Cancer Fears Prompt Retailer To Pull Nalgene Bottles

Canada’s premier sporting goods store has pulled Nalgene bottles from their shelves over concerns that bottles are made with a cancer-causing chemical. The Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op is waiting for the outcome of a study from Health Canada on the health effects of bisphenol-a (B.P.A.) before returning the ubiquitous bottles to shelves.

Polycarbonate plastic, which can only be produced by using B.P.A., creates bottles that are transparent and almost as hard as glass, but particularly shatter-resistant.

Recently, however, the use of B.P.A.-based plastics in food containers has questioned in Canada by Environmental Defence , a Toronto-based group. Environmentalists in the United States are also raising concerns about the chemical.

Last year, San Francisco’s board of governors passed a local law banning the use of the chemical in children’s products. B.P.A. was removed from the ordinance before it went into effect, however, after an industry lawsuit.

Critics point to studies dating back to 1936 showing that the chemical can disrupt the hormonal system.

While there is little dispute about that, the plastics industry, supported by several studies from government agencies in Japan, North America and Europe, contends that polycarbonate bottles contain very little of the chemical and release only insignificant amounts of B.P.A. into the bodies of users.

Health Canada expects preliminary results from its study in May 2008.

Canadian Retailer Bans Some Plastic Bottles [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. r4__ says:

    Man, if this does cause cancer there’s a whole lot of tools who are going to be dying soon.

  2. casey451 says:

    In a snit last summer about pitchers that wouldn’t break my arm, I searched for the most stinkless, leechless plastic around and settled on… polycarbonate. There seems to be some hysteria attached to the BPA thing, and I’ve read that leeching of this stuff MAY occur when the vessel is old, cracked, or broken, and that these bottles should not be used for hot liquids.

  3. Ariah says:

    R4, your troll fu is weak.

  4. North of 49 says:

    Ms. No49 has had a membership to the MEC since the early 90’s. The backpack I bought then is still going strong after 15 years. They are very responsible to the consumer and to environmental issues, including “Tread Lightly” and other organizations. And they have some of the most unique camping and biking equipment I’ve ever seen. It doesn’t surprise me that they’ve pulled the bottles – that’s just them looking after their customers. I’m wondering if they are going to recall them too?

  5. Ariah says:

    @casey451: If you’re concerned about potential problems, I would suggest buying an acrylic pitcher instead. Acrylic isn’t as strong as polycarbonate, but it’s still much stronger, safer, and lighter than glass. Plus it’s cheap!

  6. stevebmd says:

    The bottles are particularly dangerous when filled with the compound dihydrogen monoxide. Unfortunately, dihydrogen monoxide is a significant component of most beverages and is frequently consumed on its own. It has been said that the dangerous effects of dihydrogen monoxide are NOT negated by BPA-based containers. For more info, check out

  7. C2D says:

    @stevebmd: I sure hope you’re kidding, because Wiki sure makes it sound like you are.


  8. barfoo says:

    @C2D: He isn’t everything he says is true. Autopsies have shown that the bodies of cancer victims have consistently higher dihydrogen monoxide levels than their surrounding environment. There tend to be especially high concentrations in the digestive system and bloodstream. This suggests one of the ways in which the compound enters the body and is spread to the organ systems.

  9. hubris says:

    @C2D: I’m not sure what’s worse, his old trope, or the fact that you had to look it up.

  10. nuton2wheels says:

    Nalgene also sells a more flexible bottle made from dense PTFE, rather than polycarbonate.

  11. iamme99 says:

    You might want to look into SIGG metal bottles instead of anything plastic.

  12. Falconfire says:


    Film as 11.

  13. marsneedsrabbits says:

    There are alternatives that are known to be safe, so why not use them while the science dudes figure out if BPA is safe or not?
    We went to metal bottles this past summer after this came to light in regards to baby bottles. The BPA issue was on all of the parenting message boards and blogs for a few months.
    Parents were writing and calling to bottle and sippy cup manufacturers and were often told that they shouldn’t worry or that the companies couldn’t tell them if the bottles had BPA or not.
    I think it has all been sorted out now and there are lists of BPA-free baby items, but the reaction of some of the manufacturers was interesting. It was as if they didn’t want to be questioned or couldn’t or wouldn’t answer questions. The time when manufacturers could dictate what their customers will and won’t tolerate is over, if it ever existed at all. People want to know and expect answers.
    I don’t have any interest in this blog apart from being a reader, so I hope it is okay that I post their BPA report on baby bottles here. It has a general breakdown of the potential issues with BPA, too: []

  14. crypticgeek says:

    Even if it did cause cancer (I’ve read the one study that does, and it was just sensationalized by some well meaning but not so bright people), there’s no way you could ingest enough BPA from the bottle to do you harm. No worries.

  15. ncboxer says:

    I second the SIGG recommendation. I had a polycarbonate bottle for awhile (#7 on the bottom of it) and drank water out of it regularly. I dropped it one time and the top broke. So I bought another of the same model. It leaked. I took it back. The new one leaked. I started searching for a new bottle, then saw the uncertainness about the chemicals leaching, which led me to SIGG. It is a little more expensive, but it is leak proof, has no plastic taste when drinking water, and comes in cool designs. I liked mine so much, I bought my son a smaller one.

  16. karmaghost says:

    @Falconfire: Yes. This was a joke we had back in my junior year of undergrad, which was almost 5 years ago. Even air causes cancer; there’s only so much you can do.

