Could Nalgene Bottles Cause Cancer?

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Orange Nalgene Bottle

Note: This post has been revised due to factual inaccuracies noted in the comments below. Thanks to Mark for setting us straight on the technicals of this issue!

Nalgene water bottles have found a place in every rucksack, and have millions of confirmed backpacking fans. But now, new research by a Canadian outdoor gear company Mountain Equipment Co op, have suggested that Lexan, the plastic material that Nalgene bottles are made of is possibly toxic, and worse, these toxins could permeate everything that is contained in these bottles.

Lexan is a brand name for bisphenol A brand name plastic known to contain bisphenol A – a chemical that the study says possibly disperses toxins into the contents of the bottle. Many of these toxins have been found connected to diseases like cancer, and conditions like (yikes) low sperm count.

In fact, a study conducted by the Canadian group Environmental Defense found that every Canadian has at least some levels of bisphenol A in his blood. The offending bottles have been yanked off store shelves, until further studies confirm these findings.

13 Responses

  1. 3typesofcancer

    It will be awful that you end up with cancer because of something that you take with you when you try to keep your self healthy.
    Companies should be more responsible.

  2. Mark

    1. Mountain Equipment Co-op did not do any research. They simply reacted to the controversy surrounding bisphenol A and the recent media attention it has garnered DESPITE the fact that this has been an issue that the scientific community has been unable to discern a clear resolution to for over 20 years.

    2. Lexan is the brand name of a polycarbonate thermoplastic and NOT for the chemical compound bisphenol A. I understand this is a lazy piece of cut and paste from Gadling, but there is still no excusing your lack of research in repeating such a silly statement.

    Bishpenol A is most commonly found in the linings of cans and in several other products used far more often than Nalgene or GSI (those are brand names) water bottles. Companies like Mountain Equipment Co-op have tried to put the information out there regarding the possible health concerns and controversy surrounding polycarbonate plastics, and they sell a selection of non-polycarbonate alternatives.

    @3typesofcancer: It’s my opinion, that the buyer should be more responsible and take some accountability for their actions. I have done some research on the subject and have made the decision to keep using my polycarbonate water bottles. NGOs like Environmental Defense only represent one side of the story and have an agenda to push, just like a major corporation. And, just like a corporation, they’re looking for a big Win on this issue to draw more attention to their organization.

    Given the lack of conclusive evidence that polycarbonate plastic leaches significant amounts of bisphenol A, I think MEC’s decision was a knee-jerk reaction to pressure from less than educated outside sources.

    Reading things like Shabana’s post here on Vagabondish make me angry. We live in a headline-agitated society where people like to get their information from the shallowest of sources and not ever dig any deeper. Poorly researched opinions posing as facts do nothing but contribute to the growing problem of people who want to rally behind a cause without doing any of the real work to research the issue. Jumping on board the bandwagon of headline exploitation may get your website a few more readers, but this is one of the most pathetic pieces of misinformed ‘reporting’ I have ever read.

    I hope that in the future you will dig a little deeper before hitting the Publish button on your blogging software.

  3. Mike Richard

    Mark: Thanks for your insight. I can certainly appreciate your knowledge and enthusiasm in discussing this topic – one in which I believe many backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts are interested.

    That said, Shabana’s piece does not offer any opinions, let alone attempt to pawn them off as fact. She’s simply reported what other studies and sources have reported. So I’m a bit confused when you reference “poorly researched opinions posing as facts”.

    If your biggest gripe with the above piece is that “Lexan is the brand name of a polycarbonate thermoplastic and NOT for the chemical compound bisphenol A”, I can understand your frustration. But semantics don’t dissolve the central point of the post or the related studies.

    As you stated above, consumers “should be more responsible and take some accountability for their actions”. I couldn’t agree more. If someone’s going to forego ever drinking from a soda can or Nalgene bottle because of a headline they read on two blogs without further research, I’d argue the problem lies with their lack of responsibility.

    The underlying point in your comment suggests that you’re simply pi**ed off about headline-driven media. I’m with you there, but I’m not sure this blog post best underscores your sentiment.

