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Toxic Climbing Water Bottles
The Keeper
6:23:29 AM
In a land legendary for scarcity of H20 - this one may seem ironic but we embrace optimism and the possibilities of climate change.

The National Geographic (US) Green Guide has recently published a couple of articles No. 121 -July/August, 2007 and No. 114 - May/June, 2006) on the toxicity present in
the popular Nalgene Brand Lexan (No.7 in the recyling triangle on the bottom of the containers) multi-colored water bottles. These bottles leach low levels of Bisphenol A
(BPA) a suspected hormone disruptor (hmm, could this explain the gnarly behavior of a certain sub-species of Queen'sland climbing vixen after-all?) A 1999 Japanese study published in the Japanese Journal of Health showed that with gentle washing, new bottles leached 3.5 parts per billion (ppb) into the water whilst extremely worn and scratched bottles leached levels of BPA as high as 28 ppb. A March 2005 study published in Food Additives and Contaminants showed that exposing the bottles to high heat or storing ethanol or corn oil (maybe even vegemite?) in them for 240 hours resulted in BPA migration as high as 64 ppb. There is presently no evidence that toxicity of the material is neutralized by the inherent properties of VB or other favoured
climbing essentials. BPA has been linked to obesity (not a problem in the honed mob of Aussie climbers) and breast cancer. A 2007 study published in PLoS Genetics showed that pregnant mice exposed to low levels of BPA yielded chromosomal abnormailities with may cause birth defects and miscarriages in grandchildren.

The Nalgene Lexan #7 bottles are extremely popular due to their durability, cute looks, lightweight and non-retention of odours ( from vegemite even? But their popularity primarily derives from the cool colors. With the cost of one of these bottles in the Perth Paddy Pallin store running double of that in Canada - it certainly can't be cost!

Not all Nalgene or other brand products are bad - those which are made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) as identified by #2 in the recycling triangle on the bottom of the container or #4 made from low density polyethylene (LDPE) are okay. I have recently trashed a pile of these No.7 containers as well as some other No.7 plastic
foodware but have retained by older Nalgene creamy white pastic #2 containers.
A number of other alternate containers ie. Platypus #5 collapsible water bottles, Sigg resin coated aluminum sport bottles and Nalgene HDPE Loop-Top Bottles, are available.

So there you have it - some brain food from an immaculate source - National Geographic - an icon of quality like the Celine Dion, the Canadian national rugby side
Molson's Canadian, Squamish Granite and the Trailer Park Boys.

Remember that plastic #1 containers are single use only - they leach all sorts of bad news materials and are excellent sites for other nasty biocritters.

Checking our local Coast Mountain store , I find that Nalgene #7s rule the shelves and my last visit to Mountain Equipment Co-op showed that there were floor to ceiling shelves filled with these time bombs - right next to all the neat climbing gear (and rows of salivating visiting Aussies going bonkers buying stuff to take back to the vegemite islet). I have written MEC and asked them how the dispersion of this unfriendly product meshes with their proclaimed high environmental standards and ethics in product lines. No answer yet but I will press the issue.

So time to pull the old wineskins out of storage and maintain a healthy inventory of tins of VB or Kokanee in the old climbing tucker bag.

If everyone shifts their purchases to the old Nalgene #2 bottles we can nip this problem in the bud. Nalgene may not be high on environmental ethics for their product lines but they are probably not too dumb when it comes to financial pressures.

Climb clean and keep the crags clean. Join an local access group and pitch in - small actions combined with others can make a different world. When I am thrashing the old bones around at Squamish, Jtree, or Araps, I take the time to pick up free ranging plastic debris, bottle glass, moldering vegemite jars, whatever. It is everyones responsibility to be part of the solution and not be the problem. Climbers fixate on leading hard and gnarly routes - let's lead on environmental responsiblity as well.

PS I missed the games but looks like that game against Canada lulled the Wallabies into a stupor and down they went - the All Blacks too. Wonders never cease to arrive and amaze! :) :)

8:12:05 AM
I've heard all this before working in the outdoor industry and think it's the worst kind of over-reaction. I just keep reading it thinking 'so what'? Oh no, my water bottle might have 24 ppb of a substance that might be linked to cancer? I won't be throwing out any of my polycarb products over this. We're climbers aren't we? A little risk is good.

