Plastics purge

BPA. Phthalates. Dialates. Mercury in Fish. Dangerous flame retardant chemicals in Carseats. Lead paint in toys. Recalls. There’s always some new study or news story that whips us into a state of fearful frenzy. Not to minimize the very real research and concerns, but contrary to media hype, we have known this stuff for quite awhile, the information and studies have been out there. Twisted and sad that it takes some major media and parental consumer freak-out to begin to change the product market and consumeristic behavior. It’s not just what we don’t know that can hurt us, but what we don’t know enough about. I tend to be pretty research minded, I do a ton of information gathering from multiple angles before purchasing most of the things we get. That’s just me, and I realize what we are talking about here is a Behavior- people have to want to look closer at their consumer-based choices than accepting the marketing that is out there. To change a behavior, there often times needs to be a strong motivation to go beyond the accepted easy norm, and unfortunately in our society it often times takes fear to be the required factor to instigate that change. We are both a consumer-based society and a fear-based society, so no real surprise those two often go hand in hand. And sadly that often leaves consumers in a state of uncertain nerve-wracking frustration filled with the feelings of powerless anxiety in a seemingly ever-increasing threatening world where we don’t know truth from pretense. That is applicable to both sides of the coin.

I know I have talked before about being very choosy with kid’s products and toys, how we avoid plastic and battery operated toys. That doesn’t mean that they don’t sneak into our house or we overlook an area because the easily available products we are in need of. Sometimes we just don’t take the time or concern to think and research as deeply as we should. Other times it just takes a bit effort more to make the better choice actually happen. I have said in a previous post how I want to move to glass baby bottles. Yea, still haven’t acted on that one. And in all truth, my kids drink out of plastic pretty much 100% of the time. I didn’t really think that through until this week. They always drink out of plastic. Obviously now the hype about BPA’s and Phthalates and leaching chemicals from plastics is in full swing. Not to mention Plastics are a petroleum-based product and have a pretty awful life cycle (even when recycled, er, down-cycled). Obviously there are better options- options that have been on the Oh yea, I should get these kids some better bottles list in the back of my head. Matt and I sat down and did a few hours worth of research on better alternatives last night. We tried to sift past the hype, the overblown information being shoved at parents, and the biased information the better options are putting out to market their products. I thought I would post some here.

Basically, we looked at 4 products: Nalgene bottles, which we have used since high school (so like 12 years, before they were all the rage), Sigg Aluminum bottles (which are all the rage right now, unavailable from their website due to the huge volume of demand), Klean Kanteen, a stainless steel bottle (also the rage, also out of stock, and being redesigned with ‘kool kolors’) and Thinksport, a lesser-known double-walled stainless bottle.

Nalgene‘s were originally developed as Scientific and Laboratory containers then in the 90’s broke into the sporting goods market. Their bottles are made out of both HDPE and Lexan. Lexan is a clear polycarbonate plastic material that is currently in contention of leaching chemicals (mostly BPA’s) into the liquids. Nalgene denies that the quantity leached from their products posed a significant threat to health and claims these chemicals are only potentially released from Nalgene products when used at temperatures outside of the designed range. So if you put them into the dishwasher (which we do) or expose them to UV Radiation (which we do if we go outside) or let liquids sit in the containers for an extended period of time (which happens) or put liquids with a higher acidic content like juice or soda (which we do), then you increase the likelihood chemicals can leach into the bottle’s contents. Just this month, REI has removed all Nalgene polycarbonate water bottles from shelves and replaced them with BPA-free Nalgene bottles. The removed bottles were the Lexan Bottles– hard, clear, multi-colored plastics (exactly the kid sippy cup style we have for our girls and use all the time). Nalgene also still makes the original Polyethylene versions of their products (the HDPE materials which are supposedly free of these chemicals) and are a more flexible plastic, translucent or milky rather than clear, and have a #2 triangular recycling symbol on the bottom (opposed to the #7 on the Polycarbonate). Nalgene has taken a pretty hard hit and will be phasing out the Lexan material by the Fall. Regardless, it is suggested with any kind of plastic bottle the leaching occurs most during initial use and after prolonged use, it is suggested to replace a plastic bottle every 6 months and not wash it with harsh abrasive chemicals or bleach. 6 months doesn’t seem like a very long use cycle, we have some Nalgenes we still use from College, but they along the sippy cups are Lexan and getting phased out of our house. More info HERE, HERE, and HERE

