Plastics are a relatively new material, yet in the 70 or so years that we’ve been using them, they’ve taken over virtually every type of product we use.
Toys, utensils, containers, bottles; where we previously used natural materials like wood, metal and glass, we now use plastic without thinking twice.
But the development of plastic is still in its infancy and we haven’t yet had enough time to measure the long-term effects that the substance may have on our health.
Plastics are full of chemical additives that simply aren’t labeled, making it difficult for the consumer to make an informed choice. One such chemical is BPA, otherwise known as Bisphenol A.
BPA has been proven to have several harmful effects on our health, so it’s best to avoid it where you can. Read on for an overview of the best BPA-free water bottles you can buy in the UK.
Best BPA-Free Water Bottles in the UK
While products that contain BPA are never labeled as such, products that are BPA-free are increasingly labeled and advertised to conscious consumers. Here is our guide to the best water bottles in the UK that don’t contain BPA.
What Is BPA?
BPA is used as an additive in polycarbonates and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate is a type of durable plastic that is resistant to scratching, cracking or shattering (making it perfect in the manufacture of reusable water bottles), while epoxy resins are commonly used as adhesives and coatings in a range of different products.
How Does BPA Affect Your Body?
The major concern about Bisphenol A, is its disruptive effect on hormones.
Known as an endocrine disruptor (the endocrine system is in charge of hormones), it has an estrogen-mimicking effect in the body. It has a similar structure to that of the hormone estrogen and can thus interfere with the body’s hormonal balance.
Suspected symptoms resulting from BPA-related hormone interference include infertility in men and women.
Women with high levels of BPA in their bodies were found to have more difficulty becoming pregnant during IVF treatments, as well as a greater likelihood of miscarriage. Men with high BPA exposure were found to have lower sperm count and concentration, as well as suffering from sexual dysfunction.
Other hormonal issues include possible risk of thyroid dysfunction, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), breast cancer, prostate cancer and premature delivery during pregnancy. There is some evidence that babies can also be affected by their mother’s BPA levels.
BPA is also thought to have a range of other negative effects on human health, such as a greater likelihood of obesity, diabetes and heart disease, asthma, abnormal liver function, immune and brain function.
While there is some evidence of these symptoms being caused by BPA exposure, many researchers have pointed out that their experiments have been inconclusive and more research is needed before conclusions can be drawn about the health effects of BPA.
Is BPA Safe?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), BPA is safe in the very low levels that are found in food and drinks.
Other organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) have expressed concern over the presence of the chemical, especially in baby bottles and pacifiers, as has the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
What products contain BPA?
BPA is commonly found in plastics marked with the number codes 3 and 7, or the letters PC.
It should be noted, however, that category 7 plastics are actually miscellaneous items that don’t fit into any of the other categories, so that BPA-free items may also be marked with number 7.
BPA can often be found in the following products:
- Plastic products: This is particularly worrisome in food and drinks containers and utensils as the BPA can leach into the product, which you will later consume. Toys or items that children are likely to suck or put in their mouths are also a risk.
- Tin cans: The insides of food and drinks cans are often coated with an epoxy resin to prevent the metal from corroding; however this can also be a risk for BPA leaching into consumables. The metal lids on glass bottles and jars can contain a small amount of BPA.
- Household products: Other common items such as CDs, DVDs, sports equipment and eyeglass contain BPA, but these present minimal risk as you do not consume the chemical internally.
- Toiletries: Feminine hygiene products with certain plastic packages and other toiletries can contain BPA.
- Dental sealant and composite fillings: BPA containing resins are often used by dentists to fill in cavities caused by tooth decay.
- Water Pipes: Perhaps the most invasive and disturbing use of BPA is the lining of some pipes used to transport drinking water.
Which Water Bottle Material Is Best?
Reusable water bottles can be made from a large variety of different materials.
Some of the most common options are the following.
- Can be transparent
- Usually tough
- Not very eco friendly
- May contain harmful chemicals even if it’s BPA free
- Usually suitable for both hot & cold drinks
- Can have a metallic taste
- Often not dishwasher friendly
- Can be dangerous for children
- Not suitable for hot liquids
Hard plastic and stainless steel can both be good materials for reusable water bottles.
Plastic is never completely sustainable, even if it is recyclable. Furthermore, BPA-free plastics may leach other chemicals, and more research needs to be done to determine that they’re safe.
Stainless steel is recyclable and isn’t thought to leach any chemicals. However, steel bottles are heavier than their plastic counterparts.
How to Tell if a Bottle Is BPA Free
If the base of the water bottle has the number 3, 6 or 7 in a triangle on the base, it’s more likely to contain BPA. If the number is 1, 2, 4 or 5, it’s unlikely to contain BPA.
If the water bottle was bought several years ago it’s more likely to contain BPA; newer water bottles sold in the UK are almost always BPA free.
If the bottle is labelled as microwave-safe, it’s more likely to contain BPA.
If the bottle is see-through and rigid, it’s more likely to contain BPA than if it’s opaque and flexible.
As you can see, there’s no straightforward way to determine that a bottle BPA free except for the presence of a “BPA-Free” label.
Plastic Bottle Facts
You’ll be doing the planet a favour by switching to a reusable bottle.
Here are some shocking facts about the number of disposable water bottles used each year.
Worldwide Plastic Bottle Usage Facts
- Over 480 billion plastic bottles were sold worldwide in 2016 (16 per person)
- A million plastic bottles are bought per minute (20,000 per second)
UK Plastic Bottle Usage Facts
- The UK uses 13 billion plastic bottles per year. This equates to roughly:
- 36 million plastic bottles a day
- 200 plastic bottles per person per year
- 43% of plastic bottles used in the UK are not recycled
- Disposing of plastic bottles emits about 233,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. You’d need to plant 3,883 trees a year to offset this.
- 700,000 plastic bottles are littered every day in the UK
If we had to recommend just one of these BPA-free water bottles, it would be the Simple Modern Wave Water Bottle. It’s made from eco-friendly stainless steel, is available in a choice of sizes (include a 1-litre option), and can keep liquids hot or cold for hours.
With BPA increasingly on the public’s consumer blacklist, more and more products are being labelled as BPA-free. This may be a great step forward, but the truth is that all plastics contain a secret cocktail of chemicals which manufacturers have no obligation to reveal.
BPA substitutes such as Bisphenol S (BPS) and Bisphenol F (BPF) can be just as hormone disrupting as BPA, though some companies like Eastman are doing a great job at addressing this issue.
There are a few positive steps you can take to minimise your BPA exposure, such as eating fresh food as much as possible, avoiding anything in a tin can or plastic container.
If you do need to use plastic, try to keep it away from the microwave or dishwasher, as heat increases the leaching of chemicals.