Saturday, August 22, 2009

SIGG and BPA - Treehugger Got Hoodwinked

Full rainbow and just spectacular.


SIGG's confession about BPA, bisphenol-A, being in their water bottle lining has shocked the eco world. Almost equally as shocking has been Treehugger's un-in depth reporting about SIGG's containing or leaching BPA issue, which began over a year ago, with their loose endorsement of SIGG's BPA-Free claim. (Could it have anything to do with SIGG and other big green companies who also sell SIGG and their own aluminum water bottles that contain BPA being big time advertisers on Treehugger?) Treehugger's last posting as of this writing ends with "Safe (SIGG)? Yes." Did Treehugger get hoodwinked and can't admit it?

Really? Lloyd Alter, after 4 postings and an ambush of comments still comes to the conclusion that SIGGs are safe? Is he for real? I'm not going to take the absolute position that they are unsafe but I do question those who claim "safe". That is a pretty tall (high on yourself?) order to make. Treehugger even quoted SNEWS, which was tougher on SIGG, and then wimped out in the end. So you're telling me that all pregnant moms and and little beings are perfectly safe sucking on SIGG bottles knowing that we don't know whether they leach below 2 PPB (because it has never been tested) , knowing that we do know (now) they contain BPA in the lining, that we do not know what the ingredients are in the new secret eco-care liner and knowing that Canada, States and Cities have taken the precautionary approach and have banned BPA products for under age 3 because for safety concerns? That's interesting that an entire Country bans BPA due to safety concerns while Lloyd Alter (who's out of Canada) concludes SIGG is safe. WOW.

To continue to make the claim of safety based on such little fact is irresponsible. We don't have the facts in about the safety of BPA since that is ongoing as we speak. We do know that BPA in very small amounts, PPT, is causing fetal and developmental damage. Scientists are working on this now. It is inconclusive for humans, (for some though very conclusive),but not looking good, which is why bans are continuing for precautionary reasons. This is why it is shocking that Lloyd Alter continues to say SIGG is safe.

But media attention is good, right? Even negative media attention is better than no attention at all. Unfortunately it rewards the liars, in this case SIGG. And that stinks.

And still no one is talking about the leaching of aluminum. The OKO Testing done in 2004 showed SIGG leaching aluminum. (you can find it on SIGG's competitor's site, Laken, but conveniently omitted from their own website.) But SIGG on their website says "ensure 0.0% leaching" of aluminum. Hmm, not adding up here either. Let's also be clear about these results. The level of testing was done at standards that are acceptable for drinking water purposes. These levels are high, otherwise most public water systems would fail. SIGG did leach aluminum but below these standards. OKO gave a very good rating for any water bottle that came in below these standards but very good does not mean no leaching. (this is deja vu, right?) This is the same BPA scenario all over again. SIGG then went out of their way to test stainless steel bottles so they could post it on their website to convince their customers of the dangers of stainless steel.

Let's face it, SIGG has cashed in on the water bottle craze using sleazy big corporate marketing tactics. It reminds me of Monsanto claiming on their website how happy their Indian farmers are using their GMO seeds back in 2002 and 2006 but omitting the recent update that these farmers are now committing suicide in the hundreds due to farming debt. Oops, sorry, minor detail omitted.

I've blogged in depth about SIGG and BPA before (see headlines on the right of this blog), and also about SIGG's "greenness". My first blog was over year ago when I didn't buy the BPA-free claim SIGG and Treehugger were making. I've said it before and I'll say it again...consumers have the right to know the ingredients of the products they purchase. Hiding behind "it's a proprietary secret" is deceptive, not transparent and definitely not real "green". Is this where I get to say "I told you so?"

