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 ©

Circulating scare articles claim that research has shown 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 enough bisphenol A to cause health concerns in humans.

Lexan plastics 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.

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.

3 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. FDA confirms BPA exposure from food containers is safe.

  2. Onn Wong K, Woon Leo L, Leng Seah H. Dietary exposure assessment of infants to bisphenol A from the use of polycarbonate baby milk bottles. Food Addit Contam. 2005 Mar;22(3):280-8. doi: 10.1080/02652030500077502

  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in food contact application.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.