We thought this past summer’s debate over the environmental impact of bottled water containers had frozen over for the winter. But it appears that the controversy keeps thawing itself out.
Earlier this month, Canada’s Mountain Equipment Co-op removed from its shelves all water bottles and other containers made with bisphenol-a, a chemical used in the manufacturing process to strengthen plastic. What’s interesting here is that BPA, as it’s called, is not only found in disposable bottles, but many durable, reusable containers — ones that are supposed to be the eco-friendly alternative to the disposable alternatives, which are at the heart of the debate.
Mountain Equipment, which Toronto’s Globe and Mail cites as “the country’s largest specialty outdoor-goods retailer,” said the decision reflects skepticism about the safety of BPA, which studies have shown can mimic estrogen in the body and potentially disrupt the reproductive system. But most evidence up to now seems to indicate that the chemical is safe when used in small amounts.
Medical findings aside, the outcry against BPA has a ways to go before it reaches the full-blown campaigning of this year’s bottled water protests. Still, it’s something to watch, especially as more studies on BPA pour in. Health Canada, the country’s version of our Food and Drug Administration will release a more comprehensive report on the safety of BPA in May 2008.