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The Great Debate Over Plastic Water Bottles

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Plastic water bottles and their potential health risks are a hot topic in the news these days. How do you know if youíre at risk? Is it really something to be concerned about?

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that adults with the highest levels of BPA in their urine were more than twice as likely to report having diabetes or heart disease ó compared with adults with the lowest levels of the chemical in their urine. BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical thatís been found to leach from water bottles and plastic cans. Itís also found in baby bottles, tableware and food storage containers. Although there is no conclusive evidence that links BPA to health problems, studies have produced conflicting results.

This new study does not prove a cause and effect between use of plastic food containers and the development of diabetes or heart disease, even though it does bring up the possibility of new health risks. The studyís authors say more follow-up research is necessary to see if the same results can be duplicated.

To minimize exposure to BPA, avoid microwaving plastic containers or washing them in the dishwasher with harsh detergents. High heat and harsh cleansers can deteriorate the plastic and release BPA. Many people also avoid water bottles with the number 7 on the bottom, since those are known to contain small amounts of the chemical.

The FDA discussed the findings last week at a meeting of their science advisory board. Their conclusion is that the margin of safety for this chemical is adequate, and itís safe to continue its use.

Do you trust the FDAís assessment? Have you discontinued the use of any products that you know contain BPA? What are your feelings on this topic?

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From Chickiepu:
"I've carried a water bottle for YEARS - first the toxic Nalgene bottles, then the BPA-lined Sigg bottles, and finally a stainless steel bottle. I replace that bottle when I lose it, which averages 1 - 2 times per year. "

CRAP!! I was just shopping for a SIGG bottle - haven't bought one yet - they're BPA lined? :(
I can't do stainless steel - I'm allergic to metal and sensitive to the taste. I just WON'T drink it from a purely metal container. What to do, what to do? Report
I've carried a water bottle for YEARS - first the toxic Nalgene bottles, then the BPA-lined Sigg bottles, and finally a stainless steel bottle. I replace that bottle when I lose it, which averages 1 - 2 times per year.

I've been phasing out plastics for a couple of years now. Two years ago, a pre-op blood test showed I had abnormally high levels of estrogen, and not the good kind. I have packed my lunch for ages and I used to haul that lunch around in a plastic container (and then I'd microwave my food in that same container). I now store my food in glass (Weck jars, while pricey, are all glass and natural rubber - no plastic coating whatsoever), transport my lunches in glass, eat off a ceramic plate in the office with real silverware... for me, it's worth the little bit of hassle to know I'm putting my food in something as non-reactive as it gets. Report
In the great scheme of things there are plenty of things to worry about. I consider BPA to be pretty small potatoes (if any) compared to, say, climate change, the gulf oil spill, or the increase in GMOs where I think there haven't been nearly enough studies and research.

The Canadian government made a big deal a few years ago to ban baby bottles that may contain BPA. They didn't ban it for adult use, and even when they banned baby bottles they didn't consider that the lining of formula cans also contains BPA. It was just a big political PR exercise. Report
Thanks for the update on BPA and I definitely agree with others that we need to watch for as many independent studies on its affects as we can. In the meantime, I LOVE my 2 BPA-free Camelbak water bottles with the nozzle straws built in and just alternate 1 to drink from with one in the frig! I'm going to have to work on getting old plastic storage containers out of my house (esp. really old Tupperware ones that I'm sure have been put in the microwave too many times) and replace them with glass! Much purging of plastics is needed at my homestead!
What the heck is wrong with us that we feel entitled to have and use all this "STUFF" ??? I use canning jars to transport/store/heat/serve for I bring to work for lunch or for left-overs at home. I have a glass at work I drink from and I bought a stainless steel water bottle I re-use to carry with me. There should be no issue on giving up the stupid plastic bottles. One a day, one a week, even one a year is WAY TOO MUCH. Look at what all this garbage is doing in the Pacific, to our beaches, to our parks and rives. It is disgusting how we humans damage and soil our own nests. Let us all take some responsibility for our partin this debacle. Report
I havn't totally given up all my food containers but I have gotten a reusable metal bottle. It's hard to change when you don't have the extra money avalible yet. I would like to chance all my plastic tuberware into safer contanrs Report
I use one plastic bottle a day. I take one cold bottle water out of the fridge in the morning and then refill it all day. At the end of the day I throw it way and start a new bottle the next day. Report
I try to avoid using plastic if I can, more for an environmentally-friendly reason than health. However, all of my tupperware is plastic because it is easier to microwave. I'll continue using it until they have more conclusive evidence of the risk. Report
I don't know if it is BPA or what, but I can frequently taste the plastic. Usually in bottled water, but sometimes in other food products. I have a water pitcher with filter. And I never microwave in plastics (no matter what the manufacturer says), including ziploc baggies.

