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SIGG Changes Its Story, Admits BPA In Water Bottles

The manufacturer of a popular aluminum water bottle is under fire this week for not having disclosed that many of its bottles were manufactured with a lining made from the chemical bisphenol-A, or BPA.

Used to harden plastics and commonly found as a liner in cans and bottles, BPA has health risks both known and unknown, which have caused many consumers to step back from the use of plastic bottles to store food and beverages. Legislative bans on BPA-containing food containers have been gaining momentum.

Enter the lined aluminum bottle. Shiny, metallic, sleek, and (allegedly) totally plastic-free, the bottles have gained credibility as both environmentally friendly -- no more single-use disposable water bottles -- and health conscious -- no BPA worries. Swiss bottle manufacturer SIGG in particular gained significant market share, with its metal bottles retailing for upwards of $20 each at upscale stores like Whole Foods.
But it turns out that SIGG was doing its marketing with the benefit of some semantic sleight-of-hand. Previously, when asked about BPA content in its bottle liners by the likes of sustainable-living blog TreeHugger, SIGG's response had been that laboratory testing could not detect any BPA leaching into the liquid stored in SIGG bottles. SIGG liked to contrast this with the performance of numerous lookalike and knockoff bottles, all of which showed measurable levels of BPA leaching from their liners.

When pressed for more specifics, the company would say only that its liner formula was "proprietary." It turns out that "proprietary" was code for, "There is BPA in our bottles, but we don't want to tell you that." Earlier this month, SIGG CEO Steve Wasik finally fessed up, writing a letter to consumers in which he admitted that the linings of its eco-bottles did in fact contain BPA up until August of 2008, when a new, BPA-free liner was introduced.

So many consumers of SIGG drink bottles who thought they were BPA-free were, in fact, consuming their beverages from a BPA-lined bottle. Were they taking unwanted health risks? SIGG for its part stands by its prior testing, and says that the BPA in the liner of its bottle never leached into the bottle contents. So you may not need to rush to throw your year-old, BPA-lined bottles away. Obviously, though, many consumers are angry, feeling duped by SIGG, and the company has probably not heard the last of this issue.