I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since I first learned about the dangers of BPA (bisphenol-A) a few years back. So when I saw this eye-opening Mother Jones article, The Scary New Evidence on BPA-Free Plastics pop up in my Facebook feed a couple of days ago, I could practically hear the thud of footwear falling from the sky…
According to research by neurobiology professor George Bittner and his team at CertiChem, many BPA-free plastics are just as bad for us as the BPA-laden kind, and possibly worse, in some cases. The endocrine disruptors in most plastics have far-ranging effects that not only make us sick, infertile and genetically wacky but they also mess up our children (assuming you overcome the infertility problems) and our children’s children and our children’s children’s children and, well, you get the idea, right?
Perhaps even more disturbing, companies are not required to determine their level of toxicity before releasing them for sale and marketing them as “safe and non-toxic.”
So if you haven’t already recycled your plastic water bottles, sippy cups, straw cups and baby bottles, now is the time! But what should you use instead? Here are some good, non-toxic alternatives to consider. I’m not a scientist or even an expert on plastics or toxicity, but I have done a lot of research lately and here is what I’ve learned:
1. Try to avoid plastic at all costs. Just because a plastic is touted as BPA- and phtalate-free does not mean it’s actually non-toxic (though, clearly, anything which doesn’t address those two well-known toxins should also be a red-flag.)
2. If plastic can’t be avoided altogether, the safest type (meaning the most stable, slowest to degrade and leech chemicals into your water, food, etc.) is silicone.
3. Glass is the safest material since it does not leech at all.
4. Stainless steel is pretty good as it is a relatively inert metal but there is some transfer of elements which can be an issue for people with allergies to nickel. More info on stainless steel here.
5. There is no perfect water bottle, baby bottle, sippy cup, straw cup or insulated mug out there, but there are a lot of good options!
Here is a little summary of the bottles I’ve tried personally in case it’s helpful as you shop around for your replacements:
We got rid of our Nalgene’s back in 2008 when the news broke about BPA’s badness and invested in a couple of Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottles that we’re still happily using. They come in a bunch of different sizes (12-, 18-, 27- and 40-ounce) and with a bunch of different tops (sport, cafe, etc.) They also introduced an insulated wide-mouth bottle recently.
We ditched all our plastic baby bottles a few years ago in favor of Born Free’s sturdy, glass bottles with silicone nipples. I would only use glass for the babies since you often heat the bottle up before a feeding and we know heat and plastic is a bad combo. They come in two sizes (5- and 9-ounces) and they now offer a silicone sleeve to improve your and/or baby’s grip (though it’s never been an issue for us.)
We’ve got some stainless steel Klean Kanteen sippy cups in the mix, which we like a lot. They are not, however, a great choice for the kids at school since they do leak if they’re not kept upright. I recently bought a sport cap for my son’s 12-ounce Kleen Kanteen (the 3.0 version has a silicone mouth piece unlike the older versions though the rest of the top is still plastic), and I think that it will probably work well as the water bottle I pack in his lunch.We also have a couple of the Pura Kiki stainless steel bottles with silicone sippy spouts below that I got after reading tons and tons of reviews a few months back. The kids love these – they’re a good width for smaller hands, the bottles are light and the mouth pieces are comfortable. They have nipple attachments for babies (though I would definitely prefer glass since you may be heating a baby’s bottle and it’s just safer than metal) and two levels of flow sippy attachments for toddlers and kids, you can also get a silicone sleeve to go over the top to catch some of the leaks or buy a silicone sealing disc to use them to store food or liquids.
We use the Pura Kikis in the house but they have the same issue as the Kleen Kanteens – they leak if they’re not held upright and I’m looking for something leak-proof to send to school in a lunch box.
I have one Lifefactory glass bottles with a flip cap that I like a lot. The sleeve gives you a good grip on the bottle and the flip top with the carrying handle is definitely an improvement over the plain bottle which has a very wide mouth and led me to spill water down my front a few times while drinking and driving.
But I feel it’s still a little heavy and a bit too breakable for my almost 5-year-old son at this point. In a few years, it will probably be perfect for him, though.
Takeya also makes some very nice glass water bottles with silicone sleeves that help improve durability and minimize slippage and breakage. Their 12 ounce bottle is a more kid-friendly size than the adult-sized, 22-ounce Life Factory bottle, too. We don’t have any of these but I have read positive reviews and got the thumbs up from my friend, Gideon, whose daughter loves hers.
If you want even more options, check out the great selection at MightyNest – a company that takes non-toxic seriously. And from now until March 19th, I’m running a giveaway with MightyNest on my blog, The Garden of Eating – visit the post and sign the plastic-free pledge to enter to win $100 in safe and non-toxic water bottles and food storage containers.
Do you have other favorite alternatives to add to the comments?
Recycle your plastic now. You won’t regret it.