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Are Lexan Polycarbonate Water Bottles Safe to Reuse?

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Updated July 08, 2012

Question: Are Lexan Polycarbonate Water Bottles Safe to Reuse?
Scare articles are circulating that research has shown that Lexan (Plastic #7) and other clear polycarbonate water bottles and baby bottles leach toxic bisphenol A. Environmental sites claim this can cause cancer and even obesity. Is this true?
Answer:

The bulk of the research shows that Plastic #7 (Lexan, Nalgene and other polycarbonate) bottles do not leach bisphenol A in amounts proven to cause health concerns in humans.

Lexan bottles have been in use as water bottles, storage bottles and baby bottles for many years. The most recent concern stems from a small study of 12 mice, given low doses of bisphenol A dissolved in corn oil. This study findings were not replicated in studies of 600 mice, conducted with the design assistance of the original investigator, Frederick vom Saal, Ph.D., of the University of Missouri, Columbia. The follow-up studies were done at two different labs.

Does Bisphenol A Leach from Bottles?

Other studies subjected Lexan bottles to brutal conditions to see whether they would actually leach bisphenol A. The bulk of the research found that no to minimal leaching was produced, far below strict safety standards. You may worry that the standards are not strict enough, and any amount will end up harming you. In the case of baby bottles, I would encourage mothers to breast feed anyway as that provides many health benefits to the baby, although fears about the bottles are unproven and unjustified.

What Should You Do With Cracked Plastic Bottles?

Recycle them. Even if chemicals aren't leaching into the water, those cracks are havens for bacteria, mold, and just plain dirt. Food service standards are to discard anything that is chipped or cracked -- plates, mugs, glasses, bottles. You should do the same at home.

Are There BPA-Free Water Bottles?

Yes, many water bottles were never made with polycarbonate. And companies such as Nalgene have reformulated their plastic without BPA. Look for prominent labeling of BPA-Free on water bottles as a marketing tool.
Reviews of BPA-Free Water Bottles

Reusable Water Bottles are Better for the Environment

Disposable bottled water bottles and other drink containers are a poor use of the earth's resources, even if recycled. Using a sturdy, refillable water bottle is a great way for walkers to be thrifty and be kind to the earth.
Ways Walkers Can Be Kind to the Planet

Sources:

Studies of Bisphenol A Exposure in Mice:
vom Saal FS and others. A physiologically based approach to the study of bisphenol A and other estrogenic chemicals on the size of reproductive organs, daily sperm production, and behavior. Toxicology and Industrial Health 14:239-260, 1998.

Cagen SZ, Waechter JM Jr, Dimond SS, Breslin WJ, Butala JH, Jekat FW, Joiner RL, Shiotsuka RN, Veenstra GE, Harris LR. Normal reproductive organ development in Wistar rats exposed to bisphenol A in the drinking water..Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1999 Oct;30(2 Pt 1):130-9.

Studies of Leaching of Bisphenol A:
Mountfort KA, Kelly J, Jickells SM, Castle L. Investigations into the potential degradation of polycarbonate baby bottles during sterilization with consequent release of bisphenol A.. Food Addit Contam. 1997 Aug-Oct;14(6-7):737-40.

Onn Wong K, Woon Leo L, Leng Seah H. Dietary exposure assessment of infants to bisphenol A from the use of polycarbonate baby milk bottles. Food Addit Contam. 2005 Mar;22(3):280-8.

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