SIGG led us to believe that SIGG was "BPA-Free". They refused to answer direct questions about the ingredients of their lining. They didn't directly lie but they sure danced around in order to satisfy the majority. This is the height of corporate deception. They have confessed that their old lining had BPA. They now claim their new eco-care liner is BPA-Free. Their certifications and testing are on their website and are pretty impressive. I am glad to see they meet Japan's standards since they are the highest in the world. SIGG's new lining sounds legitimately free of BPA and many other nasties. BUT Sigg's new lining is a proprietary secret. Doesn't this take us back to where we were before? That's like the shampoo bottles that list all the ingredients they don't have and then you look on the back only to find the word fragrance.

So my new questions for SIGG (are you may borrow for sure) are:

What are the ingredients in the new lining? (there might be a new gender bender that I would want to know about)

Will you be selling this wonderful new lining formula (and make millions to offset your development research) to the canned food industry so we may all benefit, including babies needing safe formula cans?

What long-term studies have been done on the new formula ingredient to insure safety?

May we have full access to these studies?

If a company can not answer these questions in an honest way, (it's okay to say I don't know) they don't deserve to be considered a "green" company. This is , in my opinion, the largest green washing, eco-deceptive, big business scam event ever. Shame on SIGG for giving false pretense to parents, pregnant mothers, children and the rest with regard to their lining and BPA.

25 comments:

Lloyd Alter said...

You are absolutely right about SIGG, but I was answering the question: Should I throw out a pile of bottles that I already own? The fact is we are swimming in BPA, if you eat food from tin cans, feed your kid baby food in glass jars, even can your own food in glass mason jars, you are getting BPA. Until the stuff is banned from all food related uses, how can one justify telling people to dump a bottle that tests zero? (The testing agency wrote a letter explaining why two is essentially zero)

These are expensive bottles. What is the level of risk in our current BPA filled environment in continuing to use them? A lot less than a polycarbonate that pumped out 70 bpm, or my knockoff SIGG that pumped out 20 (and that I am replacing.)

That was the basis of my reccommendation.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thanks Lloyd for writing. You are correct about we humans being totally surrounded by BPA. I understand the "test zero" part but that is at PPB and again it feeds into advertising deception. I see where you're coming from. You just reviewed some great facts about BPA and what other food containers are using BPA. I would never suggest that someone give up their SIGG (especially pregnant moms) without including all the other food related containers. If someone chooses to avoid BPA, it should be done in unison. Throwing out a SIGG and then popping canned soup for dinner isn't exactly consistent.

I still respectfully disagree with your conclusion of safety. I would have preferred if you presented more facts (your comment here was great), more links on recent BPA and suggested that we decide, as consumers, or simply say "We don't know yet" (with regard to safety). My truth is... we don't know. We don't know if the tiniest exposure to BPA during a critical fetal developmental phase causes changes in cell or genetic structure. The scientists are working on this. Until such time, if I were advising my pregnant daughter, I would say "Dump your SIGG AND everything containing BPA AND other products that contain known hormone mimickers." That advice might leave her with some pretty basic things in life, but some would argue getting back to basics might be best. But then again, that advice is for my daughter. Should it be any different for others?

Thanks again for taking the time to comment. I love a good discussion.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

This just in, "BPA Industry Fights Back". BPA is complicted, it's everywhere and the big big chemical industry is nervous. As I've said before, buyer beware...
http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/54195297.html

Lloyd Alter said...

and by the way, I think your point of view should be held up against mine, and have done an update in my post of Friday and my upcoming post tomorrow to you.

Were I writing it today after reading your post, I would not have used the words "unequivocable", you are correct in saying that it is not so simple as "safe" or "not safe."

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thank you Lloyd for listening. I look forward to your upcoming posts. In the meantime, some interesting reading on low dose BPA can be found here: http://endocrinedisruption.com/endocrine.bisphenol.overview.php

Keeping in mind that this is more than a year old so many updated,confirming articles have been written since.

