Water Bottles: Does BPA Free Matter?

I don't know about you, but it breaks my heart a little bit to drink out of disposable water bottles. I worry about drinking out of plastic. I worry about the impact of all those plastic water bottles in landfills, which can take 400 to 1,000 years to decompose. And I feel duped about the water quality.

In fact, tap water is more heavily regulated than bottled water in the US. The EPA regulates public water, and requires multiple tests per day for bacteria and makes the results publicly available. THE FDA regulates bottled water but only requires weekly tests, whose results are not made public. 1

And, 24% of bottled water sold in the US is purified municipal water, according to Ban the Bottle. And, even though it's purified tap water, it costs 1,000 times more. 2

Tap water is close to free - filling an average water pitcher for a year (approx 240 gallons) costs about 19 cents a day. Bottled water at the same volume would cost about $4.98 per day, and, for the year, would require 1,818 bottles - much more than the one pitcher. And that all assumes each bottle costs only $1. 3

Then, let's say you go for a water bottle. You've probably heard of BPA, so you think you want to avoid it, but you don't know much about it. What's worth considering when buying a water bottle?

Here's some things to think about. If you already know about BPA, skip to Other plastics.

BPA. You’ve probably heard of this one. BPA is found in some plastics and resins, often those used in containers that store food and drink, such as canned products and water bottles. The majority of our exposure to BPA comes from food packaging, from which BPA leaches into food and liquids we drink. The reason to avoid BPA is that it is a synthetic estrogen, meaning it can mimic estrogen in the body and thereby disrupt the endocrine system – the system the creates the hormones that regulate reproduction, growth and development, sleep, mood, and metabolism – among other things4. Research has connected BPA exposure to a wide range of health issues, including infertility, breast and reproductive system cancers, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, and behavioral changes in children 5, 6.

Other plastics. A second challenge here is that now that many companies have moved towards BPA-free, they’ve been substituting other bisphenols, such as BPS, but not necessarily testing the impact of those different chemicals. Sadly, scientific research has now shown that BPS may be just as harmful to your health as BPA 7.

Our recommendation: Avoid plastic all together, and opt for a food-grade stainless steel or glass container. Since glass can be heavy for carrying in your bag or backpack, we're recommending several stainless steel options. We recommend against aluminum, since aluminum bottles contain a lining, which is usually made of plastic (you'll find that it is very hard to get more information about this from manufacturers).

Great for the Office and Out and About - Stainless Steel Water Bottle from S'well

S'well is one of my go-to water bottles. It's food-grade stainless steel, and the bottles come in a wide variety of colors and styles, from simpler single-color styles through wild, personal patterns.

They also offer insulated options.

Check out the wide variety here

Stainless Steel Water Bottle with Sports Cap

This water bottle has all the benefits of a stainless steel bottle - you can drink pure water from your bottle, and not worry about any leaching from the bottle. 

However, it's worth keeping in mind that this water bottle has a plastic lid that you sip through. Most water bottles, especially sports-style bottles, have plastic lids for convenience. We recommend against these - and we understand that practicality is essential too! If a sports lid is important to you, you're still going to be winning with a stainless steel container.

Simple, Clean Glass

This water bottle is made with borosilicate glass - the same glass used in Pyrex - that is free from BPA, BPS, phthalates, and lead.  And it is also break resistant.


Burros, Marian. “Fighting the Tide, a Few Restaurants Tilt to Tap Water.” The New York Times [New York City, NY] 30 May 2007: Section F, Page 1.
Ban the Bottle. http://banthebottle.net
Environmental Working Group. http://www.ewg.org/bpa/
Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/bpa/faq-20058331 Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/bpa-free-plastic-containers-may-be-just-as-hazardous/