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REI Pulling Polycarbonate Bottles; U.S. Draft Report says BPA Might Present Risks

April 21, 2008

By now you probably know that “Canada is Likely to Declare BPA as Toxic” and “Nalgene will Stop Making Polycarbonate Bottles”. Now, REI is pulling the problematic BPA-containing water bottles from its shelves.

 According to Sports One Source:

REI said it would begin pulling polycarbonate bottles containing the chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, from its store shelves and stop selling them on line

“REI is in the process of removing all water bottles made with BPA from its store shelves," REI Public Affairs Director told The BOSS Report late Friday. "These bottles will also no longer be sold on or When the process is complete, we will offer only water bottles that have been made without BPA.”

Also, the April 18th Wall Street Journal article "Wal-Mart, Nalgene Move Away From Bisphenol A" states:

“...a few key dominoes fell this week: Canada moved toward declaring the chemical a dangerous substance, and a draft version of a U.S. government report said BPA might present risks.”

If you're among the many now looking for an alternative water bottle, read  “Building a Better Water Bottle: Aluminum, Steel, and No BPA” in the Gear Guide first to see some of your options before rushing out for that new bottle.

Right about now, I'm pretty happy to have my SIGGs .


Aaaarrrrrrgggghhhhh! I guess this means I have to replace my hunnert thowsen Lexan bottles! Between Barb and me, we have everything from half-liter and liter "classic" wide mouth, various sizes of narrow mouth, funny shaped ones ("special shape for good grip"), and many with logos (mostly freebees). How will I ever get a replacement for all my LNT-logoed Lexans?

Over the years, many of the liter bottles have been used for the old "fill with boiling water and put in the foot of your sleeping bag" trick to have a nice toasty sleeping bag at -40 degrees. This, we are told, triggers the increased release of BPA, even when the bottle has cooled down (just how much BPA is still in there in the ones I "boiled" 5 or 10 years ago and used for 20 or 30 nights a year plus many more days with cold liquids?).

Luckily, they all have the little recycle arrow triangles. But at $10/bottle or so, it's going to cost a pretty penny. Oh, yeah, with oil at $118 today, any plastic is gonna cost mucho.

Wonder ... can the BPA-laden bottles be recycled into non-BPA bottles? Hope so. It would be a pity (and high environmental footprint) for the plastic to be basically unrecyclable into non-usable product.

Oh, by the way, according to the WSJ article, it turns out that dental adhesives contain BPA, as well. That means just the stuff to hold dentures in place, right? Not the various adhesives the dentist uses when taking impressions and holding temporary things in place, right?

Here is my question: Is this danger real or has it been magnified by recent media exposure? Has anyone been diagnosed with cancer that was linked directly to using Nalgene bottles during a week of camping/backpacking several times a year?

Should we all rush out and throw away our Nalgene bottles and buy something different? Or, is this just sensationalism and a waste of money?

The draft US report states that the potential effect on humans is based on results obtain from "high" doses of bisphenol A beginning with amounts equal to or greater than 50 mg. Then it states that the "highest" estimated daily intake for children is less than 0.0147 mg and for adults less than 0.0015 mg.

Does anyone know how much, if any, BPA is leached from a bottle into a liter of water? Perhaps it is so low that you'd die of water intoxication before you ingested an unsafe level of the stuff.

I don't believe there is any way to link any specific case of cancer to the use of nalgene bottles or any other product containing BPA. However, the data seem overwhelming that there is a link between BPA and cancer and that use of the nalgene bottles may expose the user to BPA. That's good enough for me, and I'm glad I bought a couple of aluminum bottles; now I'll just have to wait for the reported link between aluminum and cancer (fear of Alzheimer's is so 90's).

If I continue to use my nalgene bottles, I certainly won't die tomorrow from BPA induced cancer, but I didn't quit smoking just to die from drinking water.

Here is some info found on the Nalgene website. It contains links to references and studies on BPA and Nalgene.

I notice that they describe their decision to phase out polycarbonate bottles as a "response to consumer demand." Although they mention BPA, they do not mention the several reports that have found evidence of adverse health effects. Nevertheless, despite their unwillingness to cite to negative studies, I applaud Nalgene for being out front and making a quick decision to stop production.

A new REI store is opening in Ann Arbor, Michigan, next week, and advertising a "special edition 32 ounce Nalgene water bottle" to the first 200 through the door. I'll be interested in seeing what they do about that.


My take on the negative reports is that they are on BPA in general and not Nalgene in particular. Nalgene's position seems to be that because of how they manufacture their bottles, even if their bottles leach BPA, it's at such a small level that it is inconsequential.

This whole "The BPA sky is falling" seems to be reactionary alarmism. However, I imagine Nalgene's customer base includes a lot of reactionary alarmists. :-) Thus, their decision to phase out the bottles are truly a response to consumer demand.

It is definitely more of a reaction to consumer demand rather than health risks, which is fine with me. Either way, I don't want to drink a leached chemical if I don't have to. With all the problems coming out of China, it should come as no surprise that people are not taking this lightly. The public is sick of hearing about possible health risks due to manufacturing and rightfully so. It's not like BPA just came out of nowhere. Another reason free market works.

