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How to Choose a Safe Water Bottle

Posted Feb 26 2010 9:54am

WaterBottleFaceOff How to Choose a Safe Water BottleI’ve made my stance on bottled water quite clear before, but I’ll go ahead and reiterate: bottled water is a joke. It’s completely unnecessary, unless you’re in a nation with unsafe water quality, and the plastic bottles make for excellent landfill fodder. You could reuse the bottles, but then you’ve gotta worry about the plastic leaching into your water, especially the more you refill and reuse them (and don’t ever stick ‘em in the dishwasher). Poor taste is one thing – I can’t expect a person to happily drink tap water that tastes terrible – but tap is perfectly safe to drink, especially if used with a simple filter. And if it weren’t, most bottled water wouldn’t be any better, since it’s often just repackaged tap (check the label or cap – if it says “from a municipal source” or “from a community water system” or anything along similar lines, it’s tap water). Sparkling water in glass bottles is justifiable (tap isn’t bubbly, after all, although you could make it so at home , and the glass bottles are definitely reusable (I like filling them with homemade salad dressings).

But if you’re just after fresh drinking water, the tap will be fine. You can buy a filter if you like – I do, myself – or you could locate a nearby freshwater spring , if tap isn’t cutting it. The best water I’ve ever tasted came from a campsite faucet in Lake Tahoe. You could taste the minerals; it was like drinking from a fresh water stream before it got dangerous. I swear, if it didn’t mean a eight-hour drive each way, I’d get all my water from that tap. Oh well. I’m getting off topic. Just don’t buy crate after crate of water in plastic bottles is the essential gist of my spiel.

Still, bottled water is undeniably convenient, which is why it’s probably so popular (along with unfounded fears regarding tap water safety). I can’t ignore the convenience factor. I like it myself. Most people just reuse their old plastic bottles, those simple, unassuming polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. It’s an environmentally friendly gesture, but it’s one that may promote health issues , including the leaching of DEHP – a potent carcinogen – with repeated use. And, of course, there’s always our old friend, Bisphenol A , to contend with when plastics are involved. He turns up in the darndest of places, but that doesn’t mean you should simply throw in the towel. Avoid those old plastic bottles. Then there are the glass bottles. Safe? Yeah, but they’re also heavy and fragile – not the ideal water vessel for active individuals like our readers.

A better option is to go with a permanent water bottle expressly designed for the purpose. There are dozens on the market, but it usually comes down to a standoff between bottles made of polycarbonate plastics, aluminum, and stainless steel. Let’s see if we can find a clear winner.

Polycarbonate bottles

PlasticWaterBottle How to Choose a Safe Water Bottle

These are the “safe” plastic bottles; the permanent ones. They’re incredibly durable, and they exude an air of impermeability. They don’t wither under heat, like the PET bottles, and they maintain their shape. Plus, they often come in neat colors and attractive mesh shoulder slings. All the cool kids are using them, but should you?

I’d stay away. Polycarbonates have been proven to leach BPA into drinking water . There are no good reasons to take any chances considering the reams of animal data showing definitive deleterious effects outlined in the last BPA post .

But what about “BPA-free” plastic water bottles? Despite BPA-free claims I remain skeptical of plastic water bottles. With misinformation and the unregulated state of bioaccumulating pollutants , for my money there are much safer options.

Aluminum bottles

AluminumWaterBottle How to Choose a Safe Water Bottle

Aluminum is a solid choice. They’re pretty durable and very light, but they’re also expensive. Aluminum water bottles have become pretty damn trendy, if that weighs on your decision at all. Sure, trendiness can be annoying and all, but at least it shows people are becoming more aware of the folly of buying several plastic bottles of water a day – and that’s always a good thing. Is aluminum the way to go?

I hesitate to give my unequivocal affirmation. While the newest (post 2009) aluminum water bottle models from Sigg are claiming to be free of BPA, all their earlier stuff has it in the interior lining. So, the most recent Sigg bottles are probably safe, but as for the bottles from other, less reputable companies? I wouldn’t take a chance. Sigg is the biggest name in the aluminum water bottle game, and if they’re only just now ditching the BPA (a move momentous enough for the president to turn into a public statement ) in their bottles, I’d be careful about buying aluminum bottles from other companies. And definitely avoid filling an aluminum bottle with acidic liquid (not that PB folks are big lemonade drinkers or anything), which can cause the aluminum itself to leach.

Stainless Steel bottles

stainlesssteelwaterbottle How to Choose a Safe Water Bottle

Stainless steel wins, in my book. Sure, it’s a bit heavier, but it’s a proven material, and it won’t leach (and if it could, you’d have pure steel running through your veins – a net win, if you ask me). If you’re attacked by a mountain lion, your stainless steel water bottle becomes a dangerous weapon. You can fell the vicious beast, wipe the blood off, then immediately take a sip of refreshing water. You think polycarbonate and aluminum bottles could do that? Please. Wild animals in this country have (sadly) seen more than enough used condoms and faded cans of Budweiser to last them a lifetime. They’d laugh at your plastics and pseudo-metals (who ever heard of a metal that a ten year-old boy could crush underfoot?). If you tried to face down a big wild cat with a polycarbonate bottle, you’d better hope that feral felines are highly sensitive to trace amounts of BPA.

Seriously, though, stainless steel is the best choice, followed closely by reputable aluminum bottles. With steel, you don’t have to worry about weird chemicals, nor do you have to spend a ton of cash to keep up with a trend, making it the clear choice for anyone interested in a durable, reliable permanent water bottle. Kleen Kanteen appears to be a trusted manufacturer .

What do you use to transport your H20? Is there anything I’ve overlooked? Any additional safety concerns? Share your infinite wisdom in the comment board!

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