As if the problem of chlorine, lead, pesticides, and other toxins in our municipal water is not enough, there is growing concern with the plastic containers from which we drink that water, as well as other beverages. Specifically, scientific studies indicate that most plastics leach various pollutants into the fluids stored in and dispensed from the water bottles and other containers made from those plastics.
For instance, there is a brewing controversy over one such toxic substance, bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical utilized in the manufacturing of clear, hard plastics such as those found in food-storage containers, baby bottles, and the lining of soda cans. BPA is released from such plastics when they are washed, heated, or exposed to acidic substances -- such as citrus fruit juices and soda -- and simply from the aging of the plastic. In turn, the BPA contaminates the contained food with which it comes in contact.
Health experts know that sex hormones, even in tiny amounts, can have dramatic effects upon human beings. Unfortunately, BPA imitates the sex hormone estradiol. This has prompted scientists to test the substance upon laboratory rats and mice. As a result, they have discovered that even low doses of BPA can cause hyperactivity, increased formation of fat, early onset of puberty, abnormal sexual behavior, disruption to normal reproductive cycles, and structural damage to the brain.
But how significant is the usage of BPA? Given that 6 billion tons of the chemical are produced every year, and then used to make these everyday beverage containers and other items, it is little wonder that researchers are actively investigating the effects of BPA on living organisms exposed to it. Furthermore, BPA is used not just as the building block for polycarbonate plastic, but also in the manufacture of epoxy resins and other plastics.
Astonishingly, these results have been known for many years. In a peer-reviewed and comprehensive study published on 13 April 2005 in Environmental Health Perspectives, Frederick S. vom Saal and Claude Hughes of the University of Missouri noted that there have been 115 published studies on the low-dose effects of BPA. Of these published studies, 94 reported deleterious effects on the mice and rats tested, while only 21 studies found no damage. It is rather telling that of the 11 studies funded by chemical companies, not one found any adverse effects from BPA. (Of course, this could just be a coincidence.) Of the studies conducted by scientists not associated with chemical manufacturers, over 90 percent discovered ill effects from BPA.
But as consumers in a free market, we have choices. The types and levels of pollutants released by plastic containers, depend upon the acidity of the liquid and any damage to the plastic, such as aging, heat, cold, and direct sunlight. Another major factor is the type of plastic. For example, high-density polyethylene, designated "#2 HDPE", is soft and opaque, and typically used for 2.5-gallon water bottles. The plastics industry and government deem #2 HDPE safe, while many health researchers argue that it is one of the most common culprits of water toxicity from plastic. Some sources advise people to instead opt for polyethylene terephthalate (#1 PETE) or polycarbonate (#7), which are harder.
But rigidity alone is no guarantee of safety. Lexan polycarbonate resin was developed by General Electric in 1953, and is now widely used in products ranging from baby bottles to bulletproof windows. Because it is hard and durable, and does not acquire or impart any odors or flavors, it quickly became a favorite for water bottles and other beverage containers. Sadly, it has been shown that plastics made using polycarbonate resin can leach BPA. In 1998, Dr. Patricia Hunt of Case Western University discovered that Lexan-based plastics contaminate liquids with BPA, which can reduce sperm count and interfere with normal prostate and breast tissue development. She documented that such leaching can occur even as a result of normal usage at room temperature, as well as exposure to cleaning agents and heat. These results were published in 2003 by the journal Current Biology.
Clearly, BPA is a widespread and worrisome pollutant that we are still being exposed to, despite mounting evidence of its toxicity. Unless something is done about it, then scientists could reconfirm the dangers using another 90 studies, and yet we would still be exposed to BPA.
There are safer materials that one can look for when choosing a beverage container. See the Featured Products section below for a healthy alternative.
Finding appropriate gifts is not always easy -- especially for adults, and even more so if the gift is chosen to be kind to the environment and to the workers who created the product. If you seek ecologically responsible products that your friends and family members would be delighted to receive, then be sure to take a look at Kate's Caring Gifts, a company on the Internet that is truly devoted to finding the highest quality products that promote good health, as well as environmental integrity and responsible manufacturing. The company's founder, Kate Amon, started the business when she wanted to find a way to offer gifts that are pleasing to the recipient, at the same time that they are supportive of a healthy and sustainable life.
Located in Fremont, California, the company was founded in June 2004, and launched its Web site in November of that year. Visitors to the site will find a wide variety of terrific gift ideas, ranging from natural soaps and shampoos, lotions and lip balms, exfoliants, bathing teas and scrubs, massage oils, and other healthy skin care products. Gifts for the home include colorful candles (made from clean-burning soy wax and essential oils) and candle holders (made largely from recycled glass). Delicious treats include organic chocolates, coffees grown on farming operatives, organic teas, and wild-grown berry preserves. In addition, they offer gift sets and gift certificates. Site visitors will also find a new blog, "GreenTips", which has an RSS feed (an increasingly popular technology for combining Internet news services into one convenient aggregate).
The company's Web site was created by Lee Amon. In a recent message, he commented that there is a growing interest in green consumer products, and that Kate's Caring Gifts hopes to make more environmentally conscious items available to customers -- either for their own use or as gifts to others. He noted that the firm is constantly seeking out unique products from ethical suppliers. This increasing demand for ecologically and socially responsible products, is perhaps best reflected by the multitude of green shopping Web sites now available to Internet users. Lee mentioned that some of the owners of those sites have kindly offered inspiration and guidance: Jason Trout of Red Jellyfish, Valerie Reddemann of Greenfeet, and Kate McLaughlin of Lagniappe Gift Wrap.
The stated goal of Kate's Caring Gifts is "to bring you the very best natural, organic, and ecologically sustainable products that you can find anywhere." Likewise, PristinePlanet.com was created with many of the same principles in mind, and we welcome Kate and Lee Amon into our growing community.
If you would like to carry your favorite beverages with you when you go out, but you'd like to avoid consuming any plastic as it leaches from a typical water bottle, then check out the Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle, available from Greenfeet. It is a sleek, reusable, and lightweight beverage container that will not leach any toxins, and is ideal for keeping cold liquids cold and hot liquids hot. It comes in two sizes -- 27 ounces and 40 ounces. The former is sized so as to fit into most bottle holders. In addition, it has a sports cap lid made out of polypropylene ("#5 PP"), which has no known leaching characteristics. A stainless steel lid is available, as is an insulated carrier. The 40-ounce Klean Kanteen, which is equally attractive, has a stainless steel lid. Both sizes can be carried in nylon slings, sold separately.
Letters and guest articles posted in the Newsletter section of the Forum or sent to the publisher become the property of PristinePlanet.com, and may be edited for brevity or clarity prior to publication.
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