Steel Water Bottle
Water Bottle

Equipment: Water Bottles - Which Type is Safest?

Jim Ratcliffe for PE

In a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 93% of the human participants tested positive for bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate plastic (the plastic used in clear, hard water bottles) and of resins used for linings in cans.

BPA enters the human body by "leaching" into food and beverages from containers. Although exposure to BPA is usually at very low levels, health experts have expressed concern regarding the potential risks to humans.

Is BPA a Health Hazard?
BPA has been linked to endocrine damage and cancer in animals. Recent studies have demonstrated a potential risk to humans from exposure to 0.025 micrograms of BPA for every kilo of body weight; plastic bottles containing water at room temperature have been shown to leach up to 2 micrograms of BPA per liter.

Although more research is needed to determine the effects of BPA in humans, two prominent manufacturers, Nalgene and Patagonia, have stopped making polycarbonate bottles.

Current Choices
Manufacturers are now producing BPA-free plastic water bottles (these are opaque rather than transparent). Although safer than polycarbonate bottles, further research is needed on BPA-free plastics.

Here's a checklist of BPA-free bottles:

  1. PETE bottles (made with polyethylene terephthalate ethylene): used for bottled water and soft drinks, these are safe to use one time--don't refill them. They don't contain BPA, but with prolonged use they can leach other chemicals.
  2. Opaque, soft plastic bottles: these are BPA-free and safe to use. Be sure to hand-wash and rinse these
  3. Stainless-steel bottles: they're safe to scrub, safe to put in the dishwasher, and safe to drink from.

The Best Choice?
The bottom line? Although all of the above are safe when properly used, stainless-steel bottles are the best choice.

1. "A new focus on plastic ingredient in bottles and cans,", May 2008.
2. Christie Aschwanden, "Bottle Drama," Runner's World, September 2008.

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