Environmental activists launched a campaign several years ago to demonize and promote bans on bottled water, suggesting that people find more “energy efficient” and “environmentally sound” alternatives, including reusable plastic or metal water bottles. Some even recommended the dangerously breakable reusable glass bottle! CEI pointed out why the greens’ advice was not only unnecessary but also carried drawbacks, including the fact that reusable alternatives are not only inconvenient, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria.
But apparently, there are other problems. For example, the reusable plastic bottles and metal alternatives that greens originally advocated contained the chemical bisphenol A, which greens also unfairly demonized. Accordingly, reusable bottle manufacturers responded by producing BPA-free products, but those containers use a similar chemical called bisphenol S, which some say is even worse than BPA (although both are safe, if you ask me). Still, greens advocated BPA-free versions including metal bottles. Little mention is made of the energy-intensive effort necessary to make metal bottles. But even setting that issue aside, a real and verifiable health problem has resulted from these reusable metal bottles: children have trapped their tongues in them because of a vacuum effect related to the rigid container. A recent New York Daily News article reports on one case of a young girl who suffered these effects:
‘The doctors said the two worst-case scenarios were: one, it could block her airway and she could suffocate, and two, her tongue would die, basically — she wouldn’t be able to speak anymore, she would lose her tongue,’ her father Andy Person told ‘Today.’ The family is considering legal action.
Aluminum water bottles seem like a safer, more eco-conscious choice to many parents, but they carry their own health hazards.
Doctors think suction, coupled with the inflexible metal and the bottle’s narrow, rigid opening, combine to trap the tongue.
If the family wants someone to sue, perhaps they should look to the environmental activists whose misinformation and scare campaign advanced these alternatives. The company that produced them was simply trying to respond to consumer demand.
This case just goes to show that forced-product substitution is not an easy solution to any problem, particularly when the problem that greens define doesn’t really exist. Products win a place in the market because they meet real needs. When products are removed for political reasons through bans and unfair and unscientific political causes, there may be, and usually are, unintended consequences.