Hell just froze over. Pigs just flew.
Nalgene, one of the most aggressive defenders of the safety of BPA, has exhibited a bunker mentality in recent years while its ubiquitous polycarbonate drinking bottles became a popular icon of dangerous plastics. The company had a few non-PC (and thus BPA-free) options already but seemed clearly convinced that promoting these would weaken what has been among the staunchest pro-BPA brand defenses in the industry.
Today's shift in products and marketing strategies is the most dramatic we've seen from a major industry player since Dr. Brown's, whose representatives had previously told us that BPA warnings were an opportunistic "scare tactic," used Z Recommends to announce plans for glass and polypropylene bottle lines.
Yesterday the Today Show featured a segment on BPA which singled out Nalgene bottles as a prominent brand to avoid (you can watch it here). This is not the first, second, or even tenth time this has happened to Nalgene, and whenever TV does BPA we see a spike in traffic. But yesterday's was unprecedented. We saw nearly 20,000 hits to our Z Report on BPA over the course of the day - about three times our typical traffic. This morning, Matt Lauer hosted a follow-up Q&A segment with the Today Show's doc-in-residence that pitched the issue little more gently but didn't flinch or retract any of the previous day's statements. We actually liked the second segment a bit better than the first as it was a little less panicky. The gist of their recommendation to avoid plastic types #3, #6, and #7 was, "We won't have enough data for years, but if you have a choice, why take a risk?" Our thoughts exactly.
I'm sure Nalgene was taking the temperature across the internet, and saw an alarming amount of interest being generated out of the show.
Yesterday afternoon Nalgene launched a new website, Nalgene Choice, to showcase two new lines, one plastic and the other stainless steel, as well as a variety of other specialized drinkware products made of a laundry list of BPA-free plastics - polyethylenes (HDPE, LDPE, PET) and even some polypropylene food storage containers aimed probably at outdoorsy types. The website offers detailed information about each product's temperature ranges, durability, and BPA status, falling just short of actually stating that their keystone polycarbonate bottle contains BPA.
Our assumption is that this site has been ready for weeks or even months and Nalgene had a planned, well-choreographed launch that they abandoned to seize on this moment of intense scrutiny and bad press. The site is suddenly live, with a fresh press release to accompany it, but the new bottles do not yet appear to be available for sale.
The new plastic water bottles are made of a hard, clear plastic called Tritan copolyester, a BPA- and phthalate-free plastic that chemical company Eastman claims features a level of durability and clarity similar to polycarbonate. The plastic is currently used in Camelbak's new BPA-free alternative to its own polycarbonate water bottle; the BPA-free version is called the Better Bottle with Classic Lid, and Camelbak explicitly promotes it as a BPA-free alternative. The company also plans to switch its more popular Bite Valve model from polycarbonate to Tritan copolymer sometime this spring. [Great digging, Alwaysalli!] We are looking into this new plastic and will let readers know if we learn about any chemical and potential estrogenic properties that might suggest caution.
There is no word in Nalgene's press release or on their website of whether the stainless steel water bottles are double-walled. We have a double-walled ThinkSport water bottle that is truly amazing - cold water left in our hot car for a full day was still cool in the evening. We'll be doing a comparative review of the ThinkSport along with Camelbak's Better Bottle, the Sigg Sport, and other contenders in a Showdown review on our new gardening blog, Gardenaut, in the days to come.
Nalgene will also be producing a Tritan copolymer (and thus BPA-free) version of its sole sippy cup, the Grip-n-Sip.
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Update: Nalgene announced on Friday, April 18 that they would discontinue their BPA-containing bottles.
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Thursday, April 10, 2008
Hell just froze over. Pigs just flew.