Besides, eating/drinking from glass just makes me feel decadent (less "trailer-trashy"). Smiles Report
In January, 2010, the government changed its response to BPA and said they now have "some concern" with BPA in materials. They are asking the FDA to investigate, see:
I think there is room for debate; however, if there is even a possibility that BPA is bad for you, why not switch?

I switched to stainless steel water bottles about 2 1/2 years ago, before the debate over BPA was regular news. I made the switch simply because I was trying to do better things for me (save $$ on water bottles) and the environment (save water bottles from trash and recycling). Even though I reused my water bottles for weeks, even months, the taste of the water (even filtered water) was quickly effected, especially if the bottle became warm or hot at all from sun.

Water from stainless steel tastes better. period.

I bought baby bottles that are BPA free, food containers that are BPA free or glass. I try to heat food up in a regular bowl or plate rather than the container it was refrigerated in. I use only non-toxic, non-chemical cleaners in my house, including dish soap and dishwasher detergent.

If you have a choice to do something that could potentially be better for you, your family and ultimately the environment--why wouldn't you? I think that is the real question.

As to whether or not I trust the FDA, well, many people say I am too young to be cynical, but I have yet to trust our government about or with anything... I am not going to start with their "take" on BPA, especially when LOTS of big chemical companies NEED BPA to be safe. Report
I have stopped using plastic whenever possible. I recently read that BPA was originally engineered to be a replacement for estrogen for medical the 1940's I think. When it was discovered to be a cheap plastic, they started using it to store food. The EPA says it is OK for food use, but has not studied it in the high capacity exposure we typically get.

I have been slowly replacing my plastic containers with glass and pyrex. When I store I make sure there is enough room on the top to not touch the plastic lid. I always wash the lids by hand. I am still using some Tupperware because I still need them. Can't afford to switch all at once.

