The first day of school arrived. Little uniformed people bustled about in our kitchen. Backpacks stood ready to be filled. The energy was rising. Has everyone brushed their teeth?
A drawer was opened. It was empty.
My purposeful 9-year-old spun in my direction, and asked, “Mom, where are all of our Sigg water bottles?”
“I shipped them back to the manufacturer. They are going to send me some replacements next week,” I replied. “Maybe you can just drink from the fountain for a couple of days.”
“But Mooooooooom, why would you send all of our water bottles away when you know we NEEEEEEED them for snack and lunch?” implored my mini procedural expert.
“Well, it’s complicated,” I responded.
Like any child worth her tariff in today’s information society, she patiently awaited an explanation.
“Okay, so you know that one reason we drink out of reusable metal bottles is so we don’t have to worry about the chemicals from plastic particles that could possibly cause us harm?”
“Yes,” she earnestly answered, thinking, oh great, what now….
“Well it turns out that the Sigg may have used the same chemical we worry about in plastics to make the lining of their bottles,” I shared with frustration. I went on, “It’s called bisphenol A, or BPA for short, and Sigg has admitted that their bottles may not be as healthy as they promised so they are exchanging them for new bottles without BPA in their liners.”
Ever the astute consumer, my daughter wanted to confirm the unthinkable transgression, “So Mom, they told you that their products were healthier to drink from than plastic and then it turns out that their bottles have the SAME chemicals inside them?”
Pause. Pause. Pause. Wheels spinning. “That is horrible!” she exclaimed.
“Indeed,” I admitted, somewhat saddened that this little eco-believer had to worry even for a minute about egregious and opportunistic corporate greenwashing.
“Well, Mom,” she replied, “I think you need to blog about this. A lot of people drink out of those bottles and you need to tell them to send them back too. Everyone should know about this problem.”
And thus my keyboard received its blessing to revive. I have not written a word since The Girlcott in April. After that wonderful effort, I made a pledge to my family to take a leave from environmental boot camp for the summer so that I could bring my brain back from the frontlines and home to the playground.
And it was heavenly.
I shut my mouth and used the months to observe the various lifestyles and habits of friends and strangers alike as we meandered north and south, east and west in America. I watched what people were eating, what they were buying and how they were disposing of their trash, their money and their time.
Of course, there were the bright moments of rainbow colored carrots at the Santa Barbara farmer’s market, endless bicycle paths in Nantucket and nature walks in Idaho.
But these hopeful experiences were far outweighed by overflowing trashcans, streams of SUVs and convenience store picnic supplies that seemed to color every public experience we had. Big Americans, getting bigger, making a mess along the way and hardly aware they had the power to change the entire equation.
So with renewed enthusiasm I have stacked up a pile of articles I hope to author, some of which layer on top of issues I have already explored, while others reflect entirely new insights pertaining to environmental health.
One absolute certainty is that these topics are gradually filtering in from the fringes and landing squarely in the heart of mainstream discussion, at least if you live in San Francisco, where soon it will be illegal to throw food in our trashcans!
My pledge will be to embrace brevity and hope for a more prolific potential to investigate, translate and communicate the concerns, as well as some solutions, we can pursue to keep our families – and our planet – as healthy as possible.
So to get back to the Sigg story, if you have a bottle that was made prior to August, 2008, you probably want to send it back for replacement. You can tell if the liner has BPA by the shiny bronze or copper finish inside, whereas the ecoCare liner is a “dull pale yellow” according to the company’s Web site.
Many retailers such as Whole Foods, Mollie Stones and the Sports Basement in San Francisco will replace your bottles on-site. This program is set to run through the end of October so gather up your costly compromised vessels and freshen them up pronto for the 2009 fall athletic season!
And in case you are still wondering what the big deal is, BPA was originally produced as a synthetic estrogen in the late 1930’s. It later became a workhorse in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. So today we encounter BPA in countless consumer products including baby bottles, sippy cups and even the lining of food cans such as those that hold infant formula.
The debate about BPA exposure rages on with the chemical industry doggedly woo’ing the new Administration, but various legislative bills around the country have been passed or are in play to ban BPA from products that are manufactured for children. Wal-Mart has taken products containing BPA off their shelves. If that doesn’t convince Americans, what could?
The specific health concern is that BPA exposure, even at VERY VERY low doses, has the potential to cause side effects on the prostate gland and the mammary gland, among other key bodily functions. It is also considered a driver for early puberty for females, which eventually becomes a potential precursor to breast cancer.
Remember that BPA’s first incarnation was as a synthetic estrogen. The potential dangers make perfect sense to me, but we all know that I am not a doctor!
So now that we know at least as much about this topic as my fourth-grader, hopefully you are inspired to a) return your SIgg bottles for safer models; b) call or write to the company and let them know how you feel about the recall and c) pass along the information to others you see using these products.
We are still waiting for our new stock of Sigg bottles. And in the meantime, I’m feeling pretty good about Kleen Kanteen, Earthlust and some other stainless steel liquid containers that are serving this exploding market.
And as for that drinking fountain option, I guess our kids won't ever know what a great excuse it was to slip out of class, if only for a precious moment....