Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Everything Gives You Cancer, or Something

Joe Jackson’s sardonic “Cancer” lyric from the ‘80s keeps drifting back to my subconscious these days as I contemplate new year’s resolutions and commitments to live healthier with lowest possible impact on the environment: “Everything gives you cancer, everything gives you cancer, there’s no cure, there’s no answer….” Indeed, pray tell, why does it sometimes seem that when you think you’ve found a great way to help the planet, it turns out it causes other problems?

Now it comes to my attention that Nalgene bottles, which were among my gift suggestions for gardeners I made this year, are considered toxic by health experts because they are made of polycarbonate. Though it has been used in food and beverage containers, recent studies show polycarbonate, also known as BPA, can release minute amounts of material that can interfere with normal hormone activity. Hence, not only Nalgene bottles, but also baby bottles and food utensils with BPA have been pulled from shelves across the country, in Whole Foods and other markets. Interestingly, liners of food cans also contain the compound, but so far there hasn’t been a massive recall of canned food due to BPA, even though acids from foods must certainly leach it over shelf time.

So, what if you have a polycarbonate bottle? Of course, a tiny baby is much more vulnerable than an adult when it comes to toxic materials, so you should definitely not use it for children. Some people argue that low amounts are still hazardous even for adults and are tossing theirs into the trash heap; others say they’re still keeping the bottles because they’re indestructible and still usuable and want to keep them out of landfills. If you just bought it you can probably return it. Or if you can’t return it and you don’t want to drink from it, you can always use it the way Nalgene first intended, as a laboratory storage bottle. If you’re a gardener, at least you can use the graduated lines on the side for measuring water and mixing fertilizer. Or store seeds or plant tags, or plant in it. Have any other ideas?

Nalgene has extensive info about BPA and its products on its website here.

I have a friend who carried around a tall glass bottle with drinking water, which I thought was a great idea until it broke. And then there’s the good ole stainless steel thermos, so sturdy and heavy it ought to be a registered weapon…

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