Dec 10, 2007 at 1:54 am #1226222
@miguelmarcosLocale: Middle Iberia
MEC has decided to eliminate all polycarbonate-based items from their inventory based on concerns about bisphenol A, "which has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in animals." There are lots of backpacking items that are made from polycarbonate plastic. I haven't reached a conclusion but it's something to keep in mind.
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20071207/lf_nm_life/health_plastic_dcDec 10, 2007 at 7:00 am #1411992
Same issue… I posted the link in another post…Dec 10, 2007 at 8:05 am #1412002
the biggest PC controversy is with the rigid "nalgene" bottle. Note, PP (soft) bottles are immune to this.
Also, it's unlike a fork or spoon would result in significant exposure…
Of course, my take is that I expose myself to far more carcinogens / toxins by simply living in a modern city. If in consuming more water and getting outside more someone does happen to ingest a minuscule (most of the studies show that to get enough exposure from a PC container you'd have to abrade the inside and ingest the plastic itself) amount of BPA, the trade off is probably favorable.
The people who freak out about this are also the ones that won't ride a bike due to the potential for genital issues (though it has been shown that said issues are usually due to improperly fitted / adjusted seats)Dec 10, 2007 at 2:30 pm #1412046
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
I suspect MEC has fallen for yet another Urban Legend.
To be sure, ingesting bisphenol-A would not be good for you, but this does not address the question of whether you are going to get any significant amount of it from a PC bottle. No-one has ever proved that there is a real practical hazard.
I dare say it will end up in Snopes one day, like the PET bottles.Dec 10, 2007 at 3:17 pm #1412056
I figure between the childhood vaccines I had (autism), the metal fillings I have and the aluminum pans we ate out of (I grew up poor Whiskey Tango) (alzheimers/brain damage), my affection for a shot of whiskey once or twice a week, and a glass of wine or two once or twice a week (Cirhossis), my affection for Copenhagen (Cancer), I can just toss this plastics stuff on top of it all.
In the end, something has to kill one off. I just hope to die with my boots on, doing something I love, and not in a hospital bed.
I use the soft bottles (PP) and one or two hard bottles (Danger!)
One thing I do not do, is let my kids microwave food in plastic, nor do I let them eat from a bag, unless we are backpacking. That exposure is little enough I think being worried about it is borderline paranoid.
SimonDec 10, 2007 at 4:56 pm #1412071
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
Not sure why you would call this an urban legend since numerous researchers at reputable universities have looked at this potential (but complicated) problem. I have personally talked with some of them about some of the animal research, and was sufficiently convinced to steer away from polycarbonate when possible. I have a Ph.D. in Materials Science and worked in the polymer industry for several years. I also grew up on a farm where hearing damage from tractor noises, lung damage from grain dust, and health concerns from pesticides/fertilizers came second to getting the work done. So I feel I have some perspective on this.
Will one swig from a Nalgene bottle cause me problems…no, of course not. However, children and fetuses are much more susceptible to synthetic hormones like bisphenol-A since they are still developing physically. The adult body can more easily compensate for this. Certainly a balance needs to be struck. Unfortunately, humans are accumulating compounds like this from multiples sources, so if a source is identified, why not avoid it? We have both plastic and ceramic bowls in our home, so when I microwave something, I make sure I use a ceramic one, particularly for my young children. The tobacco industry would like us to think that cigarettes and snuff are OK too.
I would not dismiss this particular issue so casually. Calling it an urban legand is a disservice.Dec 10, 2007 at 6:59 pm #1412091
Might want to make sure those ceramic bowls aren't from China!Dec 10, 2007 at 7:17 pm #1412094
I won't repeat my long rant that went up onto my blog this week (lucky you all!) but simply put….every year there is either an email or newspaper/magazine article spread on the danger of something. Quite often it is disproved down the road, after damage has been done to the company.
In previous years it has been baby bottles, single use water bottles, microwave wrap, plastic bags, plastic dishes, etc.
Notice the common thing in all of this? Plastic.
People are scared of plastics. They don't quite trust them.
If one goes through Snopes and many other sites they can find links to studies and wether or not things are urban myths or not. For instance, people STILL send out emails about Dioxin being in freezer bags and microwave wrap (and no, they do not contain that!).
