Nalgene Bottles – Cancerous?

Nalgene Bottlle - Courtesy of Google.

Written by Caitlin McShea

The editors of the Megaphone would like to apologize to Caitlin for cutting off the end of her article.  Here is the complete article.

Last April, the American Medical Association published a report documenting the numerous health risks associated with Bisphenol A.  More commonly referred to as BPA, this ingredient is used in several hardened plastic products, including test tubes, eyeglass lenses, baby bottles and reusable water bottles.  Resultantly, Nalge Nunc International, maker of Nalgene Bottles, pulled their products off the shelves of several outdoor equipment stores and began production of Bisphenol A (BPA)- free merchandise.

Long-term, low-dose exposure to BPA has been linked to the development of diabetes, breast cancer, and metabolic syndrome.  Studies have shown that when people or babies drink water or formula from a bottle containing BPA, the BPA leaches into the liquid, and trace amounts are consumed. 

BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning that if present in the body, it may interfere with the production or the activity of hormones. This may result in premature puberty, and other problems associated with the immune system, the reproductive system, and the neural system.

This news may come as a shock to the Southwestern community, since at any given time, several students and faculty members can be seen carrying these colorful bottles around.  For those familiar with the Nalgene products, both the “everyday” line and the “refill not landfill” lines are completely BPA free, however older bottles (such as those given away in past years by SIRA and UPC) are not BPA free. 

Students around campus do not seem that fazed by this news. Titus Hawthorne, Southwestern senior, is completely unaffected.  “Cell phones were said to cause brain tumors a while ago, but that hasn’t stopped any of us from using them everyday, so how is this news any different?”

Outdoor activity retailers such as REI and LL Bean have suggested that instead of using plastic bottles, people should purchase aluminum bottles from such companies as SIGG and Kleen Kenteen. 

Aside from the obvious cancer-free qualities of aluminum bottles, reusable water bottles from these companies boast several other benefits.  Aluminum bottles retain a cooler temperature longer, are equally as indestructible as Nalgene Bottles (though these will dent), are about 20-30% lighter than plastic bottles, are completely taste neutral, and hold onto far less bacterial colonies as plastic bottles do. 

“According to the results of our evaluation, use of a SIGG bottle does not add to the beverage any particles and/or components which are harmful to human health,” says Dr. Ulrich Nehring of the European Institute Nehring.

It should be noted, however, that a few months back, several SIGG bottles were recalled, due to the high amount of lead in the exterior paint used.  Meaning, aluminum bottles are not without their own controversy.  To clarify, Nalgene proactively removed their BPA bottles from the market out of concern for their customers, whereas SIGG underwent an actual recall in October of 2007.

There is one obvious advantage to the use of wide-mouthed Nalgene bottles instead of aluminum bottles.  Yes, it’s true that bacteria more easily cling to plastic than to aluminum or stainless steel, but that doesn’t mean that SIGG or Kleen Kanteen bottles are free of bacteria by any means. Both bottles require regular cleaning (both companies suggest a thorough cleaning and drying session between each refill), and cleaning a wide-mouthed, dishwasher safe Nalgene bottle is miles easier than cleaning a narrow-mouthed, dishwasher-unsafe aluminum bottle.

In order to avoid any risk of bacterial infection, Nalge Nunc suggests that along with regular cleaning, used Nalgene bottles should be replaced every six months.  In order to effectively clean SIGG and Kleen Kanteen bottles, one must purchase an aluminum bottle cleaner kit, since hot water, soap and detergents will damage the aluminum and cause the bottles to spring a leak more quickly.  Therefore, regardless of the brand used, health-conscious reusable water bottle users should commit to diligently disinfecting their bottles daily.

Additionally, though aluminum bottles may be safer to health than plastic Nalgene bottles, the production of aluminum bottles has a higher environmental impact than the production of plastic bottles, which require less energy to make.

So then, it would seem that the choice rests in personal priority. Those more concerned with their health should air to the side of caution and purchase an aluminum bottle, whereas those more concerned with the environment might continue to use their plastic bottles. 

It is for this reason that Amanda Figueroa, Southwestern junior and Nalgene user for the past 6 years, refuses to stop toting water in her Nalgene.  “I think people are too sensitive about the presence of carcinogens.  I doubt that I’m actually in any real danger from drinking out of my Nalgene.  And, I’d rather take the risk than contribute further to the landfill problem.”

So, while Figuero may not be replacing her worn, reliable, and familiar yellow Nalgene bottle, others might consider doing so.

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