nalgene bottleI heard an interview with some health expert on CBC Radio yesterday talking about the dangers of ingesting chemicals transferred from plastic containers such as water bottles. Most plastic containers are labeled on the bottom with a number from 1 to 7. The good numbers are 1, 2, 4 and 5. The bad numbers are 3, 6 and 7, which are apparently full of all kinds of nasty chemicals that can cause cancer and other serious health problems.

If you look at the bottom of a Naglene bottle, for instance, you’ll find it’s made from the number 7 type plastic which contains polycarbonate, one of those bad compounds. (I’m guessing their stock has gone way down in the past couple weeks.) I don’t drink much bottled water, but I see people drinking from those Nalgene bottles all the time.

Two articles about plastic containers from and Mclean’s.

UPDATE: Here’s the podcast (MP3 file) of the show I heard.


  1. Thanks for the heads-up about plastic poisons.

    I’m sitting here drinking out of a plastic water bottle that contains carbonated, artificially sweetened (aspartame)water that is artificially flavored (strawberry/kiwi)contributes no known nourishment value to my diet and yet contains preservatives of several types. I’ve been drinking this beverage for a couple years now since I was diagnosed with Adult On-set Diabetes TypeII.

    I don’t know how I’ve made it to the age of 67 without knowing about all the poisons that are in everything I touch, consume, breath or am surrounded by all that while. Perhaps it has something to do with my being ignorant and not worrying about it all. Hmmmm!

  2. The Smart Plastics Guide I’ve linked to in my first comments tells you what plastics are safe for food, basically the ones I already mentioned. But it explains it much better than I do, seeing how I don’t really explain anything.

  3. My mom used to drink from those nalgene water bottles and a few weeks ago, she found a mole underneath her arm that wasn’t there before(symptom of skin cancer). She stopped drinking from her water bottle for a few weeks since it was a number 7. And about a week ago, she checked if her nole was still there, and it disappeared! And even though my friends try to tell me the number 7 water bottles aren’t cancer causing, I have stopped drinking from my own nalgene bottle.

  4. Ummm….if your mom had a mole which as you say is a sign of skin cancer, shouldn’t she have gotten it checked out? and if it just disappeared after she stopped drinking from the nalgene than it probably wasn’t even skin cancer, maybe a side affect or something, but cancer wouldn’t just go away like that.

  5. Actually the mole disappearing is a concern. Cancerous type “lesions” that come and go can be signs of a serious illness. I would have it checked out anyway just to be safe. Cancer caught early can be an annoyance. Cancer caught late can be your tombstone. Sorry for the grim post.

    Thank you much for the link Phil… Helped a million. I made 20 copies for my childrens’ daycare. I tossed my nalgene bottle after The Today show ran the story. Nalgene is in a world of hurt.

  6. I have to do an inventory of the plastic bottles in my house now, especially those for the kids.

    I wonder what those big 10-20 gallon water tanks are made of, the ones for water coolers.

  7. I am part of a group called girls on the run.
    The other day we learned about the number seven water bottles and bad plastic chemicals… i now do not take plastic bottles that are bad

  8. I was getting some reflectors for my daughter’s bike last night when she pointed to a water bottle she wanted. The bottom of the bottle had a “4”, but I couldn’t remember if that was a “good” or “bad” number, so I told her we couldn’t get it because it might kill her.

    numbers on the bottom of plastic bottles

    The numbers indicate what the bottles are made of. “4” means Low-density polyethylene. Is THAT good or bad though? I have to do some more research.

  9. I couldn’t remember what numbers were good or bad while in the store. Knowing what the numbers actually represent may cement their meaning.

  10. I am keeping all my #7 nalagenes and using em anyway…especially for hot chocolate…living on the edge…

  11. Hi – just reading your posts. We got a platic bottle from the school.. Made in Chine and no number.. below the triangle it say PE and the triangle is blank…Is this safe?

  12. > Made in Chine and no number.. below the triangle it say PE and the triangle is blankIs this safe?

    Play it safe it you’re unsure: get rid of it.

    – From your anonymous-internet-pseudo-doctor.

  13. I just read a study that they are basing all their info on a study of rats and mice. Dude, I had white mice as pets growing up. 90% percent of them got tumors and died. I didn’t give them a nalgene bottle to eat. They just died. Hmmm. Why do we base all are scientific info on rodents who die of cancer anyway. I’m drinking from my bottle right now. No cancer yet.

  14. I did not know there was a serious issue about these bottles, but I did have my suspicions. I also noticed a strong chemical odor from certain icetrays I bought 18 months ago.

