Safest Plastic Water Bottles – 5 Plastic Safety Tips

February 19, 2008 · 26 comments

I thought I was going to do a nice little post on which plastic drinking water bottles are safe to use, and let you know about some Nalgene water bottles I found that are safe (not all of them are), but now that I’m about 8 hours into researching it and I’ve read all about “BPA” (Bisphenol A) and other chemicals in plastics, my mind is spinning and I’m paranoid about any plastic in my life! Instead of quoting each piece of information for you that I’ve read in the past couple weeks, I’ll let you know my own personal conclusions and give you the best links I’ve found below if you want to read more, and you can take it from there.

First, if all you want to know is what to buy, here are safe sippy cups, baby bottles, thermos’, etc.

A Confession:

First I should tell you that I’m not what you would call “green”, to say the least. My motivation in writing this blog and deciding which foods to buy for my family are mostly based on health & nutrition , although I know there are huge environmental implications as well. However, after the research I’ve done for this post, and information from my friends, Sonia & Bob (also known as Bob in Green Suburbia), I have started thinking more about how wasteful I can be when using disposable plates, bowls, etc. I’ll try to do better, honest! (By the way, today at Frenz Coffee, Rich gave me this article that touches on the various products that claim to be environmentally friendly, but actually could be worse for the planet. This is an older article, but still interesting and relevant.)

What’s the big fat deal about plastic?

If you’re as naive as I was on the issue, don’t feel bad. Who knew that drinking healthy water instead of pop might be prove to be dangerous because of the stupid plastic container we’re drinking it from?! The whole thing irritates me like crazy, that we have to question everything these days!

Here are the dangers of certain plastics:

Some say we should be more concerned with the quality of the water we’re drinking, as opposed to worrying so much about the plastic it’s in, and I believe that’s true to a point. And according to the FDA, all plastics are safe – that surely makes us all feel better, right? (Uh… no.) They don’t always have the whole story. When food or drink sits in a plastic container, and especially if it is heated in that container, chemicals from the plastic can “leach” into it. (Just that word sounds nasty.) With some plastics this is more of an issue after frequent washings and re-use, but with others it’s a concern even when it’s new. There have been articles in the news lately about potentially dangerous “phthalates” and “BPA” (Bisphenol A), which are estrogen-like substances that can leach from certain plastics. (More info in the links below.) These can mess with the hormones in our bodies which can lead to changes in the start of puberty, hyperactivity, low sex drive, increased fat formation, changes in reproductive cycles and structural damage to the brain – the very things we were trying to get away from by drinking hormone-free milk (or raw milk) and our higher quality healthy meats! Our bodies are super sensitive to sex hormones so even a little can disrupt things. These substances have also been linked to cancer. (Big surprise, something else is linked to cancer.)

Don’t be an alarmist, Kel…

OK, so it’s easy when I’m knee-deep in all this information to be tempted to go like a madwoman through the house and toss every single piece of plastic I find, from toys to drinking bottles to storage containers and more. Instead I’ll take a deep breath, make a few changes, and then hope the rest won’t kill us or make my husband grow breasts or anything.

Here’s my plan:

  1. From now on, I will use glass, stainless steel or ceramic for drinking or food storage. I’m even going to bite the bullet and buy the more expensive stainless steel kid’s cups. (Amazon was very expensive, I found them for half price at the links below.) Our kids often don’t drink every last drop of their milk at dinner, and for years we’ve put a lid on their cup and kept it in the frig so they can sip on it later. Now I’ll be able to keep doing that with these stainless steel cups without having to wonder what chemicals they might be ingesting. For myself and for our 8 year old, I’m going to use the pint sized glass ball jars with a plastic lid (by the canning supplies at the store) and put a straw inside to keep drinks cold in the frig that way. Oh great! I just remembered straws are made of plastic! OK fine, those are outta here, too…
  2. If I must use plastic drinking cups/bottles, I will use HDPE #2 (Here’s the Nalgene water bottles I found a great deal on, with no shipping charges! They are wide-mouth, so they’ll get clean in the dishwasher.) HDPE is said to be safe, however I’ll still avoid it if I can, because they probably just haven’t found why this one is bad yet! Besides, all plastics have chemicals in them. By the way, I had a lot of Playtex sippy cups, so I called them. They said all their products are made with either #5 (Polypropylene/PP) or #2 (HDPE) and both are supposed to be safe. If you’re buying new ones, though, I’ve read that #2 (HDPE) is better for the environment than #5 (more easily recycled) – you can find #2 in their original “Sipster” cups (I got a 2-pack at Babies-R-Us for $5.49) or their “Quick-straw cups”. (By the way, I don’t recommend SIGG containers as they’re made with aluminum.)
  3. I don’t use my microwave at all anymore (rarely anyway), but for those of you that still do, don’t ever use plastic for heating or covering. As a matter of fact, you shouldn’t heat plastic at all or put anything hot in plastic.  ***That’s the most important way to avoid plastic toxins, keep hot food or drinks away from plastic!
  4. My freezer ziplocks are pretty darn convenient, so I’ll continue to use those only for storing food that is not even remotely warm, and mostly for freezing. (They stack up nicely in the freezer.)
  5. If I had a bottle-fed baby right now, then I’d buy glass baby bottles for sure. And if anyone has some good alternative suggestions for what babies can safely bite on instead of plastic toys, let me know. Some have suggested wooden toys, but I’m guessing those have a polyurethane coating on them that can’t be healthy, either. Maybe we could find some nice, safe, glass baby toys… (Kidding.)

UPDATE 8/9/08 (Hello to any new readers… this post gets Google hits like crazy!)

Check out this post with the opposite point of view. Personally, I don’t agree (be sure to read the juicy comments at the bottom), but it’s always good to know both sides. As always, I ask myself what makes the most sense. Plastic is made of chemicals, and it doesn’t seem like a big stretch to believe that some of these nasty chemicals can leach into our food, especially if we’re eating hot food in plastic. I’ll continue to avoid it whenever possible, and try not freak out over the rest.

Another UPDATE 8/10/08: now read the response at Green & Clean Mom to the opposite point of view above. (She disagreed, too.)

Here are the links to stainless steel kid’s cups and more helpful information:

Part of the Get-rid-of-Plastics Blog Carnival at Fake Plastic Fish.

photo and another

 

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  • { 25 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Anna February 19, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Isn’t life grand?

    I’ve been making some plastic conversions over the past year or two as things wear out, new options become available, etc., though I’m not even close to 100% plastic free nor am likely get that close. I still think getting in the car every day is the single biggest risk I take with my own and my family’s future (& yet I have an excellent driving record).

    Like you, Kelly, I’m trying to stay on top of the issue, yet stay sane as I deal with it. I look first to address my son’s plastic exposure, since he is probably more at risk.

    And you are absolutely right, there are some plastics that are more problematic (leaching) than others, and whether they are heated or not is a huge factor.

    So more often than not, I send my son’s water to school in a stainless water bottle (Lap Top Lunch brand) this year (wide mouthed for easy cleaning in case it gets forgotten under a car seat or in a desk at school for weeks at a time – yuck). I’m in the process of looking up the plastics used in his Laptop Lunch set and the Rubbermaid containers I sometimes use for his lunch.

    I rarely microwave anymore, but my husband uses it to warm his half & half for coffee so the MW stays put. When we do use it, it is always with porcelain ceramic or strong glass containers/dishes. I still use plastic in the freezer; it seems less likely to leach under those conditions and in some cases there is minimal direct food to plastic contact. I’ve had too many glass quart broth jars crack. I’ve not used much plastic cling wrap for years because the soft, stretch clingy plastics have long been suspected, and I’m too cheap to buy cling wrap when I have reusable lidded containers. I get cheese and other foods wrapped in cling plastic out of it asap and into waxed paper or greaseproof deli paper, then into a lidded storage container. Reduces mold growth on cheese, too.

