Time to throw away your Nalgene bottles

by Tom Markiewicz on May 8, 2008

There’s been numerous articles recently written on the problems that have surfaced regarding Nalgene bottles. Since most climbers own one of these, I decided to look into what is actually going on.

I was in the REI in Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia recently and I didn’t see a single Nalgene bottle on the shelves. A foreboding sign itself. There’s usually an entire row of shelving with the now ubiquitous bottles in all shapes and colors.

Following the move made by Canada’s MEC, REI has now pulled all Nalgene bottles from their shelves. Nalgene has announced that they will stop making bottles out of polycarbonate.

Polycarbonate contains a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) which has been linked to numerous health problems including breast and prostate cancer, brain damage, endocrine system disruptions, higher levels of testosterone in men and women, recurrent miscarriages, and chromosomal defects in fetuses.

The National Geographic Adventure blog has some a few pointers on what to do now that you know the problem exists:

Look on the bottom of the bottle for a number surrounded by three arrows. Polycarbonate bottles are categorized as number seven. Note that seven is the catchall “other” category for plastics—all polycarbonates are seven, not all sevens are polycarbonates.

REI has the new Tritan Camelbak bottles and BPA-free Nalgenes in all its stores. Elsewhere, stainless steel bottles from Guyot, Klean Kanteen, and Sigg are options, too.

Nalgene’s old-school bottles, milky colored and soft sided, are made of high-density polyethylene and free of BPA. Thin-walled, soft plastic bottles like Evian uses are plain old polyethylene.

It appears the key to finding out if your bottle is made of polycarbonate is to look for the number 7 on the bottom of each one. For a full listing of the seven types of plastics check out this chart.

Nalgene’s website has a section with all the relevant FDA and health data as well as their own FAQ on the issue. In addition, the company has set up a new site called Nalgene Choice that will help consumers pick new bottle from their product line.

And on a final note, Trailspace gives us some ways to reuse our old polycarbonate bottles.

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