Bottle Shock

Manufacturers have stopped using BPA. But what exactly will you find in your water bottle?

BPA, the hardening component of polycarbonate (Lexan), has been the trendy environmental-concern buzzword. And while the jury is still out on the maligned component, there is enough worry to warrant serious concern about it. Since BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it can mimic the body’s own hormones, a slew of research by governmental, medical and academic bodies has been pointing to its possible harmful affects on humans—especially pregnant women, infants and young children for years. In response, outdoor industry manufacturers, have recently taken it upon themselves to eliminate BPA from products we all use—the most common being water bottles (though we still remain most susceptible to BPA through its near omnipresence in canned foods, beverages, and the like).

With BPA banished, we thought we should run down the materials you will now find in your water bottle.

Klean Kanteen’s insulated stainless steel bottle

Triton: The most common material replacing Lexan water bottles, Triton looks and performs like the polycarbonates it replaced. It’s clear, hard and possesses excellent “taste properties”. On the downside, Triton is classified as a #7, or “Other”, for recycling purposes.

Aluminum: Aluminum bottles are light, stylish and, when coated properly inside, are resistant to the corrosion. They are also easy to recycle. On the downside, aluminum bottles are easily dented and damaged.

Stainless Steel: Stainless bottle sales came on strong in recent years as a direct response to the BPA issue. Stainless steel is created when chromium (an essential trace mineral in our diets) is added to iron (also beneficial in our diet), producing an extremely hygienic material that is easy to keep clean.  Though heavier than most alternatives, stainless bottles are very durable, recyclable and great for uses as insulating vacuum bottles.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET): This thermoplastic polymer is found in soda pop and bottled-water bottles. Cheap, clear and endlessly recyclable, PET has never contained BPA. However, it is known to contain antimony, which is a toxin that can leach into foods and beverages, though it seems to do so only in amounts that are considered insignificant health-wise.

High Density Polyethylene (HDPE):
These are those classic, milky-white water bottles (with the oversized, easy-to-grip, knobby caps) that predated polycarbonate bottles. Still sold in considerable numbers, HDPE bottles are easy to recycle (#2 plastic). BPA-free, HDPE bottles do suffer from susceptibility to staining (iodine) and odor contamination.

Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE):
LDPE bottles are soft and squishy making them the bottles of choice for biking. Recyclable (#4 plastic).

Polypropylene: Polypropylenes are simple, well-understood, and safe plastics (so safe that they can be used in foods). They are easy to recycle (#5) and don’t retain taste and odor. “Clarified polypro” is just that: it’s made clear—as opposed to opaque—to mimic polycarbonates. GSI Outdoors uses polypro in its Dukjug line of bottles. •

Brian Litz is the author of Colorado Hut to Hut.

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