My biggest point in this? Those polycarbonate items are being used to EAT and DRINK out of, not to cook food or boil water in them. If you worry about the use of Lexan bottles on backpacking trips, you really need to think it out:
Do you use a butane/propane powered stove? Do you eat food full of fake dyes and flavors? Do you eat more than 2,000 mg of sodium a day? Trans fats? Do you drive a vehicle to the trail head? At home do you eat out of to-go containers? Microwave meals at work? Coffee cups? Plastic wrapped salad bags?
My point being is that even if there is a remote issue of anything with polycarbonate items, it is so low on the you-need-to-worry-list. You are exposed to actual things on a daily basis. Do you live in a city? Do you have a tightly sealed house? Do you commute daily in a car? Are your dinner dishes from China?
Your vehicle is belching out so much more in bad stuff than a lifetime of polycarbonate could hope to attain. The car in my avatar runs on biodiesel, and it still is polluting the world. The only thing not polluting is if I walked my butt to the trailhead.
As for polycarbonate? I have no fear using Lexan bottles, cups, sporks, spoons, etc. I also have no issue having my 10 year old use them. Far better to use these bottles thousands of time than toss that many water bottles into the dump!
(Disclaimer: I also use aluminum pans, Teflon sprayed pans, drink soy and eat soy, and heck, my kid? He has been consuming soy based items since 3 days after he was born. Oh yeah, and I also immunized him as well. I tend to look at the big picture.)Dec 10, 2007 at 8:07 pm #1412097
I was reading a report recently about Australians developing vitamin D deficiency by not having enough exposure to the sun. Apparently enough people have taken the UV danger warnings too far the extent of depriving their bodies of the necessary amount.
BTW, while a gallon of wine a night is not that good for you (and neither is a gallon of water or carrot juice) a glass is beneficial.
Maybe is the same as working 8 hours a day can be good but 22 hours is too much, but how would I know, I am not an expert.
Since I don't intend eating my Nalgene ( never realized that I was supposed to…) cook and eat my Gatorade bottles, scrape and eat the Teflon coating, drink my shampoo, etc I will just occasionally worry about people that die early because they worry too much.
FrancoDec 10, 2007 at 8:19 pm #1412098
Right on Sarah!
(Except technically you would probably still be polluting if you walked to the trailhead. You'd likely be wearing shoes that are produced in a factory with some sort of emissions, eating a snack produced similarly, and if walking long enough might even create your own emissions. )
PamDec 10, 2007 at 8:33 pm #1412100
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
This is merely the latest eco-reactionary BS version of the old "Air and water are both extremely toxic. The proof; everyone who ever died has breathed the air and/or drunk the water during their lifetime."
Pure dehydrated camel dung!
Wandering BobDec 10, 2007 at 8:34 pm #1412101
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
With you Sarah, except for one thing:
> People are scared of plastics. They don't quite trust them.
Me, I just reckon many people prefer wild rumours and scandals to using their brains. If they have any, that is.
My wife used to worry about all these scares, but when she read that someone had 'proven' that drinking TEA would give her cancer, she finally rebelled! :-)Dec 10, 2007 at 9:23 pm #1412110
@tomclarkLocale: East Coast
I've always enjoyed your posts, so it's nice to talk with you. I agree that it's easy to catch the most recent layman's headline and be scared about living life. I also think it's good to make judgements based on real data. Most people here have weighed the contents of their backpacks to see how much of a difference reducing individual piece weights make, so why treat something like this differently?
So I'm not talking about the USA Today headlines. I'm talking about research papers that are in refereed scientific journals. What are you basing your dismissal on (you didn't state that, and I think it's pretty important)?
I think that there are better options out there than PC. I personally believe that smoking affects far more people than bisphenol-A from PC, but that doesn't lessen some of the potential effects that it can have on young children and fetuses.Dec 10, 2007 at 9:45 pm #1412112
@hechoendetroitLocale: South Kak
The problem with bisphenol A is that it is a hormone, and thus is active at very low doses. Also, hormones effect the body in subtle and complicated fashions. They also have many secondary effects (and tertiary, etc).
An expert panel took a look at bisphenol A and released their final report (PDF) a couple weeks ago. (@ 384 pages, you'll want to skim this one via the table o' contents!)
