ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) – Hard-plastic Nalgene water bottles made with bisphenol A will be pulled from stores over the next few months because of growing consumer concern over whether the chemical poses a health risk.
Nalge Nunc International, a division of Waltham, Mass.-based Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., said Friday it will substitute its Nalgene Outdoor line of polycarbonate plastic containers with BPA-free alternatives.
“We continue to believe that Nalgene products containing BPA are safe for their intended use,” Steven Silverman, general manager of the Nalgene business, said in a statement. “However, our customers indicated they preferred BPA-free alternatives and we acted in response to those concerns.”
With more than 6 million pounds produced in the United States each year, bisphenol A is found in dental sealants, baby bottles, the liners of food cans, CDs and DVDs, eyeglasses and hundreds of household goods.
The U.S. government’s National Toxicology Program said this week that there is “some concern” about BPA from experiments on rats that linked the chemical to changes in behavior and the brain, early puberty and possibly precancerous changes in the prostate and breast. While such animal studies only provide “limited evidence” of risk, the draft report said a possible effect on humans “cannot be dismissed.”
Highly durable and lightweight, resistant to stains and odors, and able to withstand extremes of hot and cold, screw-cap Nalgene bottles have been marketed as an environmentally responsible substitute for disposable water bottles.
The transparent reusable sports accessory is made at a factory in suburban Rochester that employs about 900 people.
Nalge Nunc was founded in 1949 by Rochester chemist Emanuel Goldberg. The lab-equipment supplier’s product evolved in the 1970s after rumors spread about its scientists taking hardy lab vessels on weekend outings. That led the company to form a water-bottle consumer unit targeting Boy Scouts, hikers and campers.
In 2000, a new sports line of Nalgene-brand bottles offered in red, blue and yellow hues quickly became the rage in high schools and on college campuses.
Earlier this week, Wal-Mart Canada and other major retailers in Canada began removing BPA-based food-related products such as baby bottles and sipping cups from store shelves. Canadian health regulators were expected to announce the results of a preliminary review on BPA later Friday.
“I think the writing’s on the wall for this chemical,” said Aaron Freeman, policy director of Toronto-based Environmental Defence Canada. “You’ve got major retailers with huge market clout pulling BPA products … and you’ve got consumers in droves who are opting for alternatives. They’re a big late to the game, but they are responding to that consumer demand.”
Citing multiple studies in the United States, Europe and Japan, the chemicals industry maintains that polycarbonate bottles contain little BPA and leach traces considered too low to harm humans.
But critics point to an influx of animal studies linking low doses to a wide variety of ailments – from breast and prostate cancer, obesity and hyperactivity, to miscarriages and other reproductive failures.
An expert panel of 38 academic and government researchers who attended a National Institutes of Health-sponsored conference said in a study in August that “the potential for BPA to impact human health is a concern, and more research is clearly needed.”