Water bottles have become an expensive designer item in recent years – witness the vast number of varieties that are available.
The simplest thing may be just to re-use old bottles from a supermarket. A few of my friends just use old water or juice bottles. These cost nothing and can sometimes cope with months of hard use. They can also be easily recycled when they do finally need to be disposed of.
One key issue in choosing a new bottle is based on considerations of personal health. The chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to make plastic rigid and is very common amongst outdoor bottles. It has been linked with health issues.
Scientific research has shown again and again that BPA is a known and proven endocrine disrupting chemical (a chemical that disturbs the hormone system). A 2007 scientific review linked exposure to BPA with an increased risk of cancer of the hematopoietic system (e.g. arrow, spleen, tonsils, and lymph nodes), a significant increase in cell tumours of the testes and an alteration of the number of chromosomes in some cells and tissues (potentially leading to mutations and ultimately cancer).[source: Friends of the Earth]
Additionally, early life exposure may induce or predispose humans to an increased risk of breast cancer. When exposure occurs during foetal or early childhood development, BPA may increase a person’s susceptibility to cancer by affecting their genetic developmental ‘programming’.
When choosing a rigid plastic drinking bottle, avoid plastics with recycling codes No. 3, 6 or 7 (or buy one marked ‘BPA free’)
• No.7 (other plastics) may contain Bisphenol A and are best avoided.
A growing number of companies are now offering a BPA free water bottle made from no 7 plastics (see below).
Additionally, take care and avoid PVC (no.3), as the possible residues (vinyl chloride) may also be harmful.
• PVC has negative environmental and health impacts during production, use and after disposal, for instance when waste is incinerated.
Avoid heating foods or drinks in plastic containers
Polycarbonate (the rigid plastic) bottles that do contain BPA have a 55 fold increase in leaching when filled with boiling water.
If you do use a bottle containing BPA, the key health advice seems to be not to leave water in the bottle for extended periods of time where the water will get heated up – for instance, in a parked car on a hot day. Under these circumstances, the BPA is more likely to become mobile and be released into the water. Change water regularly before drinking in these circumstances.
• Avoid heating all plastics, irrespective of their recycling numbers.
• If you need to store heated food or liquid in plastic containers (eg melted snow), wait until the food has cooled down before transferring it.
Plastic Code Quick Guide
No.3-PVC (Polyvinyl chloride)
No.6-PS (Poly Styrene)
No.7- PC (Poly Carbonate)
Probably Safe: 1,2,4,5
No.1-PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)
No.2-HDPE (High-density Polyethylene)
No.4-LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene)
Note: Number 7 is the general code for “other plastics” and may therefore include many sorts of plastics. When followed by the letter PC, it clearly indicates Polycarbonate plastics, which contains BPA and should therefore be avoided, unless marked as being BPA free.
Bisphenol A in plastics: does it make us sick? A consumer guide
Camelbak announced in 2008 that it has converted its entire line of polycarbonate re-usable water bottles to a new material that is 100% free of bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates.
Katmandu has a ‘home brand’ bottle that is BPA free.
MSR water bladders
Their products are BPA-Free, with food-grade polyurethane lining.
Nalgene has some bottles containing BPA although the company believes that their products are safe. There is a fair amount of detail on the topic available here. I would suggest that they have not been reading the science carefully enough.
Paddy Pallin has information on their website about BPA and offers BPA free bottles.
Snowgum has a range of bottles that are BPA free.
Information on stainless steel bottles is available here.