They concluded that considering the exposure to the general population, there was really just a bit of concern with fetuses and children. It seems that behavioral problems are the main cause of their concern.
They also concluded that exposure through beverages and foods (stored in lexan) was the major pathway of exposure. This would put polycarb addicts in a risk category above the general population in my opinion. A previous poster mentioned that hot beverages should be avoided… I second that (opinion again).
They also recognized that we have a lot more to understand here which leaves the window open for other issues.
Disclaimer: this was a breakneck skim job here, and a late night one at that, so you might want to read the PDF for yourself. Fun!Dec 10, 2007 at 9:52 pm #1412114
My views are based on a number of things I have read up on, while doing research on plastics and safety. I do have a number of the links posted up on my website though. They come from a wide area of science, drs and yes, studies done by Nalgene and others. (And yes, those could be called bias!)
For me though…my personal safety comfort level is pretty high with using plastics. In the big scheme of things I have more to worry about with my visits to the shooting range. We often shoot in indoor ranges, and yes, you get exposed to lead in small tiny amounts.
I don't worry about my son using Lexan bottles. At 10 he is skinny, tall and about as manly as a boy can be. If anything, his high consumption of soy milk (he doesn't like dairy milk) should be the thing to wag tongues at. But alas, no boy boobs! (And he drinks 2-3 cups a day!)
When it comes down to it, yes, I drink out of a Lexan container daily. My glasses at home are made of polycarbonate, I don't like glass or metal to drink out of. I have Nalgene bottles in all our vehicles. I hike with them. I keep them clean and full of our tasty well water. Yum!Dec 10, 2007 at 10:02 pm #1412115
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a key industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic, epoxy resins and other products. Following the four-step procedure recommended by the United States National Academy of Sciences (NRC, 1983), a safety assessment of BPA concludes that the potential human exposure to BPA from polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin food contact applications is minimal and poses no known risk to human health. This conclusion is based on the following key points:
1. BPA is not carcinogenic and does not selectively affect reproduction or development. The No-Observed-Adverse-Effect-Level (NOAEL) for BPA, confirmed in multiple laboratory animal tests, is 50 mg/kg body weight/day;
2. The estimated dietary intake of BPA from polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin food contact applications, based on the results of multiple migration studies with consistent results, is less than 0.000118 mg/kg body weight/day; and
3. This potential human exposure to BPA is more than 400 times lower than the maximum acceptable or "reference" dose for BPA of 0.05 mg/kg body weight/day established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which is derived from the NOAEL.
An independent analysis by the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food (SCF), using a similar methodology, has confirmed the safety of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin food contact applications. The SCF estimated total dietary intake of BPA from all food contact sources to be in the range of 0.00048 to 0.0016 mg/kg body weight/day, which is below the Tolerable Daily Intake set by the SCF of 0.01 mg/kg body weight/day.
The use of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins for food contact applications has been and continues to be recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Food, the United Kingdom Food Standards Agency, the Japanese Ministry for Health, Labor and Welfare, and other regulatory authorities worldwide.Dec 10, 2007 at 10:06 pm #1412117
"They concluded that considering the exposure to the general population, there was really just a bit of concern with pregnant mothers and children. It seems that behavioral problems are the main cause of their concern."
The thing is, you can do everything perfectly and by the book and still have a kid with issues. And for that child you will have moms who smoked like chimney's and drank like crazy who produce perfect kids.
For those of you with children who have special needs you understand where you question if anything you did caused the problems…and often there is just no reason the child has issues.
My son has Aesperger Syndrome and has been "different" since the day he came to this world. Was it because of things I ate and drank? No. I had a vegan, nearly organic lifestyle. Rather I had health issues that caused me to have to have him early, before he was developed entirely. His being forcibly delivered before his brain was totally wired caused his behavior issues. I got a nice case of Preclampsia and he would have died in me if I had carried him 9 months.
And yet, without plastics, I doubt he would have survived. A preemie babies world is of plastics. From the tiny BP cuffs for them to the little bottles that feed them. To the plastic wires that they had attached to his scalp to monitor him. There are people who question baby bottles for the same reason they question Nalgene bottles. Yet, I would use those baby bottles in a heartbeat. The ability to feed a child that cannot latch on and nurse is priceless.
