There are a lot of rumors that are going around about water bottles and cancer. Water bottles in the car; Nalgene bottles made with a certain type of plastic; heating, freezing or washing water bottles in a dishwasher.
According to government agency the National Toxicology Program (NTP), “There is some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures.” The NTP has some concern for “bisphenol A (BPA) exposure in these populations based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females.”
Recently, Nalgene announced that they would stop making water bottles with BPA. I want to point out that this decision was
made NOT because it was recommended by the government. The new plastic
is being made mainly because of fear by consumers.
The science is not
conclusive at this point regarding chemicals in plastic and human
health. It’s hard to figure out what is speculation, what is under investigation and what is actually proven. Hopefully this post will clear up some of those questions for you.
The Chemical in Water Bottles
Most of the concerns over water bottles and platics causing cancer are related to the chemical Bisphenol A. BPA is a produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.
Plastics are used in food and drink packaging and resins are used to coat cans and bottle tops. BPA can leach into food from the containers and is more likely to leach depending on the temperature of the container.
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) had an expert panel review the current information on BPA’s and disease. They rank risk in one of 5 categories:
- Serious Concern
- Some Concern
- Minimal Concern
- Negligible Concern
The greatest risk for any one group of people is for pregnant or lactating mothers, infants and children. This is because an intake of a small amount of BPA can have a larger effect if the person’s body is small and they are in a stage of rapid physical development.
It’s good to know that the panel did not find any areas of ‘serious concern’ or ‘concern’ regarding BPA and health. However, they did find areas of ‘some concern’, ‘minimal concern’ and ‘negligible concern’.
Here are the Expert Panel Conclusions regarding plastic and health.
For pregnant women and fetuses:
- Some concern that exposure to BPA in utero causes neural and behavioral effects.
- Minimal concern that exposure to BPA in utero causes effects on the prostate.
- Minimal concern that exposure to BPA in utero potentially causes accelerations in puberty.
- Negligible concern that exposure to BPA in utero produces birth defects and malformations.
For infants and children:
- Some concern that exposure to BPA causes neural and behavioral effects.
- Minimal concern that exposure to BPA potentially causes accelerations in puberty.
- Negligible concern for adverse reproductive effects following exposures in the general population to BPA.
- For highly exposed subgroups, such as occupationally exposed populations, the level of concern is elevated to minimal.
The FDA has also made a statement and says that the “… FDA sees no reason at this time to ban or otherwise restrict the uses now authorized.”
Environmental Group Recommendations
There are definitely more cautious groups out there, including the Environmental Working Group (EWG).(FYI, they are the ones who made the recommendations on sunscreen).
The EWG says that “BPA is associated with a number of health problems and diseases that are on the rise in the U.S. population, including breast and prostate cancer and infertility. Given widespread human exposure to BPA and hundreds of studies showing its adverse effects, the FDA and EPA must act quickly to set safe levels for BPA exposure based on the latest science on the low-dose toxicity of the chemical.”
What Should You Do?
It’s hard to know what to do with conflicting information. Who do you believe and what choices do you make? The decision will be different for each person, but should be made based on the facts. In the next post I will talk more about evaluating information and what I choose.
What about reusing disposable plastic water bottles? Is that concern about BPA, like maybe it would seep out more? Are most disposable plastic water bottles BPA free now?