  17. CapitalC says:

    @North of 49: I’d love it if they recalled them, I’d have to return over 20 bottles and would have some sweet MEC credit! :)

    In all seriousness though, I’ve stopped drinking any liquids in plastic bottles, I’ll only buy glass or aluminum now and my 2008 resolution will be to downscale my purchasing of all foods in plastic containers.

  18. iamme99 says:

    @Capitalc: You’ve got to be careful with aluminum bottles also. See:

  19. velvetjones says:

    @crypticgeek: Have you ever used a Nalgene bottle? If you leave your water in there for a few hours it starts to taste like plastic. I don’t care what the studies say, I can’t imagine that ‘plastic flavor’ is good for you. I switched to a Sigg.

  20. ChChChacos says:

    I always use nalgenes while camping, and summer camps I have worked at in the past sell these to children with the camp logo on them. I am aware that numerous things cause cancer, but these bottles are a favorite to many hikers. I would be upset to hear if they were pulled off the shelves and a danger to ourselves.

  21. whereismyrobot says:

    I am pretty much done with Nalgene since a bottle I had for two years started developing mold INSIDE the plastic. An email to their customer service department only yielded an insulting email from them giving me directions on how to wash the bottle. Yeah, thanks Nalgene. I won’t be buying your products anymore.

  22. asherchang2 says:

    random fact: UIC uses nalgene-made graduated cylinders.

  23. The Bigger Unit says:

    @whereismyrobot: Did you ever wash the bottle…? On the inside I mean…?

  24. nardo218 says:

    *clings to Nalgene bottle*

  25. LibidinousSlut says:

    Uhm Sigg bottles aren’t so great either. They use a plastic liner; their old plastic liner had problems with leaching so they switched to a new plastic liner.

    If you want to be safe go Klean Kanteen. It’s 100% stainless steel and lightweight.

  26. TheOneBlackMage says:

    I’ll second Klean Kanteen ( The bottles are 100% food grade stainless steel, no epoxy or plastics.

    The SIGG bottles look good, but they are aluminum (possible Alzheimer’s risk), and their epoxy lining, although they claim 0% leaching, is a secret forumula.

    I had bought a Nalgene bottle and found all of the research BPA on it the next day. I ended up taking it back (lots of hassle from the retailer) and getting two LDPE bottles, which you could taste the plastic when you drank water from them, so i didn’t use them much.

    I had to throw out both of the bottles at an airport due to their flight restrictions, so I ordered the Klean Kanteen bottles for my family.

  27. Rukasu says:

    @whereismyrobot: A little soap and water much?

  28. kimsama says:

    @The Bigger Unit: @Rukasu: I think he means that the mold appeared inside the walls of the plastic, i.e. in an uncleanable location (unless you cracked open the plastic). This happened to me once, as well.

    Yeah, and I like, second or fifth or whatever avoiding Nalgene — the plasticy taste is what freaked me out and made me start investigating. I now use either stainless steel or glass for everything. I figure glass in particular has been around for several thousand years, and has a pretty good safety record (heh, barring lead inclusion), and steel is about as non-reactive as metal can get (and I don’t think my body would freak out from it leaching iron or carbon, so much).

    I’m frankly surprised that Nalgene hasn’t come under heavier scrutiny, particularly because products made from it are targeted at people with higher-than-average health consciousness (parents or people who are into fitness), though I guess as marsneedsrabbits mentions, parents have already started avoiding them.

  29. neithernor says:

    @stevebmd: I hear that when present in large amounts it can even KILL YOU.

  30. ncboxer says:

    Never saw the Klean Kanteen in my search, so I have no idea about those. The SIGGs don’t use a plastic liner, they use some sort of water-based epoxy liner. The aluminum doesn’t touch the drink. Yes, the epoxy is a “secret formula”, but so what? It has been independently tested many times and proven to be safe, that was fine with me. I only use for water- I think in most cases, leaching is at a greater chance with acidic juices and carbonated drinks.

  31. CapitalC says:

    @iamme99: Crap. Well, I guess I’ll be doing some reading before replacing all my bottles. :(

  32. 00exmachina says:

    @CapitalC: Watch out, level of aluminum have been show to be a contributing factor toward developing altzheimers

  33. LibidinousSlut says:

    @ncboxer: uhm Epoxy is plastic. It’s basically plastic with a hardener; which to me is plastic. And most epoxies are cured with mixture of
    epichlorohydrin and bisphenol-A; bisphenol-A is the reason why people are switching away from nalgene’s in the first place. And while I can’t find the documentation right now, Sigg did change it’s liner (two years ago or so) because it turned out that their old liner leached. It may be why they went proprietary.

    If you really want an aluminum bottle why not a Laken? I don’t know if the liner is any safer, but at least it’s not proprietary.

  34. holocron says:

    Let’s be clear about it, they’re talking about the Lexan bottles and not the regular milky white nalgene bottles.

  35. polyeaster says:

    I drink DHMO every day!

  36. stre says:

    @stevebmd: quality. i haven’t seen a dihydrogen monoxide reference in a couple years probably. way too good.

  37. Claystil says:

    the major research that goes on about BPA and other polymers shows time and time again that plastics that aren’t heated or used with certain chemicals are completely safe for use with food and water. if you avoid oils and microwaves, there’s no risk with plastic.