  4. Eric Yaverbaum

    First let me say in the spirit of FULL DISCLOSURE, one of the companies I am a partner in sells water bottles. My pr agency ( has partnered with another agency ( and have formed Tappening ( While we have no inventory because we sold out in our first week, we have continued to be VERY active making sure people knew the facts about bottled water. We’ve repeatedly said in every press interview we do, that we don’t care whether you buy our bottle or Nalgene’s or any other competitor…just know the facts about the 28 billion bottles of bottled water we buy every year and the consequences that has on our environment. And people are listening. Almost 700,000 in a month at our website. And just as the mainstream media and many. many environmental groups are starting to be heard, MEC pulls their inventory over a story that is a decade old and has yet to reach a real conclusion. Yikes. What a coincidence? It’s not a new story, yet somehow it’s getting it’s 15 minutes of fame. Or more? Although I refuse to fan the fire, you have to wonder?

    So here’s my message…stop drinking from any bottle that makes you nervous…but don’t pick bottled water before you know the facts or the bottled water companies who “coincidentally” will benefit from this old news suddenly being new news win. I sell polycarbonate bottles. I knew of these issues before ever starting. We closely examined the science and we came to the conclusion that they are safe. If it ever turns out that there is conclusive science that they are not, we’ll move along. But please make sure you know the FACTS and don’t go back to drinking bottled tap water. That’s what is important here.

  5. Mark

    I guess I am one of a dwindling few who believe that information published on the internet should be held to the same standards as that of mediums like print or television. The post was either intended as a blog entry, meaning it contains opinion, or as an informative piece on a current issue, meaning it should contain facts. My problem lies not in semantics, but in factual inaccuracies. Stating that the inaccuracy is the result of a sloppy cut and paste job does not excuse the error.

    I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds, and have seen many stories about polycarbonates and bisphenol A flow through in the last few days. While most of them seem to contain the same information, this piece stood out as being on the wrong end of a telephone game where mindless rewording of other people’s labour has been warped into something that no one should be reading. It’s the mentality that this is acceptable behavior that I’m railing against.

    I normally have a policy of letting my opinions sit for 24 hours before posting them online, and despite my better judgment I ignored that this morning. My comment could have been about half the length that it was, but my opinion still stands.

    For anyone interested in the story, I did a quick search and found the press release from Mountain Equipment Co-op:

    “VANCOUVER, Dec. 7 /CNW/ – Inconclusive science and regulatory uncertainty presently surrounds bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic chemical that is a ‘building block’ of polycarbonate plastic. For these reasons, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has stopped selling polycarbonate water bottles and food containers until guidance is provided by the Government of Canada on the potential health risks posed by BPA. MEC’s deliberations on this matter will
    be guided by the risk assessment of BPA that is currently underway through the federal government’s Chemicals Management Plan.
    MEC has followed the BPA issue closely for at least three years. The move to stop selling polycarbonate water bottles and food containers was an internal decision that is consistent with our commitment to being a responsible retailer. To that end, our product offering presently includes functional alternatives to many of the polycarbonate products that we have now stopped selling.”

    Thanks for your rebuttal, Mike. I think it’s important for people to have their opinions challenged on a regular basis.

  6. Jaja

    The fact is we consume many kinds of chemicals on a daily basis. If you are to look at one chemical and ask if its safe then you may come to the conclusion yes its safe, BUT what studies are there to show how all these chemicals work together in our body?? I don’t recall there being to many around. Can you fellows point one out to me? I would like to see what is being said about the myriad of chemicals in our blood and how they are interacting together and how they are affecting our health. All chemicals have side effects you cant dispute that, now to err on the side of safe would be the prudent thing to do. Polycarbonate is in our food our water and it is in our blood along with many other chemicals, to allow this to float around in a babies system is reprehensible. You can suck up all the polycarbonate you like but as for myself and my family it can go to the curbside with all the other plastic such as PET bottles and the antimony that comes off of it. I for one wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I had possibly made someone sick, all to make a buck…

  7. chloe

    Hi Guys,

    There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace right now. The bottom
    line is that any aluminum bottle is lined with epoxy which is a
    plastic resin.
    To the best of my knowledge there
    is only one wide mouth stainless steel bottle on the market which has
    the same threads as a Nalgene. Please check them out at They are really sturdy and you can boil water in ’em.

  8. Peter

    I recommend reading up on what many of the government agencies have published on BPA – even as recently as 2007.

    Nalgene has links to many of the government studies: Nalgene Link

    Stainless steel bottles are nice, but even Guyot Designs are being made outside of the USA, and the quality control is not held up to the same standards. I do like Guyot products a lot, and the stainless steel widemouths are nice, but they won’t replace my nalgene. I like to be able to see what I drink and be able to fully clean the bottle.

