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.


14 thoughts on “The reason for steel water bottles

  1. alamak!

    i just took a look at the nalgene like bottles we exchanged with our health points previously from the Uni Health and Wellness Centre. They are labelled 7!

    so how? throw them away?

  2. hmm really? steel???

    u mean aluminium no?

    aluminium has its bad mojo too.. alu is fd in high conc in brains of parkinson’s patients..
    the caveat is its not known if alu is cause or effect.

  3. Stainless steel, aluminium – see National Geographic’s The Green Guide: “Erring on the Side of Caution – Until all of the facts are in, we recommend stainless steel water bottles, such as Klean Kanteen and polypropylene bottles… Stainless steel bottles should have a metal cap as well. Aluminum bottles with an enamel inner coating are also a healthy alternative, though aluminum requires more energy to produce and has greater environmental impact than stainless steel.

    … If you’re still attached to your Nalgene water bottle, you can lower any potential health risk by following a few common sense guidelines. Based on what we know from the current research, PC is most likely to leach BPA during initial use and after prolonged use. Heat increases the likelihood of leaching as well. It makes sense, then, to replace your bottle every six months or whenever it appears worn. When you buy a new bottle wash it out with warm water and a mild detergent and let it dry at room temperature. Do not wash your bottle in the dish machine or leave it for prolonged periods in direct sunlight. Only use the bottle to carry cold water; don’t fill it with hot water or other liquids.”

  4. “Plastic bottle chemical may be harmful: agency,” by Will Dunham.
    Reuters, 15 Apr 2008.

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A chemical in some plastic food and drink packaging including baby bottles may be tied to early puberty and prostate and breast cancer, the U.S. government said on Tuesday.

    Based on draft findings by the National Toxicology Program, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, senior congressional Democrats asked the Food and Drug Administration to reconsider its view that the chemical bisphenol A is safe in products for use by infants and children.

    The chemical, also called BPA, is used in many baby bottles and the plastic lining of cans of infant formula.

    The National Toxicology Program went further than previous U.S. government statements on possible health risks from BPA.

    It said: “There is some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures.” The findings expressed concern about exposure in these populations, “based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females.”

    Read more…

  5. Yeah. The plastic bottles can be really dangerous. That is why I use a Klean Kanteen stainless steel bottle. It is not just about the health part, the taste of the water is different. If you want to know where to buy Kleen Kanteen stainless steel bottles in Singapore, you can go to: It is based in Singapore and I did not waste time shipping it from USA.


  6. Yet another finding on 16th Sep 2008, , a study released Tuesday by the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested a new concern about BPA. Because of the possible public health implications, the results “deserve scientific follow-up,” the study authors said. Using a health survey of nearly 1,500 adults, they found that those exposed to higher amounts of BPA were more likely to report having heart disease and diabetes.

    Guess what, I finally bought my Klean Kanteen (the stainless steel type without paint/colour) from (thanks Birder123 for this lead – can’t find another store in Singapore selling them). for some peace of mind!!!

  7. Is silver-plating coating in stainless steel water bottles safe? Lock & Lock has such bottles, cheaper than Klean Kanteen and available in Fairprice and Carrefour. Been Googling this but haven’t found any answers.

  8. AVA says polycarbonate baby milk bottles safe for use
    By Teoh Song Keng & Greta Georges, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 28 October 2008 2154 hrs

    SINGAPORE: Following tests, Singapore’s Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority (AVA) has given the all-clear to polycarbonate baby milk bottles here, saying they are safe for use.

    This announcement comes as Canada prepares to take the precautionary measure of banning bottles which contain the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) used in food packaging.

    There have been recent concerns that BPA may cause abnormal development in babies. But like Singapore, the European Union, the United States and New Zealand maintain there are no safety concerns.

    Three wholesalers in Singapore said they have been supplying BPA-free bottles to department stores since early this year. But BPA-free bottles only have about 10 to 20 per cent of the market share.

    AVA said parents who are still concerned about the negative effects of BPA can turn to other alternatives such as glass bottles. It also advised parents not to put boiling water in baby bottles as hot water causes BPA to migrate out of the bottle at a higher rate.

    It added that boiled water should be allowed to cool to lukewarm in a non-polycarbonate container before it is transferred to milk bottles.

    Even if parents opt for BPA-free bottles, it is advisable to change the milk bottles every four to six months.

    – CNA/so

  9. If you want to buy a replacement Klean Kanteen in Singapore, here’s the tip….. go to and use this coupon for a 10% discount “KLEAN10A”

    I am not sure if it is still valid, but, I used it 4 days ago and it works.

  10. Wow, so much going on with plastics these days! I’m definitely glad I switched to stainless steel. I use my Klean Kanteen bottle every day :). They’re great because they’re so durable and BPA free. I don’t think I could ever go back to using disposable water bottles. Especially seeing what it does to our bodies and the environment!

    Thanks for the blog, it was a great read!

    • I am totally converted to stainless steel. Got myself a Klean Kanteen REFLECT and a INSULATED.

      Got me drinking more healthily and saving quite some dough.:)

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