat. It can quickly change your tune on food. A big chunk of what America eats isn't food. It is engineered calories!
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Food_additives

Consider that often you do not know what materials were used in the packaging of your food. Were the cans lined inside? What type of plastic holds your acidic OJ? Where was your food grown? Pesticides? Does your meat have EColi?

Hence.....you start realizing that in the big picture...using a polycarbonate spork or water bottle 3 days , once a month isn't such a "big deal". It is minimal.

I'd not be so quick to label Polycarbonate the new evil.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Well... on 02/15/2008 12:08:36 MST Print View

Hi Sarah,

You make a sound point regarding the need to properly contextualize health concerns.

That said, I'm going to go ahead and call bull**** on everything you just said given that you've invested a large amount of time, energy, and (most importantly) business capital in an endeavor that revolves entirely around the market's willingness to eat out of plastic bags.

The importance of the PBA issue pertaining to water bottles is that it's an issue that consumers can easily intervene in as long as they are provided enough information to make rational decisions. Obscuring the issue behind a bunch of other rhetoric is really just kind of shady move and flies in the face of the BPL ethic.

Lastly, I think I should also point out that the majority of research on the topic of PBAs indicates that they are released in vastly greater quantities when the plastic is exposed to hot water.

Golly, Sarah, but I've just got to think that this would include pouring boiling water into a plastic freezer bag to rehydrate food, don't you. I can see why you might want that swept under the rug though...I just don't think you're motivated by public health concerns.

Thanks for chiming in though. Appreciate that. By the way, is it too late for me to return your book?

And for the record, I haven't owned a car in seven years, I take public transport or car pool to trailheads, I buy 90% of my groceries from the local farmer's market, I eat almost no processed foods or engineered calories, and, believe it or not, NYC's water is pretty clean. You'll also note, if you take the time to read my above post carefully, that I'm worried about the fact that my girlfriend takes a Nalgene to work every day. Daily use of a bottle that leeches toxins into drinking water is *not* minimal.

In any case, I maintain that unethical business practices and the protection one's vested interests at the expense of others is nothing new, but is the same old evil that is (no hyperbole here) wrecking the planet and the public's health.

Edited by sharalds on 02/15/2008 18:14:11 MST.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Well... on 02/15/2008 12:25:58 MST Print View

Wow, Thats a bit harsh, you even admit that you are not an expert and the evidence is muddy so why accuse someone who just reserves their opinion until the facts are clear of wanting to decieve peolpe?
You dont have to use plastic bags to use Sarahs book any container would do.
It nice that you have public transportaion to trailheads but for the vast majority of people thats simply not an option. I very rarely get to even car pool simply because I dont know anybody else who hikes and I suspect Im not alone. No BPL ethics where broken that I can see.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Well... on 02/15/2008 12:28:56 MST Print View

David:

I think Sarah is just telling us "the inconvenient truth" -- something that most all of us know but choose to overlook to a greater or lesser degree.

In any case, how confident are you about the industrial materials and processes involved in making SIGG bottles versus Nalgene? The SIGG descriptions below don't give me any more (or less) confidence than with Nalgene:

"Extruded from a single piece of pure aluminum..."
"Special baked-on water-based epoxy resin inner liner..."

Unless you know for sure that the synthetic chemical epoxy resin is meaningfully safer than the synthetic chemical polycarbonate, switching may just mean extra cost and extra weight -- for nothing.

Edited by ben2world on 02/15/2008 12:57:52 MST.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Harsh? on 02/15/2008 13:10:16 MST Print View

Harsh? Respectfully Brian, I have to disagree. The reason the issue remains muddy is probably attributable to fact that there are business interests at stake and they act to obscure the facts. Additionally, the issue is new so there is no longitudinal data related to health outcomes in humans yet. Mice, well, that's another story I think. I'm not an expert in plastics, but I do work for the DOH and I am a professional researcher. I should be able to track down the scientific literature on the topic if I can find the time.

While it's true that you can use any container to use Sarah's book, it is called "Freezer Bag Cooking" and not "Titanium Cookpot Cooking".

Also, I agree that I'm fortunate in that I can use public transportation and don't need to own a car. It's unfortunate that it isn't an option for more people. If it isn't an option for you, obviously there's not a lot you can do. I'm not trying to be preachy, just to highlight the fact that I do worry about health/environmental issues across the board and that I'm not suddenly being paranoid about plastics because a read a news article and had a stray thought.

