Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the dangers of bisphenol A (better known as BPA), a compound sometimes used in hard (and often transparent) plastics to make them more resistant to shattering.
In the early 2000s it was discovered that BPA and other similar compounds, like BPS and BPF, could leach harmful chemicals from plastics into the drinks they contained.
Nalgene, being the most popular reusable plastic bottle at the time, was front and center to the controversy — which has led many to wonder if Nalgene Bottles still contain BPA and how safe they actually are to drink from.
Nalgene Bottles made after 2008 are free of BPA, BPS, BPF, phthalates, and all other chemical compounds that are currently known to be or are suspected of being harmful.
Hard, transparent Nalgene Bottles manufactured before 2008 did contain BPA, though older Ultralite Bottles did not. If you’re unsure when your Nalgene was made, look for a BPA-free stamp or print on the bottom of your bottle.
If no BPA-free stamp exists on the bottom of your bottle and it's not a translucent Ultralite Nalgene, then chances are extremely high your Nalgene is made from plastic containing BPA.
While there’s always the risk with any plastic bottle that new compounds could be found harmful in the future, Nalgene Bottles made of Tritan Plastic or Ultralite Nalgenes made of HDPE are about as safe to drink from as any plastic could be.
If you're really concerned about plastic then Nalgene does make durable single-walled stainless steel bottles. I personally much prefer stainless steel bottles to plastic, especially for hot drinks.
I personally still use my plastic Nalgene Bottles regularly. I’m just a little more selective about how I use them — but more on that below.
Modern Nalgene Bottles Are BPA and BPS Free
Hard, transparent Nalgene Bottles made before 2008 contain BPA. However, all Nalgene Bottles made since are free of BPA, no matter what type of plastic they’re made of.
If you’re unsure when your bottle was produced, look for a BPA-free stamp or print on the underside or near the bottom edge of your bottle.
If you have the stamp, your bottle is made from HDPE (if it’s an Ultralite Bottle), Tritan, or Tritan Renew — three of the safest plastics on the market.
According to Eastman (the maker of Tritan Plastic), Tritan is completely free of BPA and all other compounds, like BPS, BPF, and phthalates, that affect the endocrine system or are “suspected of having estrogenic or androgenic activity.”
I did a deep dive into whether or not Nalgene bottles are safe to drink from if you want to look at the scientific studies behind these claims.
How To Know If Your Nalgene Bottle Is BPA Free?
To know if a Nalgene bottle is BPA free simply look for the BPA FREE statement stamped onto the bottom of your Nalgene bottle. These bottles are made after 2008 from Tritan plastic and are BPA free.
Also if you own a Ultralite Nalgene (no matter when it was made) or a stainless steel Nalgene bottle then these bottles are also BPA free. However, they won't state BPA FREE on the base
It is only really the clear and hard Nalgene bottles that you need to be concerned about when it comes to the presence of BPA.
Ultralite bottles are made from HDPE which is a translucent or opaque plastic that has never contained BPA.
However, older Nalgene bottles were made from polycarbonate plastics which did contain BPA and these are the ones you need to be careful of.
Above you can see the base of my Nalgene bottle that was manufactured in 1995, well before Nalgene moved away from plastics containing BPA.
While the details are worn and hard to see it is clear that the base lacks a statement placed on all clear plastic Nalgene bottles (other than Ultralite bottles) and that is the phrase “BPA free”
I personally don't drink out of this bottle and advise my kids against drinking out of it.
There Are Potential Problems With BPA-Free Plastics As Well
Unfortunately, many experts believe that there are still likely hundreds of other compounds commonly found in plastic that may be just as dangerous as BPA.
BHPF, for example, has been found in Tritan Bottles and has shown some anti-estrogenic effects in mice in some studies. It’s just too early to know.
If you want to play it safe and avoid plastic bottles altogether, it’s understandable. Stainless steel bottles offer many of their own benefits and are perfectly safe to drink from.
Made from single wall surgical grade 316 (18/10) stainless steel and featuring the same size threads as the regular Nalgene widemouth this is the perfect bottle for those wanting the lifetime warranty and durability of a Nalgene without the plastic.
Comes with a rope pack loop lid attachment.
I’m still confident using my Nalgene Bottles regularly for smoothies (because I can just toss them in the dishwasher when I’m done) and for climbing and hiking (the durability and light weight are just too much to pass on).
But to protect myself from any potential risks, I follow a few simple guidelines:
- Don’t leave water in your bottle for any longer than is needed. The longer your water sits, the more time chemicals have to leach from the plastic.
- Thoroughly wash new Nalgene Bottles before using them. Trace amounts of BPA have been found in brand new BPA-free Nalgenes — likely from being produced in the same factory as plastics containing BPA.
- Don’t drink hot or boiling water from plastic bottles because heat encourages more chemicals to leach from the plastic. It’s okay to use your Nalgene as a hot water bottle, just dump, wash, and refill with fresh water before drinking.
Made with BPA-free Tritan Renew plastic these Nalgene bottles are made with 50% recycled plastic.
This is the best selling water bottle that has been around for 30 years (and likely to last you 30 years). Suitable for warm and cold beverages (-40 to 212ºF) this is marked with milliliters and ounces for easy measurement.