What is BPA? Why is it used in water bottle production? What other applications/industries is it used in? Are sport bottles free of BPA?

bpa-free-seal pic 2BPA is a plastic that is used in many food and drink cans as well as many clear water bottles. It was first created in the 1890’s. Initially, BPA was a chemical used to enhance the growth of cattle and poultry. The second use of BPA came in the mid 1930’s as an estrogen replacement therapy for women.

Today, BPA is an ingredient in the internal coating of many metal food and beverage cans; it is used to protect the food from direct contact with the can. BPA is used to harden the plastics in some water pipes and is found in receipts, event and cinema tickets, labels, airline tickets and even  paper money. Thus the potential for exposure is vast. One concern is that when acidic or hot substances come into contact with BPA resins, the BPA can leech out and be ingested into the human body.  Many soft drink cans have measurable, low amounts, of BPA. Also, the handling of paper receipts such as money or tickets may absorb BPA into the body.

It is believed, that under certain conditions that chemicals can leach into the contents of the product. High levels of BPA have been found in animals and humans causing possible hormonal disruptions. If you want to know more about this, just listen to the TED talk “The Toxic Baby” (transcripts).

When BPA levels become elevated in the human body, it can cause endocrine type effects similar to high estrogen levels (thus its use as an estrogen replacement).  A 2011 study that investigated the number of chemicals pregnant women are exposed to in the U.S. found BPA in 96% of women. Research show that BPA exposure is widespread, with detectable levels in urine samples in more than an estimated 90% of the U.S. population.

The issue of whether BPA is harmful is a hot topic and politically debated. In 2010 the EPA reported that over one million pounds of BPA are released into the environment annually.  Canada has been on the forefront to decrease BPA exposure in which companies like Nalgene and Toy’s R Us halted use of BPA in their products. Many countries have introduced legislature to ban the use of BPA. In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration wrote that “the scientific evidence at this time does not suggest that the very low levels of human exposure to BPA through the diet are unsafe.” Although Canada and the USA have recently banned the use of BPA in baby bottles.bpa pic 1

For the most part, the flexible bottles used in running and cycling are void of BPA.  But this does not mean there are other chemicals that can come from these plastics. Proper bottle hygiene practices are often overlooked; perhaps more concerning than the plastics leaching into our bodies.  If you are concerned about BPA levels in your body, ask your doctor to order a lab test for BPA.

Thus the debate of whether BPA should exist in our life continues.  We do know for certain that it is harmful in high levels and the question remains if harms in low doses. The BPA thing is likely to remain up in the air, but for the most part the bottles we use in cycling are BPA free. If you absolutely want to know for sure, choose a company that guarantees a BPA free bottle like Nalgene, Polar or Camelback.

General water bottle hygiene guidelines

  • Don’t microwave bottles
  • Avoid leaving water in bottles overnight
  • Use freshly prepared bottles
  • Avoid hot liquids and acidic substances in plastic bottles
  • Warm sugar drinks may promote bacterial growth within hours
  • Always wash bottles after using them
  • Inspect the cap and inside of your bottle before use
  • Replace your bottles periodically
  • Avoid drinking from others bottles
  • Bad tasting water bottles may be from bacteria in the bottle
  • Freezing bottles can decrease bacteria

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To your health

Doc Edwards