Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bye-Bye, BPA

BPA/ Phthalate-Free Shopping List

Part One: Drinking Bottles

It’s hot! Time to hydrate. And while you’re at it, every time you refill a reusable water bottle, rather than buy disposables, you’re helping the Earth’s health, too. If all Americans did so, we’d save the estimated 16 million barrels of oil used to make the bottled-water containers we bought last year. This from the August Harper’s Index, (, which also notes that twice as much water was used to make the containers as was drunk from them.

Choose the right reusable bottle, and you won’t get bit by the chemicals that can leach from some plastics in these sizzling dog days.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) has been found to cause developmental harm in animals, and there’s preliminary evidence of reproductive harm in women. And, while a family of plasticizers known as phthalates has long been linked to cancer and hormone disruption in lab animals, studies in 2005 and 2006 show some connection to genital abnormalities and lower testosterone in infant boys. This inspired a worried phone call from my brother Ethan Won, father of three young boys, ages 5 months, 4 and 6 years. “I’ve been hearing about all these chemicals coming out of plastics. Some plastics smell really bad, especially in the heat,” says Ethan, who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii. “And what about when we warm the baby’s bottle?”

A good question, as many clear plastic baby bottles, along with some of those pretty Nalgene Lexan bottles in transparent jellybean colors, are made of polycarbonate (recycling code #7) plastic, which has been found to leach BPA when heated, worn or scratched. “We always want kids’ products to be safe in any way they’re used,” says Sonya Lunder, M.D., a scientist with the Environmental Working Group (, which encourages consumers to seek alternatives to polycarbonate bottles, especially for babies and children.As Greenerpenny reader Bridget Collins writes,“I am very interested in shopping for products that do not contain BPAs. My kids are active and use water bottles several times a day!”

While it doesn’t accumulate in our bodies,“with BPA detected in about 95% of people in a recent CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control] test, we can assume that most of the American population has daily exposure,” Lunder says. These chemicals may also play a role in the development of obesity and diabetes, according to a 2006 Spanish study of BPA and a March, 2007 article on phthalates in Environmental Health Perspectives. Even if fat is “contagious,” as raised by a study in the New England Journal of Medicine last week, it’s far less extreme to drop risky plastics than an overweight friend.

Below are the safest, greenest and most affordable reusable bottles we could find. Pennypinchers, rejoice: In addition to keeping disposables out of landfills, and conserving the tons of carbon dioxide otherwise released in shipping, bypassing bottled water can save each of us about $1,400 a year, by the estimate of New York City officials.
Top Pick: Stainless Steel
Go plastic- and petrochemical- free with 100% stainless steel, the most recycled metal.

Perfect for kids or those of us who feel oppressed by heavy totes, Klean Kanteen’s lightweight, 12 oz volume stainless bottles are the same size as soda cans; caps have a stainless interior and non-leaching polypropylene (#5) top. From $13.95 to $22.95 for a 40-ouncer. For better totability, order a loop cap with a hole in it, or neoprene insulating sling or sleeve that snaps around pack straps, bike or stroller bars. At

Slightly cheaper stainless bottles are $11.95 for 27 oz or $19.95 for 40 oz from,/ which also sells Klean Kanteens.

Thermos 18 oz. stainless steel Hydration Bottle with stainless interior and exterior vacuum insulation walls; $17 at; insulated sleeves also sold.

Preferable Plastics

You can identify better plastics by the recycling code numbers stamped in them. Look for reusable bottles made of:
#2 (HDPE, high-density polyethylene, the most widely recyclable)
#4 (LDPE, low-density polyethylene) or
#5 (PP, polypropylene).
These plastics have not been found to release BPA or phthalates.

On the other hand, most single-use water bottles are made of #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE). These bottles, if old, reused or heated, may release two phthalates: Di(2-ethylhexyl adipate), or DEHA, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), which are possible human carcinogens, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And, although this plastic is easily recyclable, about 90% of the PET water bottles sold each year wind up in landfills. After all, they’re made to be tossed!

Top Plastic Picks:

Nalgene HDPE #2 Loop-Top Bottle, 16 oz, $4.99,

Tupperware for Keeps:

For Kids: Tupperware’s polypropylene #5 bottles include colorful Thirstbreak Tumblers with straps, 14 oz, $13.50, or 32 oz On-the-Go version for $13, featuring Tinkerbell; an On-the-Go featuring Shrek, for $13.50.

Ideal for picnics or back-to-school: #5 lunch sets of sealed tumbler and sandwich box feature the Little Mermaid, Dora the Explorer and Diego, $16.
For Babies: Pooh meal set with sealable sippy cup, bowl and snack cup, $17.
For Commuters: 24-oz insulated (double-wall) Tumbler with Drip-less Straw Seal, $19.95, or Commuter Mug with swivel-open sipper cap, 16 oz., $18.50.
All at

Easiest to Grab and Go: Rubbermaid’s Polypropylene #5 Chug Sports Bottle, about $3.99 for 20 oz size, widely sold at supermarkets, drugs and home improvement stores or or

Sigg Aluminum Bottles

No doubt about it, these lined aluminum bottles are light, beautiful and strong. And doubts about possible BPA leaching from Sigg’s patented epoxy linings have been laid to rest by tests commissioned by the company in May, 2007. After water was heated in the bottles for 3 days, no detectable residues of BPA were found, and EWG, as of this writing, has agreed to remove from its website its warnings about Sigg.