    All nalgene products are made in the USA, and held up to the most rigorous standards in the world when it comes to safety.

    The whole BPA thing is a result of emotionally charged media reacting to the vocal opinions of a tiny minority with an agenda.

  9. Mike Richard

    This post seems to be a real hot button issue!

    Mark: I’ve updated the original post to correct for the factual error regarding Lexan. Thanks for setting us straight on that point.

    It’s funny you mention the “game of telephone” in regards to how stories and news are often passed around the blogging world. I couldn’t help but think of the same thing yesterday after I replied to your comment.

    Please understand that we never simply report our news or sideline features willy nilly from any source on the web. We rely on hand-picked, oft reliable sources for same. Gadling is one such source. In this case, they reported a factual error which we relied on. (On a side note: they’ve since corrected their original post as well.)

    In a perfect world, blogs and other web sources should be held to the same high standard as the Boston Globe, CNN, et. al. However you must realize that this blog, like many others, is a labor of love and not a true commercial endeavor. As such, we simply don’t have the resources of a full time fact-checking staff to verify each and every single fact we find online with the same level of thoroughness and scrutiny as the mainstream media.

    I’m happy that you have the time available to do so on stories such as this which are of particular interest to you. Because of your enthusiasm, you were able to set us straight and the error has been noted and corrected.

    That said, I take issue with your use of the word “mindless” in describing Shabana’s work. It is possible to be mindful and still make a factual error, which is exactly what happened here.

    Even the mainstream media allows for corrections and retractions. And I certainly appreciate our readers pointing out our faults or errors in reporting whenever necessary.

  10. Mark

    Mike: I am going to keep this as concise as I can, and this is the last I’ll say on the topic.

    To clarify, I am not concerned with one single factual error. There are multiple errors that contributed to a general lack of accuracy in the piece as a whole. Obviously the Lexan brand name error came from Gadling (they changed it after I mouthed off to them), but I’ve read many of the articles and blog entries surrounding this issue and Shabana introduces new information that I have yet to see anywhere else. I understand what it’s like to try to take a played out story and make it your own, but sometimes this careless rewording leads you so far astray that you’re distorting the facts.

    I am willing to concede that mindless was a poor choice of word, but I would retract it only to replace it with careless. I do not condemn Shabana as a writer, but I do believe that a very poor choice was made to rush a post on a buzz topic, and if my being an ass and unloading my (unfair?) general frustration on her teaches her to take a bit more care in the future then perhaps it was all worthwhile.

    Publishing on the internet opens you up to criticism from every nutjob with a keyboard, don’t it?

  11. Jordan

    I have to agree with Mike on his comments above. This article should be revised or removed due to the inaccuracies present.

    1. Mountain Equipment Co-op did not perform any research or come up with new research. MEC did not come to the conclusion that, “these toxins could permeate everything that is contained in these bottles.” Every article out there states that MEC is waiting for Health Canada to make such a determination.

    2. The article states that BPA is dispersed into Nalgene bottle’s contents and then implies that that the level of BPA dispersed by the Nalgene bottles is high enough to be connected with some serious health concerns. This implication is false and if I were Nalgene, I’d be looking to sue. The truth is that studies have shown you’d need to eat 600kg of food before you’d reach unsafe levels (source: )

    Your last paragraph states two unrelated facts. Yes, Canadians have BPA in their systems and yes, the bottles have been removed from shelves at MEC but not because Canadians have BPA in their systems. The bottles were removed because MEC’s customers (members) decided to have a “wait & see” attitude on this issue.

    Lastly, for those of you that give up Nalgene bottles because of articles like the one above, I hope you also give up eating any vegetables or food that is stored in cans as many cans are lined with BPA as well and leech far more BPA into your food than Nalgene bottles ever will.

    If the author has time to write and post this article, she certainly has time to check her facts. If not for her own credibility then she should for the sake of the site.

  12. Dutch

    Like it or not this is a hot topic. And I would like to know more about what you guys think…seems like some of you who commented know a good deal about this….What do you think of these bottles?

    I have heard mostly positive things about the fact that they don’t leach too much (anything?) into it’s contents….any thoughts?

  13. Livan

    The whole Bottled water issue is very important. Unfortunately despite how important environmentalism is, it can sometimes be a little less entertaining than a Coke commercial. Check out this video in which a pair of young MAGICIANS decide to show how amazing and entertaining environmentalism can be. We talk about the problems with bottled water and offer you a perfect solution. Think Global. Drink Local. Please let us know what you think.



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