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‘BPA-free’ buyer beware: That reusable bottle may not be safe

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

It appears that some aluminum bottles are not so BPA- free.

Researchers from Cincinnati recently looked into whether 'BPA -free' bottles really hold up to their claims. In the study, published in the journal Chemosphere, Scott Belcher, PhD, associate professor in the pharmacology and cell biophysics department, and colleagues found the answer is yes…and no.

Consumer concerns have escalated over the chemical, found in plastics and linked to hormonal disruption, birth defects and perhaps cancer, found in animal studies.

In response to health concerns, the public is now consuming reusable water bottles instead of plastic, believing they are ‘greener’ and safe from BPA that was found in 93 percent of a tested population’s urine, per a 2008 CDC study.

In their study, the researchers found some aluminum bottles leach more BPA into liquids than plastic drinking bottles.

For their study, the Cincinnati researchers stored purified water in various containers, made from polycarbonate, co-polyester, stainless steel, aluminum with co-polyester lining or aluminum with epoxy resin lining. All were purchased from a retail store.

After five days, they found some aluminum bottles leached five times the amount of BPA as plastic polycarbonate bottles.

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Scott M. Belcher, PhD, an associate professor of pharmacology and cell biophysics at the University of Cincinnati, in Ohio explains aluminum bottles are used for marketing purposes only, when in fact the liner might contain a BPA containing epoxy resin.

When the researchers put boiling water into the bottles, they found more BPA being leached from the epoxy lined aluminum containers.

Which drinking bottles are safe?

According to Belcher, consumers can rest comfortably knowing that co-polyester plastic, uncoated stainless steel or aluminum lined with EcoCare™ really are BPA-free, but should be used according to manufacturer recommendations.

He explains, "BPA does, however, migrate into water stored in polycarbonate plastic and metal bottles coated with epoxy-resins, especially when heated to high temperatures."

The bottom line is that consumers may think anything not plastic is BPA-free. But the study shows that’s not always the case. Identifying an epoxy coating inside aluminum can be difficult. Belcher’s advice is to look for specific products that say ‘BPA-free”.

From the study, it appears manufacturers are responding to consumer concerns about BPA in drinking bottles. Some are marketing reusable bottles that leach BPA just because they look safe, making it important to look for that 'BPA-free' label.

Chemosphere: doi:10.1016/j.chemosphere.2011.06.0604
"Assessment of bisphenol A released from reusable plastic, aluminium and stainless steel water bottles"
James E. Coopera, Eric L. Kendiga and Scott M. Belcher

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