It's like that crazy scare with dioxin and chinese food containers. Someone told me to NEVER re-heat anything in those, cos I'd get dioxin poisoning. Turns out that the conditions required for it were that it had to be in the presence of a LOT of oil, and be held at +300deg C for a long time.

Anyway, back to the polycarb, and I add this to the mix:
"Using these results, the estimated dietary intake of BPA from polycarbonate is less than 0.0000125 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day. This level is more than 4000 times lower than the maximum acceptable or "reference" dose for BPA of 0.05 milligrams per kilogram body weight per day established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"Stated another way, an average adult consumer would have to ingest more than 600 kilograms (about 1,300 pounds) of food and beverages in contact with polycarbonate every day for an entire lifetime to exceed the level of BPA that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set as safe."

Admittedly, it's from a bisphenol industry site, but there are papers at the bottom of the page.

One last thing. National Geographic, whilst being a very good and well respected publication, is written by journalists, and should not be taken in place of peer-reviewed scientific journals.


11:13:39 AM
I agree that 'alarmist' reactions never help to illuminate an issue but you are being remarkably naive to even consider the findings of industry supported literature. The levels of ghost writing and management of such material within the industrial world is staggering. Have you ever seen data provided by industry which did not support their product? It doesn't happen. It's the nature of people to face the other way when confronted with something uncomfortable. The masters of rationalisation and contradiction. Just like you are doing. 'So what?' 'A little risk is good.'

This quote from an industry executive regarding 'scientific' trials - 'the role of data is to support the marketing of our product.'

11:22:17 AM
What grade is a standard 1.25l soft drink bottle? (my bottle of choice).

ShinToe Warrior
11:59:31 AM
On 9/10/2007 nmonteith wrote:
>What grade is a standard 1.25l soft drink bottle? (my bottle of choice).
#1 P.E.T.E.
Best to recycle after drinking the soft drink

12:18:04 PM
eeek! I have bottles that are 4 or more years old that i still use. RIP Mr Monteith?
12:25:10 PM
hey neil,
i am the same...I just read this:

seems to say that it is ok to reuse PET bottles....

(but then they are the plastics manufacuring people)

this link also:
12:29:53 PM
I have heard that these chemicals are know as "progressive polytoxins" and are fat stored. They are supposedly the same stuff that goes up the food chain from contaminated sardines on the US east coast to eventually predatory salmon causing high rates of infertility and hermaphroditism in polar bears. I am also informed such plastics are used in plastic "baby bottles" but also humans store such progressive polytoxins in ther fat cells and are only released during fat depleation (ie lactating). I heard this on an "" lecture from memory.

1:27:13 PM
everything you do is potentialy fatal or has unhealty aspects...

1:54:07 PM
The surest way of avoiding cancer is shooting yourself in the head. The rest is just compromise.
1:55:33 PM
I agree, that is why a helmet is not always nessecary for me in certain curcumstances that I decide by my own judgement. (sorry helmet evangelists insist it there right to invade threads about other things so as an anti evangelist i had to do "the greatest hypocrite is the greatest man")
3:52:39 PM
On 9/10/2007 cruze wrote:
>The surest way of avoiding cancer is shooting yourself in the head. The
>rest is just compromise.

But won't that lead to lead poisoning?
8:42:12 PM
Hey Keeper, it's been a while.

I'm with you Neil, I have antique softdrink bottles that live in my car and backpack from one year to the next.
I'm not too worried cause I don't see myself passing on any more genes, faulty or not, the last time I did that was 27 years ago when softdrink came in glass, and there was no such thing as bottled water. And I haven't had a bout of obesity lately.

However a regular climbing partner of mine carries his water in a big glass bottle and takes every (EVERY) opportunity to tell me about the perils of plastic. He's starting to get to me. I may considerer it for short trips.

4:21:41 PM
the wikipedia summary is pretty good- , which has some references if you don't trust the wikipedia page itself. so it acts like estrogen and will make you climb like a girl. well if it means it makes you climb like josune bereziartu i'm sure there wont be many complaining.

5:24:52 PM
On 9/10/2007 The Keeper wrote:
>Remember that plastic #1 containers are single use only - they leach
>all sorts of bad news materials and are excellent sites for other nasty

sounds like an urban myth to me
The Keeper
9:11:38 AM
In the concrete jungle mate, you are nothing more than a small item in the food chain as far as corporate consumption. That ain't no urbane myth but perhaps is more of a rural reality - Law of the Jungle - the big fish eat the little ones, particularly those not high on experience or savvy.