Available in 4 colors, the .6 liter Traveler Classic is $18, and .3 liter Travelers or children’s bottles picturing friendly mammals, dinosaurs, vehicles and the sun, are $15.95, with some NOW ON SALE for $10.95; patterned .4 liter kids’ versions cost $17.95, all at

Given the environmental ravages caused by the mining of bauxite for aluminum, however, and the 75% more energy consumed in the production of aluminum, according to the Worldwatch Institute, from raw materials as opposed to recycled metal, reusable bottles could be a lot greener if they were made from post-consumer-recycled stock.

BPA-free Baby Bottles


Evenflo Glass Baby Bottles, 4 or 8 oz., three for $8 at
made of opaque colored #4 LDPE

Bornfree Glass Baby Bottles, 9 oz, two for $19.99 or four for $37.99 at

Non-Polycarbonate Plastic

Medela breastmilk storage and feeding set, white #5 PP, four bottles, $18.99 at

Gerber Fashion Tints, #5 PP in opaque colors, 9 oz, three-pack for $4.99 at

Bornfree Polyamide (PA) plastic baby bottles, 9 oz, six for $57.99, eight for $77.99, both sets include nipples and a free trainer cup,

Bottle Brushes

Tip: In a pinch, you can always use a chopstick, tip of a long-handled spoon or a twig to work in a sponge, dish cloth–or the hem of your t-shirt.

Twister baby bottle brush with soft, non-scratching sponge, $10 at

Natural coir (coconut fiber) brush on a long wooden handle, best for glass or unlined stainless (might scratch plastic or epoxy linings); $2.95 at

Classic Baby Bottle & Nipple Brush Set from Evenflo, $1.98 at

Coming Next: List #2, Food Storage

Please share this info with interested friends, and send them to




Quez45 said...

Do you have a link to the Web site that talks about the tests commissioned by Sigg in May, 2007?

GreenFemme said...

Good question! I don't think it's on any websites. We contacted Sigg directly and got a copy of the May study. Are you on my email list? I'll send the summary in the body of an email.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for all of this information. I've really needed this. Thank you!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi. Just wanted to thank you for your good, concise, informative article. I wanted to find out just which sorts of plastic pose greater risks for leaching phthalates and etc., but it was harder than it should have been to find that information quickly elsewhere on the Web. Now I can go check the large water bottles in our office and see which number of plastic they are.

Anonymous said...

Another note--maybe everybody knows this already, and I recall having heard or read information about it some years back, but I'd forgotten. Anyway, our big Arrowhead and Sparkletts water bottles for the office cooler are #7 plastic, and #7 plastic is bad for leaching BPA. There are enough bad reports about #7 circulating that it appears to be another sort of plastic to avoid if possible. Or at least I intend to do so.

Anonymous said...

There is another polypropylene bottle not mentioned above.
The Soma Crystal Polypropylene (#5) Bottle is squeezable and fits in a bike bottle cage. 20 oz size and imparts no plastic taste.
Costs between 6.99 and 7.99 depending what store you go.

Anonymous said...

I was just wondering why you didn't suggest glass for tupperware (like pyrex) or glass containers for water? Is there BPA in glass too?

Anonymous said...

I find it quite hypocritical that people read the report commissioned by Sigg, but refuse to read any report on BPA from any source anywhere remotely close to the plastic industry...

I'm not surprised at all that the SIGG COMMISSIONED report found that the SIGG BOTTLES ARE SAFE and ALL OTHERS TESTED are not....

That doesn't throw up ANY red flags? Seriously now. If that lays your fears to rest, you honestly need to read through and lay your fears to rest about the "dreaded" #7.

Nalgene is one of the most responsible manufacturers of plastic...they manufacture IN the US (klean kanteen? china. Camelbak? Who knows, somewhere in malaysia - they don't disclose it), so not only are the way more environmentally and politically friendly, they aren't burning up tons of fossil fuels to get the bottles to you!

I can't believe that it is the GREEN and environmental crowd that is out to get nalgene - nalgene has always stood for "going green" and saving the environment.

Anonymous said...

What about BPA in the microwavable Tupperware and other "lunch" type containers. Is Tupperware or Glad going to provide safe replacements to consumers or refund their money? Tupperware has built

MikeK said...

My Glad containers I use for lunch say they're #5 so they don't have it. According to wikipedia it's #3 and #7.

Anonymous said...

Yes, #5 is polypropylene. It is not made with BPA.

Though even though it doesn't have BPA, I would stop using these containers once they show excess wear/breakdown from microwaving and use.

I am a fan of the Gladware and the Soma water bottle.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ryan said...

Thanks for the good article. I saw that you mentioned glass for baby bottles, but why not for adults. Glass is a great drinking bottle. It is non reactive and clear so you know just what you are getting. Check out a great one at . It is probably the safest option when it comes to food and beverage storage. Check it out!!

greenerpenny said...

Thanks, Ryan! I'll add the glass bottle to my list.

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olly said...

there seems to be a little bit of discrepancy here.. in particular the reference to Polyethylene terephthalate (resin identification code #1)
Joe Schwarcz states "There is no evidence that any plastic is unsafe, but theoretical concerns have been raised about chemicals leaching out of plastic containers. These concerns revolve around bisphenol A, phthalates and styrene. Polyethylene, (#2 and 4) and polypropylene (#5) AND PET (#1) do not leach any of these and are the best choice for anyone who is concerned"

ref -

Victoria said...

I found a bottle at target thats stainless steel and polypropylene cap...five dollars. Embark brand

Logan J. Skew said...

Hey!! nice info on BPA..its really good to know all of this..

Reusable Containers