Ben initially said: "If we worry about plastics, then we really ought to worry as well about the effects of our synthetic furniture, funishings, and clothing (what do you think make them flame retardant?); the air that we breathe, the water that we drink (old pipes and whatnots) and the food that we eat. Most all of our chickens and cows are saturated daily with antibiotics and worse -- as that is the only way our agri-business can maintain the high animal population density without diseases running rampant. Feed lots are not a natural phenomenon. And of course, I need not go into pesticides and herbicides..."

Yes Ben, I think we really ought to be worrying about quite a bit more than just plastic water bottles. Speaking for myself, I do worry and I act accordingly in as much as I am able.

I strongly believe that, contingency being what it is, there are usually very undesirable repercussions for not worrying and, more to the point, not acting to remedy easily identified problems. Compromising is not really an option.

We don't need to sacrifice being engaged citizens and informed consumers in order to get what we want. Simply, holding the people who produce goods and services accountable for their business practices and their products shapes the market. When consumers don't pay attention to what what they consume, it leaves the production side of the market free to flood the market with inferior products that can impact consumers' health.

Anyway, back to water bottles, I don't know for sure that Sigg bottles are any safer than Nalgene bottles. That's kind of why I started this thread though. If I track down the MSDS though, we should be able to find out though, right? It'll take somebody with a background in chemistry and so forth though.

Edited by Ramapo on 02/15/2008 13:26:53 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Compromising is not an Option? on 02/15/2008 13:21:22 MST Print View

David:

Disagreeing with what you wrote is like disagreeing with mom and apple pie. Of course we want everything that we come into contact with to be absolutely safe! But when you wrote that "compromising is not an option", you are being idealistic.

If you want to take away all the chemicals, synthetics, etc. that can be harmful to us and the environment, a very good place to start would be your own computer.

Yes, I am being facetious (and maybe even sarcastic), but modern life is ALL about compromises. I do agree with you, however, that we can all be more vigilant about the stuff we make, buy and use. But given the enormity of scale and complexity -- methinks the burden can't fall on consumers alone. This is where government action and responsibility come in. And I think this is probably where the EU does a better job than the US. Who knows?

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Plastic water bottles: safe or not? on 02/15/2008 13:24:33 MST Print View

One thing I can guarantee is that none of you will get out of this life alive...

C. Everett Kook, M.D.

Edited by jshann on 02/15/2008 13:25:06 MST.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Idealism on 02/15/2008 13:45:05 MST Print View

I don't know if I'm an idealist Ben. I try not to be unreasonable. I really do. I think the values I hold are simple and valid enough that considering them too idealistic to be tenable is a sad capitulation. There's too much at stake to compromise, and the actions required to protect the public's health and the plant's ecosystem tend to be small and relatively simple. But they're additive value is incalculable.

Your example of computers is a good example. Computers are a very valuable tool. We need them to function efficiently. They are pretty toxic once they get dumped in landfills though. But there are a lot of recycling programs that go unused or are not being implemented. Here in NYC the Lower East Side Ecology Center collects old computers a few times a year in order to recycle them, but that doesn't stop most people from putting their old PCs on the curb when they upgrade.

If the burden isn't on consumers and public citizens, then I don't know who it's on. Certainly we can't expect big business to concern itself with anything other than making money any time soon. And the US government does a deplorable job of regulating industry when it comes to public health and ecology, largely because it's in bed with big business. The EU does do a better job though: they've banned products using plastics containing Pthalates...which is why they're now being exported to America in greater quantities.

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Yeah, yeah...I get that on 02/15/2008 13:48:35 MST Print View

>>One thing I can guarantee is that none of you will get out of this life alive...

Fatalism is pretty glib. I hope that was meant as a joke.

No, nobody lives forever, but knowingly contributing to your own decline is pathological.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Re: Well... on 02/15/2008 13:50:05 MST Print View

Maybe its just my sheltered, rural upbringing talking, but don't we have bigger things to worry about than water bottles?

I guess I just don't get you crazy city folk :P.

Adam

Dave .
(Ramapo) - F - M
Re: Re: Well... on 02/15/2008 13:54:39 MST Print View

One thing at a time Adam. One thing at a time. ;)

Anyway...