Plastics have a place in our lives. Maybe not everyones, but in mine they do!Dec 11, 2007 at 6:17 am #1412126
"Since I don't intend eating my Nalgene ( never realized that I was supposed to…) cook and eat my Gatorade bottles, scrape and eat the Teflon coating, drink my shampoo, etc I will just occasionally worry about people that die early because they worry too much."
wow, that was great, Franco, absolutely brilliant…
As Sarah has so eloquently stated here and on her blog, there are far BIGGER issues to worry about. Cut all the other "dangerous" crap out of your life, THEN consider BP-A. Note, Sarah has obviously cut out way more than the vast majority of us, and STILL has bigger things to worry about than BP-A.
I would hasten to bet that a SINGLE meal at a typical fast-food burger joint loads your body with way more toxins, carcinogens, and artificial hormones than a year of drinking from PC would… aka, anyone who freaks out about PC and still, occasionally, eats fast food is, unknown to them, a hypocrite… I won't even get into people who drive to work when they could (far more people could than want to believe they could) bike to work, or people who eat boxed food, or…
Now, realize I still do all of those things… that's why I don't worry about PC…Dec 11, 2007 at 7:06 am #1412128
Educate yourself and make an educated decision. Some things we get exposed to really are statistically significantly bad; cigarette smoke for example; thalidomide here in Japan as another example.
From the few hours of research I did on Nalgene, I choose to still use it as an adult. I see they are now releasing a BA-free series of bottles (in addition to the softer type which were always BA free).Dec 11, 2007 at 7:18 am #1412131
Steve, thanks for that link to the report! I skimmed it and read the conclusions. I would summmarize it as follows;
Don't give hot (95'C) beverages to kids or pregnant women served from nalgene which contains BA.
Simple rule of thumb. Even so, results were contradictory and 'minor' at worst. If you let your kids ride around with no seatbelt, bike w/o helmets, etc.. they have bigger worries.Dec 11, 2007 at 2:06 pm #1412159
When I was a younger man, I drank to excess, smoked cigarettes, chased women, etc. I was a bad boy, I'm afraid.
On three separate occasions I've had a good friend tell me that I'd be dead long before they even started to feel bad.
They didn't drink, or smoke, ate right, exercised every single day, and so forth.
Saddly, the first one developed Diabetes when he was 34 and died 6 months later of an enlarged heart.
The second one dropped dead from a Heart Attack one day when he was out for a run in 95 degree heat.
The third one was shot in the head by his former girlfriend because she was mad at him for breaking up with her. (Unknown to all she had a former drug problem and jumped back in when they split up. sensless)
And not to forget my Father who had a sudden dizzy spell, slipped in the kitchen an broke his neck on a chair leg.
Or my Sister in Law who, without warning, had liver failure from a undiagnosed liver ailment when she was a child and passed away 5 days later, at the tender age of 46.
I've adopted a much heathier lifestyle these days but in my mind I must lean twords Sara's point.
Drinking my water out of a plastic water bottle is a risk I think I can live with. There's way too much stuff out there that will kill ya to worry about.
Oh yeah … did you hear the latest study results?
Saliva has been found to cause Cancer …. but only if swallowed in small amounts over a very long period of time…..Dec 11, 2007 at 2:52 pm #1412162
To top all that off I have so many of the Nalgenes I can't remember which ones were my pee bottles. Washed and then put back in the mix. Literally I think I have consumed over a thousand gallons of water out of these bottles.
I have poured boiling water in all of them. They have been frozen, dropped, kicked, thrown.
I gave up on the soft side Nalgene bottles after they all cracked after being in short term storage.
I have smoked in the past, drank adult beverages to excess, immunized by God knows for the jungles of Panama, taken experimental anti-nerve agent pills in Iraq, drank iodine, rubbed 100% DEET all over my body, had chest X-rays, jumped out of airplanes, fallen off my bike, 5 car wrecks, and been shot at a few times.
I also eat eggs and red meat and drink milk.
I like my bottles.Dec 11, 2007 at 3:46 pm #1412165
@bjamesdLocale: South Coast of BC
I eat meat, talk on a cellphone, and make campfires. I rode a motorcycle for 5 years. I go in the sun and I am in love with a woman who speaks mostly french.