What concerns me is we're talking hormones here, serious body/brain altering, powerful itsy bitsy chemicals. Our own chemicals circulate at low levels of ng/ml (PPB) and pg/ml (PPT). So adding BPA and other hormone mimickers to the stew worries scientists (and me too!)about possible effect. The once held theory of BPA being excreted within 24 hours is also now inconclusive.
http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/38515489.html

What is concerning is there are folks who are drinking from BPA leaching containers who in theory could be getting a low dose all day long every time they swig. I think of it as a slow BPA drip 18 hours a day. Now that is a scary image to me.

The traditional chemists that I know don't get too excited about "harmful chemicals". Their attitude (yes I'm stereotyping based on my experience)is innocent until proven guilty. I'll take my cue from endocrine experts doing the research who have a precautionary viewpoint. That's just where I'm coming from.

Maybe you and I can team up, eh? :)
Thanks again for your time.

Rommel said...

A couple of things

Aluminum: I doubt that new Sigg bottles have ever had an issue with aluminum leaching, same goes for 2yr/old ones. What happens though when the lining gets really old or damaged. My guess is that it leaches aluminum bigtime, especially for anyone that puts something at all acidic inside.

The whacky little brushes, the little cleaning tablets (what is in those?), the inspection info on the Sigg website all point to the big topic Steve does not address, why would anyone use aluminum for this application. The answer is that when Sigg was the proud European institution it once was, people probably did not know better. Nevertheless, having a legacy product does not make it a good idea when new information becomes available.

Sigg makes stainless bottles (albeit with aluminum threads and in China like everyone else). The only reason that are not really touting that fact is that the aluminum versions are hella cheap to make, and the whole "Swiss Made" schtick.

Thanks for staying in the trenches for so long RGG, and thanks for listening Lloyd, its heartening.

wirehead said...

If you look back, you see that I was totally right.

On one hand, I'm prone to being a know-it-all, so I'm pleased with myself. On the other hand, I'm sickened that I'm right. *sigh*

Hutch said...

Laken USA is thrilled that attention has been drawn to the pressing need for market regulations and testing standards for BPA Free reusable bottles. Thank you for paying attention and for increasing awareness around this issue!

As a commitment to this position, Laken has partnered with the Outdoor Industry Association as a consultant in drafting Senator Charles Schumer's bill to ban BPA in food and beverage containers for infants and toddlers.

To reiterate our position, Laken would like to call for industry-wide testing standards that test to the utmost-degree, guaranteeing BPA Free safety standards and to officially express concern that even with posted test results, not all tests are created equal. At a minimum, BPA levels cannot be detected if tests do not follow basic testing standards:
• Levels: Competitor’s test to 20 μg/L vs. Laken’s tests to .5 μg/L
• Liquid Temperature: The temperature of the liquid inside the bottle must reach at least 40 degrees Celsius for at least 24 hours.
• Wear & Tear: Quality control standards to test the durability of the lining, and time lapse liner adherence tests.


Laken has a history of transparency and integrity (please visit: http://bit.ly/3Yqo53 for additional information) or contact retail partners for testaments to this statement. Laken's commitment to accredited BPA Free standards and high quality manufacturing practices are insured by the following procedures:
• Laken has always maintained an open and transparent dialog with consumers and retailers about the content of our coating.
• Laken is the first to introduce an accredited BPA Free liner that is 100% BPA Free, contains no VOC's in application nor phthalates, NOGE, BADGE, or BFDGE.
• To ensure liner consistency, before the liner is baked to the bottle's inner lining, a mechanical, optical-eye scans the inside of each bottle to verify that the coating is even.
• Laken's bottles are coated internally and externally before the threads are set on the outside of the mouth, which is a unique advantage to Laken's manufacturing process and prevents any exposure to aluminum.
• Laken's external coating is polyester-based, which is food friendly and BPA Free. This finish compliments the thicker walls of a Laken bottle to make an overall, more durable bottle, with a longer life.
• Laken’s lids are made from food-grade, 100% recyclable polypropylene in a regulated Spanish manufacturing facility and are also third-party tested to ensure the lids won’t expose consumers to PVC or other volatile chemicals.