Here’s my opinion…

There is more and more evidence that high levels of BPA are linked to health problems like reproductive issues, birth defects, cancer, and who knows what else.

BPA is obviously found in polycarbonate plastics, but it’s also found in numerous other things, such as the linings of canned food, like soup and infant formula (rather disturbing). So the BPA issues isn’t solely about how much your old Nalgene is leaching or not, but about the cumulative effects of exposure.

As stated in the US Draft report:


Bisphenol A can migrate into food from food and beverage containers with internal epoxy resin coatings and from consumer products made of polycarbonate plastic such as baby bottles, tableware, food containers, and water bottles. The degree to which bisphenol A migrates from polycarbonate containers into liquid appears to depend more on the temperature of the liquid than the age of the container, i.e., more migration with higher temperatures (

Also, there recently was a study on the heat issue using various Nalgenes:

So, do we know everything there is to know about BPA and polycarbonates? No.

Will you necessarily suffer any of these health problems from using a #7 Nalgene? That remains to be seen, but is it worth the risk?

Ultimately, you’ve got to make decisions based on the best info available to you at the time.

If you read the scientific info out there and decide the risk doesn’t concern you, then keep your old #7 Nalgene. No one’s going to come and take it away.

But, for me and my family, it’s not worth continuing to use polycarbonate plastic water bottles (or baby bottles and the like)—even if the risks are only potential—when there are plenty of apparently safer alternatives available. I think it’s most worrisome for infants, small children, and women of child-bearing age (and that describes all but one member of my immediate family), but it’s a valid concern for everyone. You’ve got to make your decisions based on the info you have.

It should be noted that Nalgene is not the only maker of polycarbonate water bottles, just the most popular. Nalgene also offers a number of non-BPA plastic water bottles.

I am curious to see if retailers or manufacturers will start offering some sort of trade-in incentive or not.

Wow...not having heard any of this or even was aware there was a scare of cancer, I bought a bunch of the REI bottles a week or so ago, now only to find out the real reason they were on sale. A sign or hint at the reason they were having a near blowout sale on all these bottles might have been nice. I wonder if I can return the 6-8 week old bottles. Guys its just a case of buyer beware....

Did anyone check the "sepcialized lining" that Sigg uses (taste inert baked enamel) is any better for us?

Well, that's a bummer about buying them on sale...

I know that SIGG's bottle lining is made from a water-based, non-toxic interior coating and the bottles have been independently tested to prove they are completely leach-free.

They say in their FAQ: "The SIGG liner is FDA approved and independently tested to be taste and scent inert – and resistant to any leaching (0.0%)."

You also can avoid the lining issue entirely by getting an unlined, stainless steel Klean Kanteen or Guyot Designs/Nalgene stainless steel bottle instead.

More BPA in the news yesterday.

From the New York Times, "A Hard Plastic Is Raising Hard Questions"

And USA Today did an opinion piece, "Our view on public health: 'Everywhere chemical' warrants more scrutiny"


I did not notice anyone claiming that the "sky is falling" regarding the use of Nalgene or any other polycarbonate vessels. People simply read the published reports and many have decided to eschew the use of polycarbonate water bottles, as is their right.

I don't know what you mean by "reactionary alarmists." I do know that it's easier to discount the views of others if you can affix a handy label to them; a "reactionary alarmist" does not sound like something I'd aspire to be.

Do you suggest that these risks not be studied, or once studied, not disclosed? Once disclosed, do you suggest that consumers simply ignore the reports and continue purchasing these items despite the potential risk? If so, why?

SoCal, REI has a very liberal return policy; I would not be surprised if they took the bottles back.

Alicia wrote, "But, for me and my family, it’s not worth continuing to use polycarbonate plastic water bottles (or baby bottles and the like)—even if the risks are only potential—when there are plenty of apparently safer alternatives available."

"Apparently safer" is probably the right way to describe them. I have been looking to replace my Nalgene bottles with Platy Bottles anyway due to weight, but I imagine in a few years something will come out about the dangers of polyethylene.

Here is an op-ed piece from Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace that appeared in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, Earth Day. In brief, he says that there is a lot of pseudoscience out there and unwarranted extrapolation of data far beyond its applicability. The problem is not with the science, rather with what people claim in the name of science to promote their cause -

Why I Left Greenpeace
April 22, 2008; Page A23

In 1971 an environmental and antiwar ethic was taking root in Canada, and I chose to participate. As I completed a Ph.D. in ecology, I combined my science background with the strong media skills of my colleagues. In keeping with our pacifist views, we started Greenpeace.

But I later learned that the environmental movement is not always guided by science. As we celebrate Earth Day today, this is a good lesson to keep in mind.

At first, many of the causes we championed, such as opposition to nuclear testing and protection of whales, stemmed from our scientific knowledge of nuclear physics and marine biology. But after six years as one of five directors of Greenpeace International, I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.

The breaking point was a Greenpeace decision to support a world-wide ban on chlorine. Science shows that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. And the majority of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry. Simply put, chlorine is essential for our health.

