Back in the pre-corona days when nurseries were still open, I could not help but notice that 90% of the kids in my son’s class used plastic Camelbak water bottles. That’s when I knew I had to do some research about them. My conclusion is that they may be toxic for human consumption. And the company does a poor job at sustainability.
My concerns about Camelback water bottles
- Some of Camelbak water bottles like Podium are treated with a proprietary technology called HydroGuard. It contains silver sodium hydrogen zirconium phosphate (SSHZP) to prevent growth of bacteria that can cause odors, discoloration or deterioration of the bottle. While it’s an EPA-registered compound , European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has silver sodium hydrogen zirconium phosphate currently under assessment as endocrine disrupting. It is under review for use as a biocide for food products including drinking water. In addition, the substance comes with a warning as being very toxic to aquatic life
- Camelbak plastic bottles (e.g. EDDY and CHUTE MAG) are made of a copolyester called Eastman Tritan while reservoires are made from polyurethane. The company claims they are all (including the caps) BPA/BPS/BPF free. Actually, BPA-free is probably the most used term on the website! There’s however not a single test report to support this claim. The company has not responded to my repeated questions either. Without test reports to prove the point, these statements have unfortunately no ground.
- An early study in 2014 revealed that Tritan was leaching chemicals with estrogen activity. The jury in the court case that followed after the study found that estrogenic activity could not be established solely through cell-based tests. The question whether estrogen activity could be proved with other testing methods remains though.
- Camelbak uses Triphenyl-phosphate as an additive to manifacture Tritan’s resins. Triphenyl-phosphate is also under assessment as endocrine disrupting by ECHA as well as considered very toxic to aquatic life.
Following information is also missing:
- Composition of TruTaste™ Polypropyleneused in e.g. Podium, Peak Fitness and Reign Chill bottles and test reports
- Material used to colour the plastic bottles
- Test reports proving that inks on the printed bottles (e.g. EDDY+ Kids) are indeed lead-free as claimed on the website
- Results of 3rd party testing for sweat-proof powder coat finish on the stainless steel bottles
- Material disclosure in other products such as waist packs, vests and backpacks. Could potentially contain flame and/or nano-particles retardants, PFAS, PVC, VOC etc
All of the above points raise a lot of questions about safety of Camelbak’s products.
If your water tastes like plastic, it contains plastic!
I found it especially amusing that Camelbak even provides guidance on how to get rid of plastic taste in their watter bottles. Well, it goes without saying that if water tastes like plastic, then the bottle is obviously leaching plastic… Plastics can contain a large number of various chemicals even if they’re BPA/BPS/BPF free (which we as of now don’t have a proof of). You don’t want to be exposing yourself – or your kids! – to any unnecessary risks even if chemicals are not (yet) proven harmful.
My concerns about (lack of) sustainability practises at Camelbak
Camelbak barely fulfils 30% of the criteria on my sustainability checklist . Below are some of my concerns:
- Lack of use of sustainable materials: the company promotes #ditchdisposable on a mission to reduce the use of single-use plastic but about 2/3 of Camelbak’s models are made of plastic. Reusable or not, plastic is a major source of pollution
- Plastic bottles are not biodegradable
- There’s little insight into the outsourced manufacturing operations e.g. use of renewable energy, total carbon print, practices around waste reduction, discharge of wastewater etc. Camelbak has done a great job at reducing its environmental impact at the HQ as well as in the distribution center. They stand however for only a small part of the total environmental footprint of the company’s operations with manufacturing taking the lion share of it.
- Not clear if the company offsets its green-house emissions
- No mentioning about what associated packaging is produced of (e.g. recycled materials?) and if it is recyclable and/or biodegradable
- The company does not disclose its suppliers.
- CamelBak mentions that its suppliers have ISO certification(s) but fails to specify which
- Camelbak is not a B-corporation
Better safe than sorry – until we know more
I’ve been repeatedly contacting the company for nearly two months. I never received a response to my questions even though they promised to get back to me. For the sake of wellbeing of those who’ve being using Camelbak’s water bottles (especially children and pregnant women), I sincerely hope that many of my current concerns can be easily addressed. I urge therefore Camelbak to become more transparent! What the consumers deserve to see is independent test reports for Camelbak water bottles and other products as well as thorough information about the company’s environmental and social practises. If the company does everything right, there’s absolutely no reason not to disclose it, right? Until then – I’d rather stay safe than sorry.