Friday, December 7, 2007

Breaking news: Could that water bottle make you sick?

News reports from Canada today say that Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canada’s largest specialty outdoor-goods retailer (Canadian equivalent of REI), says it’s has pulled most food and beverage containers made of polycarbonate plastic from its shelves, citing concern over possible health risks.

The Vancouver-based firm been one of the largest sellers of such products as polycarbonate Nalgene water bottles.

The plastic in question is made mostly from bisphenol A, which mimics estrogen and is derived from petrochemicals. It has been linked in dozens of independent research studies to illnesses that could be caused by hormone disruption. However, manufacturers of bisphenol A say their research shows the material to be harmless.

Health Canada is conducting an assessment of bisphenol A and trying to sort out the conflicting evidence. It expects to issue preliminary results of its review next spring, and a final report on the safety of the chemical in 2009. The Ontario government is also looking at the chemical.
Mountain Equipment said it will keep polycarbonate products out of stores, pending results of the federal review.

A spokesman for Nalgene's manufacturer, Nalge Nunc International Corp. of Rochester, N.Y., said it believes Mountain Equipment is the first major retailer in North America to pull its polycarbonate bottles based on health worries.

“From our perspective, it's certainly unfortunate because we feel there is a body of evidence” supporting the safety of the product, Eric Hanson said. He added that the retailer's action won't affect all of its products because the company also markets containers that do not contain bisphenol A.

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