Nalgene has just announced the phase-out of BPA-containing bottles from its product lineup, including all polycarbonate (Lexan) water bottles. Any way you put it, this is a stunning reversal from a company that has been an unwaivering advocate for the safety of Lexan/Polycarbonate. For interesting commentary on the subject, see Z Recommends' article, Hell Just Froze Over .
I'd been working (luckily not too hard) on a prepared statement on water bottles and BPA, which was going to wind up concluding that the safety risks of Lexan bottles are unknown but worrisome, and that better (in terms of functionality) alternatives are available. That argument now seems moot. With Nalgene exiting the BPA market, so to speak, that basically means the industry as a whole will be phasing out production as well.
Along with the announcement, Nalgene has created a new website, Nalgene Choice, featuring information on its replacement products, which will reportedly replicate the clear plastic look and feel of Lexan without the dubious BPA and phthalates.
Before we celebrate too enthusiastically, it's worth remembering that plastic is not inert where human chemistry is concerned. Even the safest plastics, like HDPE, still contain chemicals of potential worry. Nalgene's replacement bottle may well be free of BPA but contain some new concern as yet off everyone's radar.
It is a sad reality that consumer protection in the United States is exceedingly weak right now. Companies are not required to prove their products safe before they hit the market. Our government agencies are particularly ineffective when it comes to issues like BPA, which (IMHO) clearly pose a threat in some circumstances (ie, old damaged bottles, baby bottles), but which also enjoy considerable market support and ambiguous research results.
We'll be watching closely for information on the new plastic used in the new Nalgene lineup (Tritan Copolyester). This story, I'm sure, will continue.
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