BPA-free Water Bottles

Are the new breed of clear, hard “BPA-free” water bottles made with Tritan — from Nalgene, Kor, Camelbak, Thermos and others — safer than the polycarbonate bottles they replaced?

Not necessarily.

To assess their safety, we would need to know what chemicals are in the bottles, not just that BPA is not. After all, other toxins are used to make plastic, including, sadly, FDA approved ones.

In the case of Tritan, the chemical ingredients are unknown. Neither the bottle-makers nor the Eastman Company, which manufactures Tritan, will disclose them.

The same is true of Sigg’s aluminum bottles. They are lined with a mystery material whose ingredients Sigg will not reveal.

In the absence of information, a reusable plastic water bottle made with HDPE, LDPE or PET would be a safer choice. (Nalgene actually offers bottles made with these materials, too, as do many other companies.)

Or, if you’re worried that plastics, in general, have not been adequately tested, use a stainless steel bottle. Both Klean Kanteen and New Wave Enviro offer stainless bottles with a choice of plastic or stainless tops.

For more, read my latest This Green Life column : “Plastic Water Bottles: Is BPA-free the Same as Safe?


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20 Responses to BPA-free Water Bottles

  1. John Atkins Jr. February 20, 2009 at 9:48 am #

    The BPA chemical substitute is a perfect example of why the European REACH regulations are needed. The classic case is phthalates, esters that make rubber duckies and other baby products soft and infant genitals under-developed. Europe banned phthalates totally and California and Congress have recently banned them in some baby items, but the substitutes need not be disclosed. The chemical industry may see this as preserving their rights, but the EU market is closed to them until they disclose ALL ingredients. The US needs to get it right.

  2. Anonymous February 20, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    Thanks for this report. If you have any suggestions on good companies that make such stainless steel alternatives for reusable water bottles and food containers, it would be greatly appreciated! I know Jane Goodall Inst. sells a nice lunch set on its website. Are there others?

    thanks again

  3. Sheryl February 24, 2009 at 8:14 am #

    John, I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Sheryl February 24, 2009 at 8:24 am #

    I just updated this blog entry with names of companies that make stainless steel bottles. They include:

    Klean Kanteen

    New Wave Enviro

    Both companies offer a choice of plastic and stainless caps.

    Another option that comes only with a plastic cap is:

    Guyot Designs

  5. Boyd Martin February 26, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    Thank you for the excellent post!

    I’ve been wary of plastics since the 70’s, so avoid them next to my food whenever possible. I’m very suspicious about Eastman’s secrecy, especially when they are offering an alternative to a known toxic substance. Why is it secret? It only raises suspicion. I can understand secrecy around manufacturing methods and extractions for competitive reasons, but why not be transparent about the molecular structure of the stuff?

    If it is to avoid a casual FDA investigation, that’s bad (BTW, why hasn’t the FDA commented specifically on Tritan on their website?); if it’s to buy time to cynically corner the market on non-BPA before releasing the info, that’s bad, too.

    To not be transparent when you are touting a “safer” technology seems disengenuous and untrustworthy to me.

    Metal or glass. I use 32 oz. glass fruit juice bottles for my water, and for camping those old-fashioned steel thermoses are great–they’re sturdy and glass-lined.

    Boyd Martin
    Beaverton, OR

    PS – http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/opa-fcn.html – is interesting, since copolyesters seemed to be buffered versions of phtalates. It is also clear that Eastman has worked to clear the way for Tritan with the FDA. My concern is that when the FDA sets GRAS limits, what is that based on?

  6. Stefan Doering February 27, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    Nice, well researched article. One question: I thought hard plastic water bottles were OK as long as the water did not “sit” in them too long (whatever “too long” means. I’ve made it mean more than a day.)

    Do you know anything about that?

    Also, my wife asked me if our Pur water filter system, with a plastic pitcher is OK to let water sit? Any ideas and guidance would be helpful.

  7. Stephanie Peterson Washington DC March 1, 2009 at 5:28 pm #

    Sheryl, Thank you so much for the additional information on stainless steel alternatives. Thanks also for all your well researched reports, we really appreciate all you do! Thanks again!

  8. Anonymous March 1, 2009 at 5:30 pm #

    Sheryl, Thanks so much for the additional information on stainless steel products. Thanks also for all your well researched reports. We really appreciate all you do!

    Thanks again.