My former colleagues ignored science and supported the ban, forcing my departure. Despite science concluding no known health risks – and ample benefits – from chlorine in drinking water, Greenpeace and other environmental groups have opposed its use for more than 20 years.

Opposition to the use of chemicals such as chlorine is part of a broader hostility to the use of industrial chemicals. Rachel Carson's 1962 book, "Silent Spring," had a significant impact on many pioneers of the green movement. The book raised concerns, many rooted in science, about the risks and negative environmental impact associated with the overuse of chemicals. But the initial healthy skepticism hardened into a mindset that treats virtually all industrial use of chemicals with suspicion.

Sadly, Greenpeace has evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas. Its antichlorination campaign failed, only to be followed by a campaign against polyvinyl chloride.

Greenpeace now has a new target called phthalates (pronounced thal-ates). These are chemical compounds that make plastics flexible. They are found in everything from hospital equipment such as IV bags and tubes, to children's toys and shower curtains. They are among the most practical chemical compounds in existence.

Phthalates are the new bogeyman. These chemicals make easy targets since they are hard to understand and difficult to pronounce. Commonly used phthalates, such as diisononyl phthalate (DINP), have been used in everyday products for decades with no evidence of human harm. DINP is the primary plasticizer used in toys. It has been tested by multiple government and independent evaluators, and found to be safe.

Despite this, a political campaign that rejects science is pressuring companies and the public to reject the use of DINP. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us are switching to phthalate-free products to avoid public pressure.

It may be tempting to take this path of least resistance, but at what cost? None of the potential replacement chemicals have been tested and found safe to the degree that DINP has. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently cautioned, "If DINP is to be replaced in children's products . . . the potential risks of substitutes must be considered. Weaker or more brittle plastics might break and result in a choking hazard. Other plasticizers might not be as well studied as DINP."

The hysteria over DINP began in Europe and Israel, both of which instituted bans. Yet earlier this year, Israel realized the error of putting politics before science, and reinstated DINP.

The European Union banned the use of phthalates in toys prior to completion of a comprehensive risk assessment on DINP. That assessment ultimately concluded that the use of DINP in infant toys poses no measurable risk.

The antiphthalate activists are running a campaign of fear to implement their political agenda. They have seen success in California, with a state ban on the use of phthalates in infant products, and are pushing for a national ban. This fear campaign merely distracts the public from real environmental threats.

We all have a responsibility to be environmental stewards. But that stewardship requires that science, not political agendas, drive our public policy.

Mr. Moore, co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace, is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies.

At the risk of turning this thread into the type of philosophical discussion that gets members banned, let me just say that alerting people to the results of research does not necessarily constitute a "campaign of fear"; otherwise, any disclosure of potential risks could be unfairly labeled and ignored as a "campaign of fear." However, some people operate from the assumption that if they have information of possible health risks associated with a product, they have an ethical duty to disclose those risks. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I seriously doubt that people are distracted from "real environmental" threats by the BPA issue. Most can multi-task at least a little.

Moreover, it could be that Nalgene's deliberate steering of consumers to studies which conclude the products are safe, while ignoring the studies which conclude there may be risks, could be considered a "campaign of misdirection."

I'm no fan of pseudo-science; however, there is pseudo-science on both sides of many scientific issues. Witness the survey which reports that more than half of EPA scientists answering a survey reported they were pressured to alter or ignore their scientific findings, "especially among scientists involved in risk assessment and crafting regulations."

If you consider a desire to ban a potentially harmful product to be a "political agenda," I respond that political agendas have always driven public policy, and always will. One person's "political agenda" is another person's "public policy."

If Nalgene has found it more expedient to give in than to fight, good for them. Is our society any worse off because they switched to different plastics?

I don't want to turn Trailspace into a Poly Sci debate board, so I'll just shut up for a while.

It didn't take long...

"Nalgene sports bottle maker sued over toxic claims"

From the article: The lawsuit does not describe any physical ailment suffered by the plaintiffs and seeks unspecified damages.

What's the point of the lawsuit then? I could have been potentially harmed by your bottles even though no proof exists that I have been, yet I want $$$ ?


And for those who asked about the SIGG lining, I found this semi-answer on Treehugger:

"Are Sigg Aluminum Bottles BPA Free?"

It would be nice to have a definitive answer. Perhaps I shall buy a Klean Kanteen today.

Well, that's one way to use your economic stimulus check...

That will also stimulate the economy of China, where the Klean Kanteen is made. It may also promote the use of intentional cute mispellings.

In reference to the lawsuit:


It didn't take long...

I was thinking that it took about twice as long as I expected.

Luckily bpa-free bottles are springing up everywhere. I dig the's cheap but I just found another bottle at - it has a built in carabiner for your backpack.

Nalgene is coming out with BPA-free bottles, too. That's sweet.


...I just found another bottle at - it has a built in carabiner for your backpack.

Interesting idea, but it looks like when you depress the carabiner gate, the valve opens. That may allow foreign objects into the bottle, or cause the bottle to spill if you clip it to your pack at any angle other than straight up and down.

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