Laken's nearly 100-year-legacy (founded 1912), strict adherence to accredited BPA certification and attention to quality is what makes Laken the worldwide standard for healthy aluminum and stainless steel water bottles. Accredited under ISO 9002 standards, Laken's Spanish manufacturing facility adheres to the highest standards of the industry to ensure customers receive safe and fun drinking bottles. www.lakenusa.com.

For additional information, please visit Lakenusa.com where test results are posted and to engage in this conversation on our blog. I'm also available for any questions at greg@lakenusa.com. For press inquiries, please contact Liz Hutchins at liz@rippleeffectrelations.com.

Sincerely,

Greg Garrigues
President, Laken USA

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thanks wiredhead and Rommel, amazing isn't it. Thanks for stickin with me.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thanks Greg (from Laken) for posting this. I am thrilled that Laken is being proactive. I must tell you though, when I first started doing research and up until several months ago, no one from Laken would return my emails or my telephone calls, even from sales reps, and answer my question: what are the ingredients. I like knowing what they DON'T have but I also want to know WHAT THEY DO HAVE, as far as ingredients. Let the consumer decide their comfort level and stop hiding behind the secret thing. SO, are you going to tell me the ingredients? Thanks for writing.

J McNichols said...

It's unclear whether a liner like Laken's or SIGG's could even be used for canned food - some plastics are very expensive for use in items costing fifty cents to a couple of dollars. But sharing the formula certainly wouldn't hurt.

Where on Laken's site does it reference aluminum leaching in SIGG bottles? I've looked based on your mention but can't find it.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thanks J. Here's the link:

http://tinyurl.com/nsgneb

This from the Laken website but in German, the previous link is translated.
www.lakenbottles.com/OEKO Test Original.pdf

Let me know if you have anymore questions. Thanks.

Rommel said...

RGG,

Laken's response is interesting for a number of reasons. They seem to be positioning themselves as the lesser of two evils, having introduced an actual BPA-Free liner sooner, and having some design features that (convincingly) make the case that they have a superior product.

Nevertheless they are just as implicated in the original SNEWS article for not diclosing the nature of their liner, developing a replacement knowing this, and coming clean when forced to, all fundamentally just like Sigg. They have taken Steve's brazen rhetoric and failure to take responsibility a step further by championing BPA legislation. Seriously?

Now that Sigg and Laken claim to have found a good (still proprietary) BPA solution, their plan is to translate their 2+ years of dishonesty into some kind of tactical victory against other aluminum makers without their technology advantages . . . especially the pesky Chinese ones (which they both love to mention). Like I have said before, i think Aluminum is the actual root of all these problems. Like plastic, it is a big part of our disposable society, because its dirt cheap to make, not because it is the best suited material.

We still don't know anything substantive about the makeup of these new liners, we won't get disclosure about lining failures and what they mean, and we certainly are not getting anything like an apology from either of them. Classic shell game and we're right back where we started. They'll probably get a pass from big retailers who were along for the ride, and from big news outlets (esp print) who get their ad dollars.

Jim said...

You're absolutely right about demanding for the transparency of ingredients in products. As consumers we can't trust companies to moderate themselves and to look out for our best interest. It doesn't often happen. They usually follow the bottom line. Therefore, like you I will not be buying into any product that hides information about it's ingredients. Thanks for this informative article.

Rob Noack said...

As a person who bought Sigg bottles for my family to avoid BPA- I am really annoyed by the whole thing. I am now in the market for new bottles (will not buy the "new-Sigg" and put any more $ in their pockets). Based on your knowledge, do you have any recommendations for a replacement portable water bottle?

