News + Opinion » Opinion

Nalgene malice

Lezlie Lowe cleans out her cupboards and ends up confused.


OFFER: Nalgene water bottles. Various colours, sizes, conditions. Drop-off available.

Look, I don’t know what you’re going to do with them. Store screws? Chill bacon fat so you can spoon it into the compost? Declare them found art? I don’t care. As long as they’re not going into the landfill.

See, this is a pressing question in our world---what do we do with our goods once we find out they’re slowly poisoning us? (OK, OK, possibly slowly poisoning us---some studies show Nalgene’s hard polycarbonate plastic leaches the estrogen-mimicking chemical bisphenol-A. Nalgene says everything is tickety-boo; Health Canada has a report due in May.)

And here is the bigger question---can’t we ever win?

As soon as we hit on something that’s supposed to keep us healthy, it’s poisoning us. Or, at least, it’s not as good as we thought. We think you’ve got it all figured out---
watering ourselves in an effort to stave off aging and dry skin and constipation while toting our liquid in reusable containers to boot.

Then right before Christmas (which means it’s definitely serious) Mountain Equipment Co-op pulls Nalgenes off the shelves, citing bisphenol-A concerns. Then last week researchers at the University of Cincinnati announced boiling water increases more than 50-fold the exodus of bisphenol-A from bottle to body. (That explains the icky chemical smell coming from the hot-water dishwasher cycle.)

All we’re trying to do is get our eight glasses a day. And, bang! We find out we might as well be snorting a crushed-up month’s-worth of birth control pills.

It’s not just Nalgenes either.

Fish? Fish is brain food! Fish is heart food! Oh, no, wait. There’s mercury in canned tuna and global stocks of the sashimi-favourite are declining faster than Latin verbs at the Dal Classics Department.

Flax? Wonder food! So? Flax seeds on salads, flax seeds on your morning oatmeal, flax seeds sprinkled on your pizza. Flax will keep you alive! Oh, sorry dude, actually, it’s only shelled and ground flax that’s really doing your insides any good. Flax? Meh.

That heap of whole flax seeds in my kitchen I can use up. But my Nalgenes? What about them? Do I give them to charity to endanger second hand shoppers? Do I plunk them on my desk here and keep pens in them, like a friend recently suggested? Forget it. They’re so butt-ugly I don’t want the damn things around, now that they’ve outlived their original use.

Call me a decor snob (I am), but I take William Morris’s famous dictum seriously---”Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Keeping five---pink, blue, yellow, green and red, since you’re wondering---Nalgenes around the house as ornaments would be like losing one Croc and hanging the left-over one on the wall to snazz up the room. Which is to say, patently insane.

And I can’t recycle them. They are #7 plastic. They aren’t recyclable in HRM. Bury them in the backyard? I’ve learned from author Alan Weisman, whose 2007 book The World Without Us spent 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, that if every human disappeared from the earth tomorrow, the only thing left in hundreds of thousands of years would be my polycarbonate Nalgenes. It would take that long before microbes could evolve to biodegrade the plastic.

My new drinking tote of choice is the abhorrently named Klean Kanteen. They don’t come in different, er, kolours. They’re just plain old stainless steel, inside and out.

But I’m not safe yet. My husband pointed out that the water filter residing in the fridge---the ubiquitous Brita---is made of the same hard plastic as the now-shunned Nalgenes. So what? I never use it, except to peer in at the dregs of brown-tinged water left-over after no one’s filled it for two months.

“And,” he added, “the spring water in your office, too, you know....” Yeah, yeah, I know. It’s basically one big mutha’ Nalgene.

Now, I am a woman of action, even when I’m running scared on the advice of a sporting goods mega-giant (albeit one with a stupendous social conscience) and random scientists in Cincinnati. So I called up my bottled-water delivery service.

They used to deliver water in glass bottles. But not any more.

“Why?” I asked.

Health and safety reasons.

You just can’t win.

Add a comment

Remember, it's entirely possible to disagree without spiralling into a thread of negativity and personal attacks. We have the right to remove (and you have the right to report) any comments that go against our policy.

xxx - Deprecated in favor of GTM, above.