"A safe plastic if used only once, #1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the most common resin used in disposable bottles. However, as #1 bottles are resused, which they commonly are, they can leach chemicals such as DEHA, a known carcinogen, and benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP), a potential hormone disruptor. According to the January 2006 Journal of Environmental Monitoring, some PET bottled-water containers were found to leach antimony, an elemental metal that is an eye, skin, and lung irritant at high doses. Also, because the plastic is porous you'll likely get a swill of harmful bacteria with each gulp if you reuse #1 plastic bottles."

In addition, we should note the further problem "Last year Americans spent nearly $11
billion on over 8 billion gallons of bottled water, and then tossed over 22 billion empty
plastic bottles in the trash. In bottle production alone, the more than 70 million bottles of water consumed each day in the U.S. drain 1.5 million barrels of oil over the course
of one year." (From: Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water. National Geographic "The Green Guide" 2007).

Is is a useful strategy to get informed on matters pertaining to your health and to be reasonably skeptical of corporate marketing disinformation designed to futher the status quo and maximize profits. Some women know this all too well, particularly in relation to toxic breast implants -marketed to vulnerable people for the purpose of maximizing corporate profits. And it is quite interesting that in reactions to this topic here and on Supertopo that it tends to be the males of the species that get pretty puffy and macho about perceived toxic threats and and want to blithely press forward in the fact of some pretty clear scientific realities.

There is a good write up in the Globe and Mail: try this link out :
The author, Martin Mittlestaedt makes the point that unlike the normal situation with regulated toxins where increased doses make for more misery, BPA behaves like hormones "where even vanishingly small exposures can be harmful".

It is clear that we have the technology to produce environmentally and human friendly water bottles. The fact that these containers even have any toxins at all should be a big clue that something stinks in the middle of the highway. It is a pattern all too often repeated and which many folks seem lulled in accepting as a given.

Mountain Equipment Co-op in Vanvouver has taken the initial position that they will not stop distributing the No.7 bottles until there is more evidence (bodies?). That too is a corporate response that put the onus on the consumer rather than the corporate sector to prove and ensure the products they are peddling to the masses are absolutely safe - no ifs, buts or maybes. We will be engaging MEC with some new tactics given their reluctance to act in the best interests of their members - and I have been a member for some 35 years. This will be a good issue to test the metal and quality of prospective new MEC corporate board members with the next election of same. General Electric in the US is getting rid of it's plastic subsidiary in the face of oncoming class action suits.
We assume they are astute business people - they know they were headed for a train wreck - others obvisouly, like some lemmings, want to experience the excitement of a freefall and a sudden stop at a bottom of a big cliff.

The Keeper
9:20:35 AM
Hey JJ - hows life these days in Amazonia (Queen'sland!) - sounds like your mob north of Brisbane is keeping really busy - that new multipitch on Mt. Tibro is excellent - may have to have a go at that little gem when I back on the vegemite islet in 2009 after another session east of Merredin on the Great Eastern Highway. Still have lots of unfinished business at Araps so will be back there annointed Victorian rock with good Canadian DNA. Trust your house is back in good repair after that little tussle with some nasty weather! Pics from Thailand were decadent! Have some stuff to pass along your way and hope to get it out my door into the postal service shortly. Will write more separately. Cheers mate!

10:30:05 AM
These are all very interesting points, but I have to ask, when you fill up your car's petrol tank do you wear a gas mask? Do you drive a car on the roads? Do you eat fat/sugar rich food?

Until I knock out those biggies, a ppb chemical giving me a ppb greater chance of developing cancer is not going to cause me to lose any sleep.

I do think that it is important to be aware of the risks however so good luck.

12:36:13 PM
i think the point about the bacteria in the bottles is irrelevent and clutching at straws. It was because of the dramatic increase in hygene that the massive polio epidemic occured, and antibacterial everything just leaves us with weak immunity to everything.

Also what about the plastic from the various water bladders that are on the market surely there must be some mention of this form of container cos that would affect a lot more people?

1:04:33 PM
>General Electric in the US is getting rid of it's plastic subsidiary
>in the face of oncoming class action suits.

I would not be too quick to assume this implys there is a danger - lets see, in the US you can sucsessfuly sue a car company for not making the roof strong enough to withstand a horse falling on it after you've hit it, or for not saying the car cannot steer itself on cruise control.

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