Wednesday, November 26, 2008,1:35:00 AM
What is Bisphenol A?
In the last several years, new scientific research on polycarbonate and other plastics has raised public concern about exposure to the chemical Bispehnol A (BPA) when using bottles made of such materials. While the exact toxicity of Bisphenol A is still subject to debate, many people have begun looking for alternatives. This article introduces Bisphenol A, the toxicity debate, and provides links to BPA-free bottle retailers and more information.

What is Bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A is a chemical used for the production of industrial epoxies, polycarbonate plastics, fungicides, flame-retardants, antioxidants, and other products. In the last few years, concerns about this chemical leaching into our food supply through canned goods and plastic containers have increased as scientists have begun linking BPA to serious health risks.

In the body, BPA functions as an estrogen receptor agonist, which means that it mimics estrogen. In high doses, this chemical causes a myriad of negative health effects to lab animals. These effects include a higher occurrence of breast cancer, miscarriages due to aneuploidy, pre-cancerous prostate lesions, insulin resistance, and behavioral changes.1 Many scientists now link BPA consumption by humans to health risks like breast cancer, fertility problems, and behavior problems.2

Our Dailey Dose: Toxic or Tame?
Few dispute that bisphenol is inherently toxic to humans. However, the EPA, FDA, plastics manufacturing industry, and producers of plastic goods assure us that the amount of BPA the average individual consumes daily is far lower than the levels known to negatively affect humans.3 Even so, that did not stop San Francisco from banning the sale of baby bottles containing bpa in December 2006,4 or deter Canada's Department of Health from rejecting retailers' claims that bpa is completely safe for use and initiating an effort to conduct further BPA research. Currently, new legislation has been introduced in nine states that would limit the use of BPA in plastic containers.5

This level of public concern has even affected retailers, prompting Patagonia, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Whole Foods Markets, and others to take BPA-containing plastic containers off of the shelf.6

It is clear that BPA exposure can pose health risks to humans, but should we be worried enough to change our consumption habits? Unfortunately for us, there is an abundance of websites that convincingly dispute the same scientific research.

For instance,, which is run by the American Chemistry Council argues that the safety of polycarbonate plastics (the polymer that has received the most negative press on BPA leaching) "has been supported by numerous science-based safety evaluations of Bisphenol A that have been conducted by independent government and scientific bodies worldwide." In stark contrast, the Environmental Working Group (, a public health watchdog and lobbyist group states, "more than 100 peer-reviewed studies have found BPA to be toxic at low doses, some similar to those found in people."

The Search for Alternatives
While the controversy rallies on, we will not likely know the true amount of bpa that we consume daily or the exact effects it has on us. In the meantime, many people have searched out containers made of alternative materials such as stainless steel, glass, or BPA-free plastics.

Luckily, alternatives are not difficult to find. The drive in demand for alternative materials has caused a new non-BPA industry to emerge. Plastic bottle makers, baby gear manufacturers, container companies, and others are eyeing alternative materials for their products while businesses specializing in the sale of safe alternatives are springing up all over the Internet.

It is now relatively easy to find baby bottles and water bottles that are made from non-BPA plastics and other alternative materials.

Reusable Water Bottles
In recent years, reusable water bottles have become ubiquitous at school, fitness centers, work, and home. Of these bottles, the vast majority is still made from polycarbonate plastic. Why is that?

Polycarbonate is inexpensive, durable, and lends itself to rigorous manufacturing processes.These qualities and its aesthetic appeal made it the material of choice for most big name bottle companies, including Nalgene, Camelbak, and Rubbermaid. This is unfortunate as, according to research, polycarbonate is the biggest offender when it comes to the leaching of Bisphenol A.

While there have always been a relatively small number of bottles made with alternative materials, they have, for the most part, used plastics that weren't as durable or attractive as polycarbonate. The high costs of plastics with characteristics similar to polycarbonate have kept manufacturers from developing bottles with these materials.

All of that is changing.

Now, word of potential risks associated with BPA is spreading and demand for high-quality alternative plastics is growing, thus increasing the profitability of using them.

It is worth noting that the use of aluminum and stainless steel water bottles has increased, with companies like Sigg and Kleen marketing on the dangers of BPA exposure. However, many people have reservations about drinking out of metal containers and still prefer safe, plastic alternatives.

It is now possible to find water bottles that are just as durable and attractive as polycarbonate bottles but are made of 100% BPA-free materials.

Though the prices of these bottles remain on the high end of the scale, many consumers feel that the extra few dollars are worth the peace of mind.


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