Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nalgene, Baby Bottles, and Bisphenol-A: The Tough Case of Hard Plastics

Much has been made in recent months about the potential for reusable polycarbonate plastic bottles to leach bisphenol-A(BPA) into your water, baby formula, or any other libation you tote around in there. For those weekend warriors and everyday environmentalists who have been using the same hard plastic water bottles for the past 6 years, this polysyllabic news is alarming and disheartening. After all, we thought we were doing a good thing by foregoing the chic "one-timer" plastic water bottles in favor of reusable ones.And we were.

Unfortunately, the verdict is still out on the actual health effects of bisphenol-A, and depending on who you believe, the effects range from harmless (not surprisingly the plastics industry is in this camp), to serious health risk. Discover Magazine's recent article on BPA suggests that it may affect not only the children of mothers exposed to the compound during pregnancy, but their children as well. The article also explains why BPA does not act as a typical toxin, and has therefore been difficult to classify as dangerous. Nalgene has posted a page on their website detailing their stance that BPA is safe, but given Wal-Mart's decision to stop selling products containing BPA, arguments to the contrary have clearly gained traction. For more information on the debate, check out The Green Guide's article, "The Bisphenol-A Debate: A Suspect Chemical in Plastic Bottles and Cans."

My husband looking into the issue of BPA, personally. Perhaps it is already too late for him.

So now what? Well, most scientists agree that the biggest risk is to newborns and pregnant moms. Make sure your baby bottles are #4 or #5 plastic (check out the ones made by Adiri or Sassy), or try the glass ones made by Born Free.

Not a baby, but also not a fan of having his hormones tampered with - cried like a baby after drinking from his Nalgene while watching Moulin Rouge.

Consider replacing your plastic water bottles with those made by SIGG or Kleen Kanteen. I recently made the switch, and although my husband has been a little bit slow catching on to how it all works, we are both much happier with the way the water tastes from these aluminum and stainless steel containers.

His enthusiasm for hormone-free water matched only by his poor aim.

Of course, there is also the matter of what to do with your #7 bottles. The landfill is a bad option because these bottles will not biodegrade and may continue to leach chemicals there. They are also difficult to recycle, however I was able to find a recycling center that accepted #7 by using Earth 911's recycling locator, and you can probably do the same.

I was hoping some of the plastic bottle producers would take on the recycling conundrum themselves. A call to media relations at Nalgene was not returned; however, I spoke with a very nice woman in customer service who indicated that Nalgene was not issuing any sort of credit or exchange for their #7 water bottles. Unfortunate, since this is probably a bit of a public relations nightmare, and Nalgene does make water bottles out of the much less controversial #2 plastics. However, if you have your receipt, you can try to return your bottle to the store where you purchased it.

The bottom line in all of this is that it is important to know your plastic numbers. The code imprinted at the bottom of each plastic product will tell you whether or not it has the potential to leach harmful chemicals as well as where and how it can be recycled. Check out the previous Weekly Way blog, "Plastics By the Numbers," for a simple breakdown of the codes. When it comes to the issue of harmful plastics, an ounce of prevention while the debate resolves itself might well be worth the pounds of product you'll need to replace down the line.

1 comment:

HSailorMoon said...

Fantastic. Thank you for this very informative post about the plastic water bottle issue. I just recently purchased a Brita Water pitcher and it came with two nalgene water bottles (which I think are rather snazzy) but then I was looking for a photo of these online and came up around the whole #7 issue. But luckly you answered my question as to, 'well it says 4 on the bottom of mine, is it safe?'. Thank you! :D Alos the photos of your husband are so funny, your man loves water. ;D