Sincerely, Sue

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thanks for writing Sue. Treehugger and Lloyd did a nice followup article on SIGG alternatives: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/08/find-a-bpa-free-bottle.php
However, I'm not 100% comfortable with the BPA replacement that is used by Camelbak and other BPA-Free products. The new BPA Free plastic is so new there are no long term cancer studies available.I'm not a big fan of plastic period. It is almost always virgin plastic and it can only be down-cycled at best. At least with stainless steel, it loops much more efficiently from an environmental standpoint. There really isn't a "perfect" water bottle. Not sure this actually helps you, but it is my humble opinion. Cheers

james said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

This is a great article and debate. Yes, I'm a little behind as this is over a year old but...
... how do I find out if my SIGG bottle was made with the old or new liner? I bought the bottle couple of days ago at Target. It's the Heritage 1.0L model 8239.10. The sticker says BPA FREE but we all know what this means.

Appreciate the help.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

Thanks for writing. They still could be trying to ditch the old ones so you are wise to wonder. Here is a good photo of the inside. Basically if it is goldish, ditch it. We do not know what the new lining is though so beware. Thanks again.
http://www.ehow.com/how_5360749_exchange-water-bottle-nonbpa-bottle.html

Anonymous said...

thanks much for the above info. I have the new one. So i guess I'll be keeping this one...

Anonymous said...

I think people are getting a little TOO worked up about this. If the sigg bottles tested for no BPA after undergoing tests that put it through stresses higher than the normal use then why care? You aren't even going to put it through that kind of stress so even if it did give off an amount that was undetectable to the testing they used, it would be even lower with normal use.

Another thing, why are you mentioning aluminum? Aluminum has not been proven toxic. The Alzheimer's thing is inconclusive, symptoms != cause.

http://alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/news_article.php?newsID=169

Alzheimer's is a common form of Dementia, as per the site.

My grandmother cooked on the same set of Guardian aluminum cookware for 50 years, still sharp as a whip. Learning to use email with English as her second language and no formal schooling to speak of.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

The SIGG bottles did leach under normal use at levels known to cause hormone disruption, according to vom Saal's research. Aluminum is indeed toxic, at high levels, which is admittedly rare, but it is toxic. Aluminum is a non-essential mineral that builds up in your body. The industry has found it necessary to line aluminum containers for shelf life purposes, not necessarily toxic purposes, such as in soda cans. While aluminum is not proven to "cause" Alzheimer, and its association remains inconclusive,the red flag remains up for many researchers. My biggest concern with raw aluminum (used in water bottles) is its enormous carbon footprint compared to stainless steel. In addition, if the industry is going to go ahead and then line it, it should be using completely safe materials. Stainless steel still remains the greener choice by a long shot because of of its less intense footprint and because it does not need to be lined with a plastic type material, otherwise you just as well drink from another plastic bottle.

Anonymous said...

You might as well remove the comments about aluminum all together then, inconclusive != toxic, and high levels is just silly. High levels of iron is toxic but it is a necessary mineral, so is sodium, potassium, vitamin A, and the list goes on for pretty much every single mineral. Water too, you can die from drinking too much water, it's about as rare as dying from aluminum toxicity.

Lining coke cans is different, that's because the low pH due to the phosphoric acid in the coke would corrode away the can and you'd get leaky cans, not because aluminum is toxic. Bottles containing water do not have the same problem.

I am just glad you modified your post to remove the aluminum toxicity bit :) The sooner people stop spreading around that crazy myth the better, aluminum cookware is many times better than stainless for cooking.

Are you talking about virgin aluminum processing? Because recycled aluminium is definitely not as energy intensive as stainless steel production. Also, things are lined because acid corrodes metal, if we made tins and cans out of stainless steel they would have to be lined by a non-reactive epoxy as well.

The BPA bit I cannot comment further, my expertise lines more with aluminum.

Anonymous said...

Oh I seem to have missed the bit where SIGG used raw aluminum for their water bottles, well then yeah they are being wasteful with energy, there is no point in using bauxite ore when you can recycle it.

Real Green Girl Activist said...

right, SIGG and others use virgin/raw aluminum which is the base of my point. While the can industry uses recycled which saves up to 95% of the energy costs in production. Another reason why recycling is so important....but back to the use of virgin aluminum, shame on SIGG. Thanks for writing and caring about the environment.