I'm going hiking. Later.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Well... on 02/15/2008 13:56:56 MST Print View

Agree with Brian. It was way harsh to Sarah and she deserves an apology. Now back to my bisphenol ramen dinner...

Joe Glib

Edited by jshann on 02/16/2008 07:28:13 MST.

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Choices... on 02/15/2008 14:30:24 MST Print View

It's about choices... not only what products you will use but what you will proactively fight for.

I like barbequed food, my mattress and pillows are foam, I wipe sunscreen and bug repellent all over my body... all my choice and I don't try to stop their use... because I like to have the option of using them... and I know the hazard.

If using a metal water bottle makes you feel more secure and healthy, great! Probably the peace of mind you receive from this will add a few years onto your life.

I like my Nalgene bottles... I have another water container that I always carry and it's made of "safer" plastic... but the water tastes like plastic. Hmmm I wonder how safe that is?

Companies that produce these products are trying to provide a service to people like me... you can say they are only interested in making money and I will say who cares... give me choices!

My local MEC store pulled all the polycarb Nalgene bottles off their shelves... I find this annoying... I don't like it when I don't have a choice!

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Wow, potty mouth too? on 02/15/2008 14:31:20 MST Print View

I feel so honored to have "earned" a cussing out by you. Simply becuase I spoke from my heart?

Yes, I have a business that uses plastics. The plastics I recommend are food grade and tested. On both my free for use web site and my books I give options on how to cook without using plastics. You can use a pot to cook in, you can use wax paper bags to carry your food. I can give you a list of food grade plastics rated for boiling water use as well. Food Vac makes them, as does others.

I am not saying this because I have some "invested" interest in the plastic industry - sheesh, do you know why the whole FBC thing came about? It was a concept, easy to remember. There are a number of people that use the recipes that one pot them. I am not asking you to support Ziploc and Glad. They though guarantee they have no Dioxin in their plastics and are made in the US.

But your fuel? Unless you cook over a fire you are using in most cases fuel that is carcinogenic. Most outdoor clothing is synthetic. Look at your shoes, your socks. The bag you carry to work. Your hair and body products. Your sleeping bag, backpack, sleeping pad. All chemicals. Did they use chemicals to make your Ti pan and cup?

Our country is covered in chemicals no matter where you look. You cannot say one thing is evil and overlook 1,000 other items. It is like saying that my son's Autism was caused by plastic baby bottles - when he was born too premature to nurse. I don't know and will NEVER know what caused his Autism. Most likely it was genetics. But it doesn't mean that I didn't have his immunization shots after he started developing symptoms. The diseases are worse than Autism.

What I am saying is this: I am not going to back down on my thoughts on plastic - I can say this, plastics saved my son's life. 40 years ago he would have died when he was born. Plastics are NOT EVIL. From the seats on the bus, to the safety parts in a car to making food safer from being contaminated, to making tiny bottles for preemies...plastic is everywhere in our lives.

And btw, those plastic bottles that fed my tiny son? Yeah, some people want them banned. What the heck do they suggest instead?

You can hate me, but don't say I have an investment in plastics as a business.I DO NOT SELL LEXAN BOTTLES!! And I can think of maybe 10 recipes on my site that call for a Lexan bottle - and they are all drinks.

Edited by sarbar on 02/15/2008 14:39:32 MST.

Frank Perkins
(fperkins)

Locale: North East
Re: Plastic water bottles: safe or not? on 02/15/2008 14:34:54 MST Print View

Hell of a third post. I think getting some energy out by hiking will do you some good.

Anyways, if plastic is a health concern, then we are *all* F'd because it's everywhere.

I would like to know if microwaving food in plastic [or wrapped] has any negatives. I would assume "hot" plastic would be more toxic than room temperature plastic.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Frank on 02/15/2008 14:37:38 MST Print View

From what I have read about cooking at home with plastic wrap, as long as you use a brand name and it is rated for a microwave it is safe. Do NOT use non brand names as you do not know what the plastic is made of. Or non-micro wrap.

Frank Perkins
(fperkins)

Locale: North East
Re: Re: Frank on 02/15/2008 14:44:47 MST Print View

Hrm... I have been using this hulking size plastic wrap that I got from Costco for about 2 years now.... Ill have to look into it. I didn't even know they had microwave wrap!

I always wonder what would be the red m&m's, asbestos of my generation. I hope it's not plastic! [or titanium!]