I usually drink my water out of a glass because I'm a SAHM, but will have to find a travel cup that I'm happy with soon. I wish they made insulated stainless bottles. I hate when my water gets heated up. Report
I f I can make a simple change toward improving my chance of staying healthy without living in fear or stress, I do that. So for now, I eat storebought frozen meals out of their plastic containers, but when I cook for myself, I freeze the leftovers in flat, 3-cup Pyrex rectangular containers, and I always reheat any food in Pyrex. As far as water: I have my own well, but I am now driving several miles once a week to pick up filtered alkaline Kangen water from a friend who has the machine that produces it. I transport the water in plastic jugs but transfer it to glass and stainless steel once I get it home. I use this water for all drinking whenever I can, but when I can't, I don't obsess about it. I drink from glass or stainless steel when I am home, and when I drive anywhere, I always take water in glass bottles. (One of those plastic carryalls with deep compartments that are made for carrying around cleaning supplies works great in the car to hold water bottles.) Report
If there is room for debate, then there is room for concern. I have stopped using plastic in all ways possible. There is no reason to use it when there are several other options now like metal water bottles that you can find anywhere. There are also metal and ceramic travel coffee mugs you can buy at places like Starbucks. I have not found a way to take care of left-overs without plastic yet, but I am working on it. Report
I do not use water bottles over like I used to. Instead bought new BPA free plastic and metal reusable bottles. Report
I trust the FDA. For me, to believe they are out to get me or anyone else, is immature. If there is not evidence to show it unsafe, let's not invent the evidence. Report
I don't reuse my water bottles like I used to because I didn't know reusing them was harmful to us until I began reading reports about it. I thought it was a good way to always have water with me. I will not be using many plastic containers in the microwave or diswasher anymore either.
I thinks it's disgraceful that these so-called agencies that are supposed to be safeguarding our health are allowing such bad chemicals to be used in consumer products. Do any of them really care about us? Report
We have completely eliminated using plastic products in our house. I threw out all of our Rubbermaid containers and replaced them with Pyrex. You know how plastic food storage containers get that funky color and texture after you've used them for awhile? Well, that's because when you heat things in them, the chemicals in the plastic leach into your food. Yuck! We got rid of our Nalgene bottles and replaced them with stainless steel waterbottles. We still have some plastic freezer bags, but we NEVER store food in plastic if we're going to reheat it later. Why take the chance? Report
Even though I don't completely think plastic is unsafe, I would rather err on the side of being safety. I used to buy bottled water and then re-use the bottles for a month or so. Now I bought a bunch of Klean Kanteens and use those. I tried Sigg as well, but once I found the trick to getting rid of the slight metallic aftertaste of the Kanteens I prefer them.
Plus it feels good not to create more plastic waste, even if it's just a small amount. Report
Well, I'll definitely consider it when buying things now. I've always preferred glass over plastic, but it's not safely portable. Those metal water cans (and pyrex containers) are looking more attractive now. Report
It makes sense on so many levels to try to reduce the amount of water we drink from water bottles. I try to re-fill my BPA bottle when possible, but it's not always realistic. I've definitely saved money by not buying as many cases of water, and I'd like to think that I've helped to reduce the volume of waste in land fills. Let's face it, even though we try to recycle, sometimes when we're out, it's just easier to throw a bottle in a trash can. Report
Your blog says to stay away from plastic bottles that are a #7. I recently bought a bottle that is a #7, but it said BPA-free on the packaging. Is this ok?! Report
I mildly trust the FDA. But why risk the possibility that drinking water can harm you?! You buy bottled water because of the nasty things that can be found in tap water... why risk the nasty things that can be found in your bottles? Not to mention the incredible waste of plastic water bottles because some of them cannot be recycled, and when you are out and about and the water bottle is empty... how many recycling cans have you seen on the street next to trash cans? I bought Klean Kanteens for my entire family, down to sippy cups for the kids. We use the filtered water from our fridge. I also have 2 BPA free camel bak bladders for when we need the convenience of water in a backpack or fannypack.