  9. Sheryl March 12, 2009 at 6:42 am #


    Polycarbonate bottles can leach small amounts of BPA even without water sitting in them. (If water does sit in them, and is warmed by the sun, it may leach greater amounts in the future.)

    Small amounts matter because endocrine disruptors, of which BPA is one, have been shown to cause harm in animals at very tiny doses. This is a big topic so I will discuss it in another post another time.

    Also keep in mind that you may be exposed to BPA from multiple sources during the day — e.g., from the lining in the can of tomato sauce that was served with your pasta at dinner or the water from your water cooler at work. You are probably exposed to other endocrine disruptors in the course of the day as well.

    As to your Pur question — I don’t know the answer. I have the same question about the Brita pitcher, which my family uses, so I may investigate and will let you know the results, of course.

  10. Anonymous March 18, 2009 at 3:39 pm #

    Please do investigate the Brita pitchers. That’s what I was going to ask about.

  11. Ryan Mahler April 22, 2009 at 6:26 am #

    Some people had asked about safe containers and I think Boyd hit the nail on the head. Glass is the way to go. Think about it, it is commonly used in scientific experiments because of its low reactivity to any other substance. For food Pyrex makes a great glass container(which is all I use to bring my food to work now), and if you are looking for a great water bottle, check out our website at http://livinglavidaverde.net/store.aspx . We really believe in glass…I take mine everywere with no problems.

  12. HorseJumper12341 May 29, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

    I recently also did an article concerning BPA. I think it is rather unnerving that the United States FDA would allow these products to be created, even when they know the possible health problems that are related to BPA exposure. Unfortunately, plastic products are rather hard to completely avoid, and how are you to know whether the plastic containers that you are using are completely free of BPA or other chemicals. I think it is best to just avoid plastic as much as possible, and start looking for alternatives. Not only is it better for the environment to be using these alternative products, but also for yourself.

  13. Anonymous June 2, 2009 at 10:44 am #

    I am looking for info on healthy countertop water dispensers. I am currently living/traveling in a van and use a Waterwise distiller for all drinking/cooking water and like to ‘stockpile’ water while plugged in to the grid to free myself up for dry camping. Any feedback would be appreciated.

  14. Anonymous June 17, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    Does anybody know where I might find BPA-free pitchers to store homemade iced tea in?

  15. Anthony June 25, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    I also found an article in http://organic-baby-products.com.au/heads-up-on-bpa/ that talks about BPA-free Baby Bottles…very interesting post =)

  16. Anonymous August 11, 2009 at 4:11 am #

    I own a fitness club. For all new members we giveaway a BPA free water bottles. I buy them in bulk. I pay around $2.95/bottle imprinted with free shipping.

    Here is where you can buy them


  17. Sheryl December 11, 2009 at 11:25 am #

    Thanks for the information…
    I am looking for some larger BPA free containers, say around 2-5 gallons? Preferably with the little spigots on the end? Do you know of a source for these?
    Sheryl M.

  18. Sheryl December 11, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    Sheryl, I don't know of one offhand, but search for Polypropylene water containers. Polypropylene (#5 in terms of recycling codes) is bpa-free.

  19. Lorna August 30, 2010 at 5:05 am #

    Sheryl–would you be able to offer an opinion on the lesser of two evils? My family (we have two young boys) live in the Middle East and must drink bottled water (the tap water is not safe and I have been unable to find any water filtration systems over here). The only two options available to us are #1/PET and #7/PC. I haven’t been able to find the supposedly safer #7/PES. My concern about our water supply is aggravated by the fact that it is HOT over here and the water is stored and shipped in these conditions–our current water supplier (and I assume most here) does not use a chilled truck and leaves the bottles in the sun outside our door.

    Thank you for any information you can give!

    • Sheryl August 30, 2010 at 2:42 pm #


      I would definitely choose #1/PET.

      The only thing going against PET is that it has been shown to leach antimony in a couple of studies — however, not at levels considered worrisome by the EPA. (It does *not* leach DEHA contrary to what you may have read. That’s just an urban legend.)

      Health professionals do advise you not to reuse PET bottles because the screw-like tops are difficult to clean and may build up bacteria. But one-time use is ok.

      #2 (HDPE), 4 (LDPE) and 5 (polypropylene) plastics are considered safest. If you can buy large household water bottles made from one of these plastics, that would be best. Then you could use a small stainless steel bottle like Kleen Kanteen to carry water with you during the day.

      Hope that’s helpful.