Sigg Aluminum Bottles were my top replacement choice, simply because I am a design snob and they have hundreds of really cool graphics and color choices (though I think their kids line is a bit too juvinile, I was going to get the kids each a medium sized bottle). But after reading through all the FAQ’s on their webpage, they come across with an attitude of hey, we have been doing this for a long time, you can trust us, which raises a little red flag for me. They claim 100% safety of their liners, but can’t tell you exactly what it is made out of for proprietary reasons. Typically, aluminum bottles have a sprayed or baked on enamel or ceramic inner liner which is food-compatible. But neither material’s chemical makeup or safety has been addressed, shared or verified beyond it’s safe, it doesn’t leach, trust us. In addition, the same attitude is taken to the exterior paint and while Sigg claims to be Swiss-made, a few other places have sited Sigg’s manufacturing to take place in both Europe and China (including Wikipedia, which was changed this morning to only read ‘Switzerland’ rather than ‘Switzerland and China’ as it did last night). Not that I am trying to undermine Sigg, but there are enough gaps and questions raised from their apparent ploy of a possible smokescreen at marketing themselves as 100% safe that makes me a little hesitant to completely jump on board. They make a great and great looking product and are obviously making a killing thanks to this whole BPA-scare issue. In fact, the entire wall of Sigg water bottles are REI was completely empty when we were there last week. They say they are working like triple time to make more to meet the current demand. More info HERE, HERE

Klean Kanteen is a Stainless Steel bottle, which doesn’t require an interior coating and takes less energy to produce than aluminum. Since Stainless steel is an alloy metal, the one metallurgical risk could be a sensitivity to Nickel, but Klean Kanteen uses a sanitary grade 304 stainless steel which has a low nickel content, used by Breweries and Dairy’s. The Stainless option eliminates any residual questions of an inner lining uncertainty and since the current design is pretty darn plain, exterior paint is minimized. The Sippy top is made by AVENT, which has made it into much recent controversy as to having no current products that are BPA-free, but has plans to launch a BPA-free reusable bottle this Summer, not yet citing what type of plastic will be used. In addition, there was much heated controversy surrounding their “Vice President of Sales for North America, currently serving on the board of directors of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which has maintained an aggressive stance in favor of polycarbonate plastic in public statements made as recently as February 2008. Avent is also listed as a member of the Coalition for Consumer Choice, a pro-BPA group which promotes anti-regulatory messages on behalf of major toy, feeding product, and trade organizations.” [citation here] So I guess if you don’t buy the sippy cup lid in favor of the stainless steel plug or sport top, you can avoid that issue, only then the issue becomes spilling. Stainless does have a bit of a leg up here, the only drawback is the safety and questions surrounding the lid manufacturing. More HERE and HERE.

Thinksport is the second Stainless bottle I found. This one has a double-walled vacuumed sealed container, so contents stay hot or cold rather than being at the whim of conductive metal and temperature differences. It also has some other fancy features, like the integrated tea or ice strainer, something I would get more use out of than the kids. I like the simple minimalist design, of course. There was less info to be found on these, likely because they are a newer, smaller, lesser known production. They outwardly boast the most specific list of chemicals, carcinogens and materialistic dangers that are not contained in the product, rather than the more general we don’t have bad stuff statement the other companies are feeding. It also leaves more questions and uncertainty because of the lack of third-party opinions and citations, there is just less known info about these out there. I think I would be more inclined to get one of these for myself or Matt, they are a pretty sweet looking product. Website HERE.

All in all, I think it comes down to any of these products are going to be safer than the current $2 cheap-o plastic sippy cups we have. I would like to replace the Nalgene Lexan products we have with one of the Metal options. The differences and safety beyond what is currently reported and studied in these products is probably like splitting hairs. There’s not a really clear choice, there are pros and cons each way. Ideally it would be nice to get one of each of the three choices, to really do a comparison of use as functionality should factor in here too. Considerations would be a larger vs. smaller opening, so harder to fill and clean; which top would work the best for small kids; factors of size, weight, usability; factoring in cost comparisons. We are still on the fence. What are your thoughts, find any other product options??


~ by gdesign on May 29, 2008.

2 Responses to “Plastics purge”

  1. I’m with you. But it’s so hard for me to justify spending $10-15 per sippy cup. So ahwile back I did some research (websites below).

    We use mainly Munchkin and First Years Take ‘n Toss products, both of which are BPA-free and contain no phthalates. On the following website, you will see that they are NOT a recommended brand, but not because they contain BPA – it is because SOME of the product line contains BPA – not the utensils or sippy cups however. So I feel comfortable using these. I change out cups 4-5 times daily for Gavin and replace them every 6 months or so. And I never use the high heat dry in the dishwasher when I’m washing a load with them in it.

    We do have some stainless steel bottles, as well as a brand I can’t remember of a polycarbonate bottle we found at PCC. I am finding though that I just don’t use them as much because I can’t throw them in the dishwasher.

    Here are the articles:

  2. […] the swing of things around here, press on and tie up that which has been left hanging from the last Plastics Purge post that has got quite a bit of […]

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