Are Lexan Polycarbonate Water Bottles Safe to Reuse?

Should you look for BPA-free water bottles instead?

Older Nalgene Lexan Polycarbonate Bottle
Older Nalgene Lexan Polycarbonate Bottle. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Scare articles are circulating that research has shown that Lexan (Plastic #7) and other clear polycarbonate water bottles and baby bottles leach toxic bisphenol A. Environmental sites claim this can cause cancer and even obesity. Is this true?

The bulk of the research shows that Plastic #7 (Lexan, Nalgene, and other polycarbonates) bottles do not leach bisphenol A in amounts proven to cause health concerns in humans.

Lexan bottles have been in use as water bottles, storage bottles and baby bottles for many years. After concerns were raised by consumers, most manufacturers reformulated their plastic to eliminate BPA. The FDA reviewed more than 300 scientific studies and concluded in the fall of 2014 that there was no information that should prompt a revision of FDA’s safety assessment of BPA in food packaging at that time.

Does Bisphenol A Leach From Bottles?

Some studies subjected Lexan bottles to brutal conditions to see whether they would actually leach bisphenol A. The bulk of the research found that no to minimal leaching was produced, far below strict safety standards. You may worry that the standards are not strict enough, and any amount will end up harming you.

In the case of baby bottles, the FDA amended its regulations in July 2012 to no longer provide for the use of BPA-based polycarbonate resins in baby bottles and sippy cups. In July 2013, they amended their regulations to no longer provide for the use of BPA-based epoxy resins as coatings in packaging for infant formula. But the reason for this wasn't the research findings, but that manufacturers had discontinued using BPA in these ways for infant and child products due to the fears.

What to Do With Cracked Plastic Bottles

Recycle them. Even if chemicals aren't leaching into the water, those cracks are havens for bacteria, mold, and just plain dirt. Food service standards are to discard anything that is chipped or cracked -- plates, mugs, glasses, bottles. You should do the same at home.

BPA-Free Water Bottles

Yes, many water bottles were never made of polycarbonate. Companies such as Nalgene have reformulated their plastic without BPA. Look for prominent labeling of BPA-Free on water bottles as a marketing tool.

Reusable Water Bottles Are Better for the Environment

Disposable bottled water bottles and other drink containers are a poor use of the earth's resources, even if recycled. Using a sturdy, refillable water bottle is a great way for walkers to be thrifty and be kind to the earth.

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