Plastic in hot water

Water bottles that contain polycarbonate plastic aren’t standing up to the heat. That’s the result of a study by University of Cincinnati researchers in the Jan. 30 issue of Toxicology Letters. Such bottles exposed to boiling water release the chemical bisphenol A up to 55 times faster than when in moderately cool water. The effect was the same whether the bottle had been well-used or was brand new.

BPA is an endocrine disrupter that has been linked to cancer and reproductive problems in animals. The Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Food and Drug Administration say there’s no evidence that the levels found in hard plastic bottles, baby bottles and some food packaging pose human health risks.

Fears over leaching BPA caused Canada’s largest outdoor retailer, Mountain Equipment Co-op, to follow Patagonia in pulling water bottles and food containers made from polycarbonate from its shelves in December.

Nalgene, some of whose products contain polycarbonate plastic, said in a statement: “The recent study reported in Toxicology Letters confirms our longstanding position that the amount of BPA released from polycarbonate bottles—regardless of whether the water in those bottles is hot or cold—is extremely small and far below established safety standards.”

UC researcher Scott Belcher, Ph.D., says it’s still unclear what level of BPA is harmful to humans, but that people should consider how cumulative exposures to BPA—one of many endocrine disrupters in the environment—might harm their health.