To me, it isn't just about whether or not the FDA and goverernment are lying to us about the possible health risks of BPA, but about protecting the most important natural resource we have... the earth. If it gets too sick to recover...whether or not BPA can cause disease really won't matter much. Report
I barely trust the FDA. I bought CamelBak BPA free bottles because I was tired of spending money on ordinary bottled water. I reused those bottles (which is frowned upon by the "experts") to reduce waste, but it was still costing money and causing some waste. I figure everyone would be better off with reusable and safe bottles and containers. Report
The FDA is the biggest joke ever played on the American people! The FDA also thinks it's OK to put a mercury preservative in the flu vaccine and give it, not only to healthy adults, but to young children and the elderly. When the FDA wants to convince us something is OK, oftentimes they simply say there's no evidence to show it's harmful. What the should say is they've never studied it and never intend to study it because the drug companies won't pay for a study. I could go on and on. Bottom line....if the FDA says something is harmless, be wary. Report
If you're completely relying on the FDA to protect you, you might want to read "The Secret History of the War on Cancer" by epidemiologist Devra Davis. Report
I have a refillable, cleanable water bottle. We do still buy water in bottles...convenience. This is hard to know who to trust? Report
i tossed the hard plastic water bottles and bought aluminum. nalgene now sells pba free plastc bottles. i've been trying to convince friends and family to switch. i don't think the fda is trustworthy. they have doctors that accept money from the drug companies whose meds they're reviewing. now the fda agrees with the studies that pba is harmfull. Report
I started buying bottled water because my husband said he didn't like the taste of the tap water. Now 8-9 years later it is a habit I think more than anything. He tries to tell me he can taste the tapwater in his oatmeal. Yeah you guessed it he has lost his mind I believe. Then I read about tap water being more regulated than bottled water and decided I was going back to tap water but still continue to buy bottled water out of habit. The plastic issue has made me go back to glass for my kitchen items. I recycle every little piece of plastic I come across. I will eventually get the bottled water out of my house. I don't think my husband can tell the difference. Report
I took all of my Nalgene water bottles (pre- BPA scare) to REI and they gave me cash for them! You just have to get on their case about it, and they'll give in. With the money I got back, I bought myself a BPA-free Camelback water bottle with a nozzle straw, and it's AMAZING. I drink so much more water in my classes and during the day, just because of that straw. Isn't that weird? Report
I use canning jars or are they mason jars? They come in all sizes with lids, I put everything in them from water to pasta. They wash well, are inexpensive, and glass. Report
Well my thought is if we at least use a reusable water bottle there will be less in the landfills...still researching.. honestly the best I do not know? Report
I use a Sigg, too, that I bought a couple of years ago. Recently someone told me it was line with plastic, now I read on this blog that it's lined with procelain. I wonder which is true.

Even if the plastic is pretty safe, I don't want to add to land fill. Report
I switched from my Nalgene #7 bottle to a Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel water bottle. So far I like that I changed over, except you get a plastic lid with the steel water bottle to start with. You can purchase a stainless top, however, Which I will do once my Plastic one wears out. One reason I have liked the change is that It actually keeps my water cooler, even being in a warm car. Another reason I like it is that it is not plastic, I am trying to stop with my plastic waste as much as possible. There is way too much of it, I wish manufactures still sold me my products in Glass. Report
buy a SIGG! i have one and i take it everywhere with me! my husband is overseas i sent him one too and he loves it! they are fantastic! / Report
It's not a hoax -- snopes was dealing with a different issue (dioxin in plastic water bottles), but their information about BPA is out of date.

This is the link on snopes website to the Johns Hopkins Q&A about BPA:

As you can see, single-use bottles rarely contain BPA -- it's the heavier plastic reusable bottles that contain it. Report
Absolutely right. I snoped is a couple of years ago when the plastic panic went around and this is not true.

If you check out snopes, it shows it is all false.. Report
I only buy bottled water when I'm incredibly thirsty and have no other way to get water. I am lucky to live in a place where the tap water tastes fine to me (from the blessed Edwards Aquifer). However, I reuse every bottle I get several times. I'd never just throw them away, and even recycling them uses energy and emits toxins into our environment. The only solution seems to be even more careful about bringing home waste from the store.
I know we can't avoid all of the possible dangers in this life, but some changes we make for ourselves can affect the greater good. Report
Whether the study proves to be true or not, I think it is pretty easy to switch to microwaving in glass containers and I wish people would stop using bottled water for other environmental reasons anyway! Report
According to the NPR report, this is what the study found:

Though it brings up new possible human health risks, the study, which is being discussed today at a meeting of the Food and Drug Administration's science advisory board, offers no conclusive answers. It does not prove a cause and effect between use of plastic food containers and the development of diabetes or heart disease.

