I own a variety of Contigo water bottles and me and my kids love them. I've got a stainless steel insulated Contigo while my kids have the plastic ones with either the AutoFlip Straw lid or AutoFlip Chug lid.
Given we are drinking from these bottles daily (and BPA concerns in the past) I really wanted to make sure that Contigo bottles were safe to drink out of so I could feel confident for myself and my kids to use them as our daily drivers.
My research shocked me and completely changed the water bottles me and my kids use.
Contigo water bottles made from stainless steel seem to be safe to drink out of. Plastic Contigo water bottles are made from Eastman Tritan plastic which is considered one of the safest plastics, but early studies show it may leech some kind of synthetic estrogen – but more studies need to be done.
There are 2 key safety issues I think it's worth looking at as a parent and as a personal user of Contigo (and other) water bottles.
The first issue is that of chemical leeching from plastic (or stainless steel) and secondly the accumulation of mold in the lids of these bottles and how that can be harmful to your health.
Mold can grow under the lid without you even noticing it, which is why you should be deep cleaning your Contigo bottle as often as you can.
How Safe Are Plastic Contigo Water Bottles?
So, are Contigo water bottles safe to drink out of?
The short answer is that they are as safe as a plastic water bottle can get.
Contigo water bottles are considered both BPA-free and EA-free (free from other chemicals that mimic estrogen). But this doesn't mean they are free from all chemical leaching.
But the long answer is more nuanced and uncertain and it seems more studies need to be done. Personally, what I found does have me slightly concerned.
Contigo Bottles Are Made From One Of The Safest Plastics
I'm personally a plastic-free person wherever possible. I like to avoid drinking out of or eating out of plastic where possible (which is why I have the stainless steel Contigo).
But I do own and use the plastic Contigo bottles and my kids absolutely love them because of their fun colors and lids. But how safe are these plastic Contigo bottles to drink out of and should I replace them with stainless steel ones for my kids?
It turns out, Contigo bottles are made from one of the safest plastics in the world – but when I did a deep dive into this issue I discovered there isn't enough studies or data to make me feel completely comfortable drinking out of these plastics all day everyday.
Contigo Bottles Are Considered BPA-Free and EA-Free
You might remember back in 2008 that it was discovered and became extremely public that water bottles (and other plastic items) containing BPA were potentially harmful to humans. This was mainly an issue with a plastic called polycarbonate (PC).
You don't want to be drinking out of a water bottle that contains BPA if you can avoid it as they can leach estrogen mimicking chemicals which are known endocrine disruptors and cause issues in humans (especially in pregnancy).
Then there are BPA free plastics – but some evidence shows they may still release other estrogen mimicking chemicals. I personally try to avoid these. BPS being one of these chemicals.
Then there are “EA-free” plastics – which means plastics free from any other compounds that are known to mimic estrogen hormones.
Contigo bottles are made from BPA-free Eastman Tritan plastic which is an “EA-free” plastic and considered one of the safest plastics in the world.
Eastman states on their FAQ page:
Independent third-party labs using well-recognized scientific methods have demonstrated that Tritan plastic is free of estrogenic activity and androgenic activity.
A list of the labs are given here and ClearlyFiltered gives a further breakdown of the testing on their website.
Some Caution Around BPA Free Plastics
However, we need to be cautious here as polycarbonate water bottles were widely considered safe until they weren't. This article gives a great summary of how messy the data is around this topic at the moment.
According to NPR there was also legal conflict with Eastman Chemical and PlastiPure over whether or not Eastman Tritan plastic is actually free of estrogenic activty under certain condition.
According to a paper coauthored by George D. Bittner:
Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled—independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source—leached chemicals having reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA free. In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products.
However, it's also important to note that the researches who published this paper owned a part of companies that sold their own BPA-free plastics. For me I see that as a big conflict of interest and so the studies need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Some early studies show the presence of BHPF in water from two bottles made of Eastman Tritan's BPA-free copolyester. At this stage the use of BHPF doesn't seem to be widely regulated and its effects are not well known but it may block estrogen (according to Popular Science).
While right now it looks like Contigo and other brands of bottles made with Eastman Tritan plastic are safe to drink from who knows what future studies might show.
For Safety, Always Wash Your Contigo Bottles Well Before Use
While Tritan plastic is BPA free, there was a small study (source) where 10 Tritan bottles were tested to see if any BPA was present.
UC Cincinnati reports:
They acquired 10 different Tritan bottles and detected BPA release from two kinds of Tritan bottles. The team then tested whether rinsing, handwashing or dishwashing removed the BPA from the Tritan bottles. The results of their study is available in the scholarly journal Chemosphere. It showed that multiple cycles through the dishwasher was the most effective at removing BPA.
Researchers washed the Tritan bottles that showed release of BPA up to six times, and at that point there was no longer any detectable release of BPA.
It is speculated that the presence of BPA on the Tritan bottles comes from the manufacturing process where different plastics are made in close proximity to other another – which could cause contamination.
If you've purchased a new Contigo water bottle be sure to wash it well (potentially even multiple times) before drinking from it to ensure any BPA on the bottle from manufacturing is removed.
Are Metal Contigo Bottles Safe To Drink Out Of?
Contigo also has a wide variety of metal water bottles that are sleek and modern. They are vacuum-insulated which means they are great for people who want to keep their beverages hot or cold for longer.
This is the type of bottle that I drink from. A couple of years ago I did a deep dive into whether or not stainless steel water bottles might cause health issues.
Overall it seems that stainless steel is a very safe substance to drink and eat from and I personally feel very confident drinking from my stainless steel Contigo water bottle.
The metal bottles are made from FDA-approved food-grade 18/8 stainless steel and the lids are BPA-free.
Therefore there should be no leakage of hormones or chemicals from the bottle into the beverage.
When Can Drinking From Contigo Water Bottles Be Unsafe?
Even though the Contigo water bottles are made from non-toxic plastics, stainless steel, and a Microban antimicrobial coating, there is still a chance of mold growing under the lid and this can cause a safety hazard and be bad for your health.
Once mold begins to grow under the lid, it is so difficult to get rid of it, and many people do not even notice their bottle has mold, so they are unknowingly drinking that mold.
This is when drinking from Contigo water bottles is unsafe.
The lids of water bottles are ideal breeding grounds for mold, especially black mold, because of the dark and damp conditions found under the lid.
The shape of these lids also plays a part in the growth of mold. Contigo water bottles use three different types of lids on their bottles.
- The Autoseal lid
- The Autospout lid with a straw
- The Autospout chug lid
Unfortunately, these lids can collect mold in hard to see and hard to reach places. This means they can accumulate mold without you even knowing.
You MUST wash your lid properly on a regular basis to avoid the buildup of mold. This can involve completely dismantling the lid, but once you have the lid off, there are lots of excellent cleaning solutions you can use.
How To Clean The Contigo Water Bottle Lid
One of the best cleaning solutions that kill mold in a water bottle is a mixture of white distilled vinegar and baking soda. See my guide on cleaning other types of lids to learn more about deep cleaning.