The reason for steel water bottles

Nalgene was the brand of polycarbonate bottle we all swore by in the 90’s. We used the hardy leak-proof bottles for holding alcohol and formalin during lengthy zoological expeditions in Southeasia Asia. They were certainly expensive but some cheap plastic bottles we had used before discovering Nalgene were unreliable – many leaked fumes into our vehicles as we travelled overland.

In the very late 90’s, I watched with fascination as Nalgene produced polycarbonate water bottles for the masses. The tough bottles eventually became more colourful this decade and increasingly popular. I finally overcame my mental barrier against using Nalgene for drinking water this year since these bottles looked completely different – I have a couple of bright orange bottles now.

In recent years, I noticed another trend – steel water bottles became increasing popular amongst cyclists and hikers. And in December 2007, Canada’s Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) apparently took polycarbonate bottles off their shelves and are scrambling to supply customers with steel bottles.

The reason? The presence of bisphenol A in plastic bottles which can potentially leach into water and pose a long-term health risk. Nalgene, however, says their products are safe.

In any case, you will find steel water bottles in local cycling and outdoor accessory shops these days. When I visited Queensway a couple of months ago, Nalgene bottles were on offer. Brand promotion or was this an attempt to stem the impending drought of disfavour?

You might recall that the danger of using soft water bottles to house drinking water long term was highlighted last year. I know many switched to hard plastic water bottles at the time. On 9th April 2008, the Today Show featured, “How safe are plastic bottles?” [Video].

The message? Avoid plastic bottles with labels 3, 6 and 7 – this includes the hard plastic many of our water bottles are made of. The IATP’s advocates this as well: Smart Plastics: Common Questions and Answers and Smart Plastics Guide Healthier Food Uses of Plastics.

There are many reports out there with varying information and claims so I’ve decided to sift through those later before posting to ICCS News. There apparently will be a US government study (probably FDA?) that will issue a report in May about these products and is bound to evict a flurry of responses. I will keeping tabs then. Right now, I am not entirely clear.

Meanwhile this cheerful news was reported in Science Daily (3rd April 2008) – “Common Organic Compound Found In Many Household Products May Pose Health Risk To Breast Cells” [Source paper: Dairkee, S. H., J. Seok, S. Champion, A. Sayeed, M. Mindrinos, W. Xiao, R. W. Davis & W. H. Goodson, 2008. Bisphenol A Induces a Profile of Tumor Aggressiveness in High-Risk Cells from Breast Cancer Patients. Cancer Research, 68: 2076-2080.]

Essentially, they say,

“Bisphenol A, a chemical that leaches into food and beverages from many consumer products, causes normal, non-cancerous human breast cells to express genes characteristic of aggressive breast cancer cells.”

Steel water bottle anyone?

See also: “Freshen Up Your Drink,” by Lisa Takeuchi Cullen. Time, 13 Mar 2008.