  15. What about plastic electric kettles? When I realised people were making icetrays with bad plastics, I got plastic-phobic, and I instantly stopped using my stylish electic kettle.

  16. Has anyone checked into the plastic pipes and waterlines that is used in almost all residential construction? All of our water is sitting in and passes through these water lines before we would even get a chance to put it in a plastic bottle.

  17. I think most plastic pipes used in construction are PVC. However, I think they are mainly used to drain water, not deliver it to the tap. I think the romans used lead pipes and that didn’t turn out favorable either.

    And if this bothers you, look up the fluoridation of water you will really flip.

  18. With the price of copper so high, most new construction use aquaplex style tubing for water delivery – I have no idea if it’s good plastic or bad??

    I’m sure there are lot of bad plastics behind the scenes in water and food delivery that we’ll never know about.

  19. I dont know where you live but i’ve never seen a house built with anything other than copper pipe for the water coming into the house and to all of the sinks, showers etc. pvc is used for the waste water, although if you have a few extra bucks you can still get the metal waste pipes and save yourself the annoying sound of running water through your walls. metal pipes dulls the sound of running water much better than the pvc. you may see flex pipe from shutoff valves under the sink up to the faucet, but that’s about it.

  20. It’s not unique to where I live – go to your Home Depot and take a look in the plumbing dept. You’ll find rolls of blue (cold), red (hot), water aquaplex tubing. I’ve seen it installed for the past 5+ years around here. Matter of fact, they use plastic tubing from the water main to the house – then aquaplex throughout the house.

  21. #7 isn’t evil. It’s the “other category”. You could also call it “#7: none of the above”. It includes everything from polycarbonate to resins made from organic, compostable materials. It does include, but isn’t limited to, plastics that contain BPA.

    That said, it’s the finding of the EPA, FDA and a bunch of other groups that nalgene bottles are still safe. So I’m not throwing away mine just yet.

  22. No I’m sure just like smoking in the 60’s that drinking fluids and microwaving food products in plastic containers is good for us!

    Come on, consuming any product which has marinated inside a plastic container only to be consumed into out bodies has to be good for us, right?
    Whatever plastic number it is food or beverages and plastic are not a good combination, but what are the options?

    Glass ? That will be great next camping trip and your lugging around a gallon of water in a glass jar.
    Stainless steel? Maybe , does the trick as a thermos.

    So there are a few replacement options for the plastic fluid container but what about the food container.
    Maybe put those leftovers in a bowl then cover it up with some plastic wrap… oh wait, oh hell I give up.

    Sure plastic is cheap,disposable,robust and can be recycled but there are other options out there that are both healthier for environment and well… you.

    Changing your choice when purchasing products sends a message to companies that they must listen to.Lower sales equals changes in product.Make Companies look for healthier choices rather than plastics.

  23. my water bottle has a number 8 on the bottom. I have not read any reference to #8. Is it good or bad? Please advise. Thank u.


  24. Brian – #7 is evil as it contains estrogen. Check out the most recent issue of Discover Magazine to understand how too much estrogen in the body leads to cancer and other terrible diseases.

    Clarence – it’s nice to know you’re 67 and without health worries. Good for you! You must have had a great foundation to build that good health on; unfortunately for our children today that foundation is compromised. Why not force manufacturers to use healthy alternatives to plastics for their products? Please don’t be passive – it’s as simple as choosing a different product at the store; one bottled in less harmful containers. And may you and yours remain well and happy.

  25. I was just looking around for information about plastic water bottles as a chemistry project and came upon this site, and thanks for the information by the way. Really helped! anyways…

    I heard from other sources that plastic is being found in dead bodies. Whether it’s related to this or not or even if it’s a myth or not is yet to be decided. However, I did find report after report about plastic in bottles being bad for people. If they aren’t worried that there is a possibility that it can harm humans, then why would scientists and reporters make such a big deal out of it?

    I’m trying to avoid water bottles anyways. whether it’s number 1 or 7, plastics are made by chemicals and chemicals deteriate overtime. Face it, almost everything we ingest in today’s environment can be detrimental to the body. (With all the genetically modified foods and pesticides, what IS safe anymore?)

  26. So wait, just because I drank from a #7 for a few years means that I’m pretty much GUARANTEED to get cancer? Can someone clarify?

  27. So wait, just because I drank from a #7 for a few years means that I’m pretty much GUARANTEED to get cancer?

    Yup, you’re dead.

    And now I’m turning off the comments for this post.

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