    I have some dry storage plastic containers for nuts and such. I haven’t gotten excited enough to replace those. They are from Ikea, too, and while Ikea isn’t infallible, they usually are up on this sort of stuff. I also have some great stacking medium sized Ikea glass & silicone seal storage containers for butter, salt, yogurt, culturing cream, etc. I’ll probably get more of those, but I doubt enough to replace my entire Rubbermaid storage containers, which nest and fit perfecting in one drawer, without weighing a ton, unless they are confirmed problematic.

    I’m even now choosing vitamins and such in glass containers over plastic, after learning that fish and krill oil capsules go rancid faster in some plastic bottles compared to glass. I have a new pair of drug store reading glasses that I think I may have to toss. The plastic frames stink to high heaven of plastic chemicals, so I’m sure they are off-gassing. I even had a special handmade silver necklace be ruined when the velvet covered foam base in the box off-gassed and the fumes destroyed the unique varnish finish applied to the silver. I’m quite sure that at room temp under normal conditions if plastics are reactive, then many of them might be reactive with heat or contact with certain contents. Though it is important to remember that not all plastics are the same and there is likely varying degrees of risk.

    Looking forward to reading what else you learn in your quest to “bottle” the info, kelly.

    Reply

    2 Kelly February 19, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Hi Anna,
    You always leave great comments! I’ll re-read it all again tomorrow when I can keep my eyes open.
    Hey, can you e-mail me at kellythekitchenkop@charter.net? I have something to ask you via e-mail and couldn’t find contact info at your site.
    Thanks!

    Reply

    3 Natalie March 13, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    There are stainless steel re-usable water bottles made by Klean Kanteen. They come in various sizes and can even come with a top whereby only stainless steel touches the water. They are also available with a “sippy cup” top for children. The sippy cup top is made from plastic though. To find more information on these water bottles or to purchase them online visit http://www.reusablebags.com, http://www.kleankanteen.com, and http://www.theportablebaby.com (a “mom and pop” retail website that has good commentary on the disadvantages of plastic, and she also sells these water bottles in various sizes along with shoulder straps for ease of carrying).

    I have also stumbled upon http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com which has some great information about the ill effects of plastic and some very unique items for sale. This is a “mom and pop” retail website that was started when their first child was born, and they didn’t want to expose their child to the effects of plastic.

    And one more…I came across this woman’s blog at http://plasticfree.blogspot.com. She has tried to go completely plastic free in her life. I think she has taken it to an extreme, but what I have read on her blog is very interesting. Once you read some of this woman’s blog, you realize how much “stuff” in our lives is made of plastic or has plasticizers in it that we don’t even know about.

    Reply

    4 Kelly March 13, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Great information, Natalie! Thanks for your research time. :)
    I can’t wait to have time to read through those sites.
    Kelly

    Reply

    5 MidniteSiren August 30, 2008 at 6:03 am

    http://www.lifewithoutplastic.com/index.htm

    Not cheap, but a good site to find non-plastic food storage and drinking containers.

    Reply

    6 Kelly the Kitchen Kop August 30, 2008 at 10:46 am

    Hi MidniteSiren,

    I checked out that site, looks like it’s full of great products. I’m glad to see that you’re reading through a lot of different posts at my site! I appreciate you leaving feedback, too. :)

    Kelly

    Reply

    7 Anonymous September 2, 2008 at 9:40 am

    Just so you know the Sigg bottles are made from aluminum, but are lined with a leach free safe liner tested by the FDA and an independent group that actually cares about people. You shouldn’t freeze your Sigg bottle, or put hot beverages in it, other than that it has been tested safe with just about any kind of juice and soda. You can even dent your bottle and the seal bends with it. When you are done with your bottle it is completely recyclable.
    To clean you just need to run some warm soapy water through it.
    Please don’t fear the aluminum, you aren’t going to even touch it if you buy a powder coated bottle.