"We don't have a lot of evidence in people about the effects of BPA. This is one of the first studies, and it finds something disturbing. It's suggesting there may be harm in adults, which we didn't really believe based on the animal studies," says David Schardt, a staff scientist with the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

I agree with others who say that, if there is a concern, stop reusing or using those plastics. I also agree that due to modernization and progress we now are exposed to a lot of things that have adverse affects on our bodies. The flip side to that coin is that people are living much longer today due to the advances in modern medicine.

Until there is a definite link between certain health problems and using plastic, I will continue to use my bottled water. I might go back to using glassware for reheating in the microwave. I never cook anything in plastic, but that isn't because I am afraid that it isn't healthy. It's just a matter of convenience for me. Report
Plastic contamination vs. water contamination. I can either choose BPA and phthalates behind door number one, or chlorine and fluoride behind door number two. I'll take my chances with non-#7, only used once plastic. Or, better yet, Voss still water comes in a glass vessel. Report
At first, I didn't believe any of the stories going 'round about re-using plastic bottles. But I finally decided to switch to glass bottles for re-use. I didn't know about the #7 products until reading this article.
I don't distrust FDA. It's just that I am older now and am a cancer survivor. I had so many chemo and radiation treatments that I know my immune system is not the best. So I decided to be cautious about plastics.
Thanks so much for this information! Report
I use alot of plastic products. Tupperware is a safe plastic I have been told. They only have BPA in some of the hard micro safe products. I have stopped drinking from my Spark # 7 bottle. Have read the column from Dr. on water bottles. Scared me from using any # 7 products for now. Have not replaced my water bottle yet. I may just use a glass one even if there is a chance of it breaking.
Cancer rates are sky rocketing and even our pets are getting cancer! Something is going on. I believe it does have something to do with all the chemicals we ingest. I won't heat anything in plastic in the microwave. It doesn't take any extra effort to put something in glass. I think we rely on plastic too much. I think it's impossible to get all checmicals out of our lives but I think the more you can stop using the better. Report
well, it would make sense that they're related. I wouldn't be surprised by any study that links, to some unknown (inconclusive) degree, the people eating the more processed foods (it says it's not just water bottles but all plastic packaging and cans) to health problems like heart disease and diabetes. I'm still going to drink my water (no 7 on my bottle anyway) and use plastic because I still think it comes out healthier to make my own lunch and heat it than to buy lunch out (or eat something canned, which is still probably going to be heated in some sort of tupperware anyway!)... Report
I will continue to use plastic - but won't put it in the microwave. I have had a britta water pitcher and use it constantly. I buy bottled water for the convenience but they last a loooong time as I refill them - until they get old and I get rid of it. When I am out of water bottles I buy a new 12 pack. I don't buy filtered or purified - only spring water - tastes better. Report
Seems like another thing to worry us. As for the baby bottles I take comfort in the fact I nursed both of my children for 6-7 months so that cut down on their exposure. My sister-in-law was telling me that Babies r Us will take in #7 bottles and let you get new ones w/o the 7. Not sure if it's a specific brand or not, but if you use bottles then it would be worth checking out. Oh, I just looked at my Nalgene bottle and it has a 7. I've had it for this long . . . Report
I've been hit with an estrogen sensitive uterine cancer and diabetes all in the same year. I'm buying a Sigg bottle. Sigg is aluminum and lined with porcelain enamel. I trust that since it isn't a modern chemical base. Report
Head over to and search for the word BPA. There you can see what real scientists think of the FDA's statements about BPA.

Correlation does not equal causation, as another poster pointed out. Still, many of the ladies and gentlemen on don't think the FDA is looking at the right data in regards to BPAs and question the FDA's assertion that BPAs aren't harmful.

Personally, I'm not making any major changes in my life, but I will if more research shows a more direct link between certain diseases and BPAs, but I certainly wouldn't buy baby bottles with BPA in them -- that precaution is pretty much universally agreed upon.

BPA is actually more common in canned foods (from the sealant), so even if you ditch the water bottle, you'd have to eliminate all canned foods from your diet to eliminate any actual risk. Report
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