With all the negative publicity plastic water bottles have received, many people are switching to aluminum water bottles. But are they really safer? Although they haven't received the poor press plastic bottles have, you might be surprised to learn there is some concern about drinking from aluminum. Here's the scoop.
Why Switch to Aluminum?
Not only do 30 million plastic bottles a year end up in American landfills and incinerators, but they are too expensive to recycle into new bottles. Reusing plastic bottles may lead to health problems due to bacterial growth, and some people believe a chemical called BPA (which is found in most plastic water bottles) poses serious health risks, from poor brain development in children and fetuses to certain types of cancer in adults.
Is Your Aluminum Water Bottle BPA Free?
Not all aluminum water bottles are BPA, free, however. Since most have a hard plastic spout, only bottles marked "BPA free" don't contain the chemical. Some people are even wary of believing this claim, since recently baby bottles were tested in Canada and a well known brand that claimed to be BPA free contained the chemical.
Is Aluminum a Health Risk?
We don't really know how dangerous, or how safe, aluminum is. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), oral exposure isn't usually harmful. "Some studies show that people exposed to high levels of aluminum may develop Alzheimer's disease, but other studies have not found this to be true. We do not know for certain that aluminum causes Alzheimer's disease," the agency's website says.
The Alzheimer's Society also admits that "the overwhelming medical and scientific opinion is that the findings outlined above do not convincingly demonstrate a causal relationship between aluminium and Alzheimer's disease, and that no useful medical or public health recommendations can be made ' at least at present."
Although they don't reveal what they are, ATSDR also notes that "some adverse effects" have been seen among those with long term oral exposure to aluminum.
What About Lined Aluminum Bottles?
Some aluminum bottles contain liners, which the manufacturers claim prevent aluminum from leaching into the drink within. Sigg, one of the most popular aluminum bottle makers, includes a lining in their bottles that they stress is FDA approved and protects users from potentially harmful aluminum. The problem is, they won't reveal what the liner is made from -- and, of course, the FDA also approves the use of BPA.
Old-fashioned steel water bottles are considered safe, since they do not leach chemicals; just be sure the plastic spout (if there is one) is BPA free. Other good alternatives are drinks in cardboard containers with BPA-free spouts. IceBox water is a good example; it's made from 100% recyclable cardboard (from sustainable forests) and has a BPA free spout (made from the same material as modern IV bags).