Are Nalgene water bottles really unsafe?
February 26, 2006 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Are Nalgene water bottles really unsafe?

So, a while ago there was a lot of hoopla about Nalgene water bottles with the recycling designation of #7 (a form of lexan, I think) causing all sorts of health problems in lab tests. However, the only information I can find is third-hand on sites of questionable repute.

At the time, I stopped using my nice Nalgene bottle, but I am curious if this actually panned out to be more than anything but scaremongering? Namely, can I start using my Nalgene bottle again without the fear of having my testicles shrink and die?
posted by Loto to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why take the chance with plastic when there are numerous aluminum water bottles that serve the same function?
posted by any major dude at 3:04 PM on February 26, 2006

I thought aluminum gives you Alzhimers.
This seems like a pretty respectable summary of the Polycarbonate/Lexan question.

The first thing I'm going to do after I leave the library is to put my blue Nalgene away for a while. Thanks for the heads up Loto.
posted by phyrewerx at 3:14 PM on February 26, 2006

Are you talking about the concerns that Bisphenol A, used as a monomer in the production of polycarbonate plastics (including Lexan, a trademarked name for polycarbonate), might be an endocrine disruptor in humans?

Wikipedia has a summary of some recent research and the article seems to indicate that one should be concerned, but I don't know enough to reliably determine if the the wikipedia article is complete and unbiased. A somewhat older article from the American Council on Science and Health takes the position that these concerns are an overreaction.

One should note that polycarbonate is routinely used in the food service industry, so if you're truly worried about exposure to Bisphenol A leaching from polycarbonate you'd probably want to consider cutting back or eliminating the amount of food you eat at restaruants.
posted by RichardP at 3:30 PM on February 26, 2006

Articles related to this subject on PubMed.
posted by grouse at 3:33 PM on February 26, 2006

How about stainless steel?

From what I've heard, the #2 Nalgenes are okeydokey to use, too.
posted by keswick at 4:18 PM on February 26, 2006

I thought aluminum gives you Alzhimers.

Only if you store something acidic like tomato juice in it. So stop packing Bloody Marys on the trail already!
posted by selfmedicating at 6:27 PM on February 26, 2006

Here is a PDF on plastics and some of the associated risks.

REI sells Nalgene bottles made without bisphenol A. I believe they have a #2 on the bottom.
posted by hamster at 8:06 PM on February 26, 2006

Aluminum does not cause Alzheimers.
posted by caddis at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2006

Our Stolen Future is an excellent book about the endocrine-disrupting chemicals we're ingesting due to plastics and through other means. It's really eye-opening and pretty scary.
posted by hazyjane at 11:29 PM on February 26, 2006

Aluminum does not cause Alzheimers.

There's years of research that says that it might. Certainly more research about that than about the harmful effects of polycarbonate.
posted by grouse at 11:29 PM on February 26, 2006

Nalgene themselves have a good "BPA and NALGENE" page up with links to various sources of information (including a couple already linked above).
posted by mrbill at 1:12 AM on February 27, 2006

As someone who always has a Lexan Nalgene bottle of water beside him, I've perused a lot of these BPA pages.

It seems that the danger comes when you clean the plastic with something harsh like bleach, scratch it abrasively, heat it up to almost melting, or store liquid in it for months on end. Plus, Lexan has to degrade over time before significant amounts of BPA are exuded. For example, most of the research PubMed brings up required the researchers to intentionally damage old laboratory cages, by applying a powerful detergent.

Since I keep my Nalgene unbleached, never clean the inside with anything abrasive, wash it out with cold water, and replace it every year or two, I'm not too concerned. Quite frankly, if I'm going to get sick from all the water I drink (64+oz a day), it's going to be from the myriad trace chemicals in the drinking water supply, not from .01 parts per billion of BPA leeching out of the water's container.

On the other hand, I wouldn't use a Lexan baby bottle (because of the whole heat thing).

It's also important to note that you get contact with BPA in many other forms. Polycarbonate is ubiquitous, especially in kitchens and restaurants, as RichardP noted above.
posted by jbrjake at 7:12 AM on February 27, 2006

Journal of the American Medical Association review of current research on endocrine disruptors, including Bisphenol-A.

Published research has shown effects at low parts-per-trillion.

jbrjake is correct that you get more leaching if a bottle has been washed in a dishwasher, exposed to hot liquids, etc. But given the range of health impacts that have been shown at extremely low exposure, I'd opt for a different kind of bottle. The strongest effects occur during development, so this is especially important for pregnant women, and for bottles used for infants and kids.

In terms of industry claims that there is no problem: a recent review of in vivo studies of low-dose effects of BPA showed about 130 studies in total. Of the 10 sponsored by industry, none showed any effect. Of the remaining 120, 90% showed an effect. (I can't find a link to the PDF, but the survey was done by Fred Vom Saal.
posted by alms at 7:35 AM on February 27, 2006

Response by poster: After reading all of the above I'm ditching the bottle. While the danger to me appears to be very, very minimal the bottle itself is probably leaking greater than normal amounts of BPA. I've heated soups up in this thing, used harsh cleaners on it, etc. The plastic is cloudy and cracked.

To be on the safe side, I ordered one of those SIGG bottles. Also, regarding aluminium bottles: Alzheimer's Society Factsheet. It seems the risk from them is also overstated.
posted by Loto at 8:49 AM on February 27, 2006

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