You couldn't take any of these things away from me, because they add so much to my quality of life. Despite their inherent "risks", the alternative is not acceptable to me. I will not live in a padded bubble, getting no more (or less) than 15 minutes of UV exposure a day, eating raw vegetables, and communicating by telegram. What life would I be protecting then?
I think that everyone makes this type of personal evaluation: smokers, skydivers, and yes backpackers are willing to take the risks because the rewards are worth it — or because the alternative isn't worth it.
BPA, though, is not a quality of life issue! There are plenty of alternatives. Life goes on without BPA.
Remember this about the apparently "inconclusive" research on BPA: there is no possibility of a control group. We are all full of the stuff and have been for 20 years. They can't compare a "BPA person" to a person who lived the same life but has never had contact with BPA.
THAT is why the studies can't be more conclusive. It is impossible to know which of our slew of modern ailments are or aren't linked to BPA because we've all been bathed in the stuff for decades.
The only place they can do effective, controlled studies is on animals — because it is possible to raise an animal that's never eaten BPA. And in animals, the results are *scary*. Animals develop many of the puzzling problems that humans have developed in the last 30 years. BPA, after all, was discovered by a scientist looking for synthetic estrogen.
(And by the way, humans are often found to contain 10x the level of BPA that's considered dangerous in animals.)
I say it again: if taking away BPA was a "life worth living" issue, I would eat it every night for dinner with ketchup. But it's not.
What it *is* is an apparently substantial risk with effectively no reward.
Edit: PS. Sarah I appreciated your blog post, but I think that there are two different issues here. Does BPA get into humans from using plastics? Yes it does. (BPA is not mentioned in the articles you linked to.) The question is as to its' short- and long-term toxicity. Right now it's standing where tobacco, PFOA, and thalidomide once were: "highly-studied" compounds that were proven non-toxic by leading "scienticians". It may turn out that BPA does terrible things to animals but *not* to people; we will see. To me, it's not worth the inherent risk associated with not simply switching to other types of plastics.Dec 11, 2007 at 4:02 pm #1412169
.Dec 11, 2007 at 4:33 pm #1412175
@cuzzettjLocale: NorCal - South Bay
You can have my Nalgene bottles when you pry them from my cold dead fingers!
Besides… The simple joy I get out of boiling water and dumping it in the bottle with my soup, stew, or oatmeal; wrapping the bottle in a fleece or sleeping bag and then continuing the hike for 1/2 hour to an hour and eating a hot or warm meal just doesn't justify a long life. It is what it is and a lot of other things will kill me first… though I did survive the Infantry (bullets do fly when you are having fun – or not), my time as a paramedic, a few close calls with some really 'great' women and a few boughts of alcohol poisoning in college. Not to mention drinking out of rain puddles on a horse trail. Oh yeah, smoking for several years and still when I camp (after the kids are in bed of course… Oh the occasional cigar with dad. Second hand smoke growing up (thanks dad). Bicycle commuting… Oh God, don't forget that!!! The numerous pieces of plastic I ingested. I figure I I make it to 60 I am doing good. If I don't, so be it. Someone has to be on the bad side of the curve.
Oh yeah, my 4 kids skateboard (even my 5 year old girl) in a skate park, my sons and I walked a trail witha good 400 foot drop about 2 inches away over a 10 foot section (sure I was worried), and my son and I are running in a trail race this weekend. Heck, my boys drank out of the same trail puddle I did. They were grinning ear to ear. On top of that, they love there Nalgene bottles!!!
Somehow, I don't know how, they will survive. Maybe a little dumber (to are in the smart kids program so far… the oldest is just like me – MacGyver-esque), a little slower, but they are all grinning from ear to ear and surviving. Shoot, the kids at school are giving JP (the 8 year old) crap and don't believe he is going to do the race. They will see next Monday when he shows up to school in his shirt and numbers with a packet full of pictures laid out in power point and pictures of him taken from behind as he finishes, because Mountain Goat is going to beat my old, delapidated, chemically treated a**.
I can't wait for 'love' to be bad for you. You should see our obituaries in the paper next week.
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