    Reply

    8 Kelly the Kitchen Kop September 2, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Anonymous,

    Thanks for the info. :)

    One more question: do you know what the leach-free powder liner is made out of though? (I don’t always trust what the FDA says is safe…)

    Thanks,
    Kelly

    Reply

    9 Eleanor K. Sommer January 26, 2009 at 11:01 am

    I love your site. You are tireless and I understand the hours it takes to do research. I’m a writer-editor. I have a blog, but I am also enrolled in an effort for a second degree, working full time, and doing freelance editing, so my posts are nowhere near your level. Someday. In the meantime, I use your site often.

    Some notes on this plastic post. If you have not visited or read Paul Goettlich at mindfully.org, do so. You will find him a bit radical, but he is an excellent researcher and a kindred spirit.

    Sigg bottles are aluminum, but the inside is a special ceramic coating. I have both a Klean Kanteen and a Sigg. The Sigg is very light weight and easy for transporting. I trust the Swiss; they know how to produce good quality and they are very environmentally conscious.

    I too am overwhelmed by the plastic in my life and like you, my first point of elimination is anything that comes in contact with food. Some fanatics use glass in the freezer. NG for anyone with kids–or even husbands.

    So rather than toss all my plastic containers into the landfill, I line them with parchment paper or waxed paper (a good brand is Natural Value–made with unbleached paper and coated with paraffin). You can do the same with plastic bags: line them with paper lunch bags.

    I always wonder what that “freezer” smell is on plastic that has been frozen for more than a month. That’s my next point of research. I think the plastic is breaking down in the freezer. Might be as harmful as the leaching/breaking down in heat. It could also be that the plastic is absorbing the chemicals in the freezer system, but to my knowledge that is supposed to be closed system, but who knows? Time to check in with an appliance repairperson.

    We have have several Nourishing Traditions groups here in north Florida, and we often get together and cook meals ahead as a group. It is fun and we learn from each other.

    Thanks again for your site. -Ellie

    Reply

    10 Kelly January 27, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    Hi Ellie,
    Thanks for all that great scoop. Love the idea to line the bags or containers with something safe. How neat that you get together to cook with other NT’ers, it’s fun AND saves time having meals done ahead! More WAP chapters should adopt that idea. :)
    Kelly

    Reply

    11 Julie February 24, 2009 at 8:48 am

    Kelly,
    Do you know any thing about the safety of silicone kitchen cookware? I was thinking about purchasing a silicone vegetable steamer (not for microwave but to use in a stainless steal pot on the stove) but would like to know about its safety.

    Reply

    12 Kelly February 25, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Sorry, Julie, I don’t know, but if anyone else does, I’d also love to hear about it! Have you Googled it?

    Reply

    13 Ryan April 25, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Hey, I have not read through all the comments, but the safest vessel for food and drinking, would be glass. It is non reactive and does not leach like all the plastics we have heard of. Anyway, pyrex sells a great food storage container that I use, and my website sells a great reusable glass water bottle. Check us out at http://livinglavidaverde.net/store.aspx . If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us through the contact us option. Good post by they way!!!

    Reply

    14 Kelly April 28, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Hi Ryan, I agree with your comment about glass, but the bottle you linked to has such a small opening that I’d be worried about being able to get it clean…? I like wide-mouth bottles personally and we use ball jars to drink from sometimes. :)

    Reply

    15 Local Nourishment June 1, 2009 at 10:30 am

    You might want to reconsider putting anything plastic in the dishwasher. Between the heat (even with the drying heat off the water gets hotter than sink hot) and the chemicals in the detergent, your bottles are breaking down and becoming leach machines.

    Local Nourishment

    Reply

    16 Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship June 2, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Passionate Homemaking had something about silicone being safe…

    My mnemonic for remembering safe plastics: 2-4-5, staying alive. The numbers also make a triangle on a phone keypad. (#1 is debatable and for one-time use only, so I hear!).

    Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship

    Reply

    17 Kathy June 12, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    I just spent 40 minutes typing a very informative piece about plastic for all of you to benefit from and this site deleted it because I forgot to type my email address. Very poor. Waste of my time and now you don’t get the information I had for you. There should be an asterisk stating your email address is required.

    Reply

    18 Kelly June 14, 2009 at 1:10 am

    Oh gosh, I am so sorry Kathy, but guess what, if you had hit your “back” button, it would have still been there! It always works for me anyway, I’m so sorry, that is sooooooooooo frustrating! I have a love/hate relationship with all things related to computers.

    Unfortunately, I can’t control how that comment form looks, it’s standard for Wordpress…

    If you feel the urge to type it in again (or at least a shortened version), we’d love to read what you have to say. :)

    Reply

    19 Ginny October 8, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    All great information, thank you! I spend so much time researching things online, it is a blessing to have a resource like your site for help getting to the bottom of all these issues. Now I need to research water filters. I know that bottles water is bad, and that even the home filters you can buy at the grocery store can often leave behind lots of icky stuff from our water supply (fertilizers, pesticides, drugs, even birth control, ick!). I drink a TON of water so this issue has been worrying me a lot lately. I have been reading a lot about water ionizers/alkalizers (http://www.ionizersreviewed.com/index.php) that you can use at home, but they are very expensive so I need to do lots more research to know if it’s worth it/ effective. Any info. from anyone who’s researched this would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply

    20 Sean Adams March 5, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Plastic is used in so many applications it boggles the mind but IMHO it is becasue it is so good at doing what it was made for. Containg food/water keeping it safe from contaminates preventing the formation of harmful bacteria. As long as I am not getting sick from food poisioning I feel relatively safe. More can be said of a lack of exercize and a sedimentary lifestyle causing most cancer to occur.
    Weight is a great concern too and as we increase the weight of containment vessels from plastic to glass we increase the load on the transport vehicle and persons subjected to handling these products. More can be said about air pollutants that can result if we insisted our products return to glass or metal containment this would mean we need stronger shelving ,shoping carts, boxes, mistakes at shoping locations would result in more breakage inturn inviting varmin into those stores and into our homes. We would consume more fuel with trucks and cars As every person ages they can attest to the benefits of having ever lighter loads to tote when bringing in the groceries.Even the metal containers have a plastic lining making them safer preventing botulism. I would say that botulism is by far a greater health threat than the potential leaching of plastic. You may feel safer switching from one container to another but each time food is handled the potential for cross contamination arises temperature variations can result in shorter shelf life the numbers are staggering as to how many are ill becasue of improper handling of food.

    Reply

    21 michelle in colorado April 10, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    On the straws I use glass straws from http://glassdharma.com/ .

    Reply

    22 Emily March 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Hello! Great blog, you had some great info. I am an avid user of stainless steel and glass products, especially since all of the BPA info has been released. I take my snacks to school in glass containers and I use a stainless steel Klean Kanteen bottle. I must say, it feels great to know that I’m helping the environemtn and protecting my personal health! Green is definitely the way to go :).

    Thanks for the great blog!

    Reply

    23 Andrea (From Seed to Stomach) April 9, 2012 at 10:02 am

    For freezer food storage, I LOVE the pint-sized wide-mouth ball canning jars. They’re freezer safe and have allowed me to really cut down on ziploc freezer bags. I love how convenient they are for storing EVERYTHING and how I’m never struggling to find the matching lid like I used to when I used plastic food storage containers. And to make them into travel mugs, check out cuppow!

    Reply

    24 Andrea (From Seed to Stomach) April 9, 2012 at 10:33 am

    Also – there’s a great documentary about all the plastic in our lives! It’s called Bag It and I highly recommend watching it! Very educational and extremely interesting. http://www.bagitmovie.com/

    Reply

    25 Ken July 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm

    Now many “BPA free” plastics substituted BPS or some other chemical that’s more dangerous. :( I’ve also read to avoid using stainless steel with acidic foods, such as those containing tomato.

    Reply

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