BPA-Free Plastic for Drinking Water is Not the Same as Safe

The other day I purchased a 5-gallon plastic jug to hold my alkaline drinking water. Naturally, I checked to make sure it was labeled “BPA Free.” It was. I noticed that the company selling it was out of Laredo, TX. That doesn’t necessarily mean the plastic was manufactured here in the USA – if that means anything anymore. But worse, for all I knew, it could have been imported from China. Sorry folks, I don’t mean to offend anyone with a remark that smacks of ethnocentricity. Nothing against people, just policies. I just feel many of their products are unsafe. The manufacturing process has little regard for product safety, nor does it have laws regulating it.

A small warning light went off in my head for another reason: Under the smallish icon with the words “Bisphenol-A FREE” were the words “RIGID PVC Free of Bisphenol-A.” Something didn’t sit right about that. I wasn’t sure what “RIGID PVC” meant other than the material was made out of PVC. PVC was good, right? I mean, the water that comes into many people’s homes travels through PVC pipes.

What I didn’t check, however, was the number in the triangle on the bottom of the jug that’s coded to indicate the type of plastic the product is made out of and whether it is safe for storing drinking water. That should have been the first check – but I’ll get to that shortly.

I got home, eager to rinse out the bottle and get it ready for my drinking water, which I buy from a trusted local source. I uncapped the lid and immediately got a whiff of something plastic … or it could have been the smell of a chemical – I couldn’t tell which. But whatever it was, it was strong, offensive, and had me puzzled.

This prompted me to check the bottom of the jug. Inside the recycling symbol triangle was the number 3. Without looking at a recycling cheat sheet, I knew that numbers 1 and 2 were considered safe for drinking, but I wasn’t sure about number 3.

Nevertheless, I proceeded to rinse out the jug, first with warm water and grapeseed extract, a natural disinfectant I use regularly with water to spray my produce. The smell remained just as strong. I decided to then use food grade hydrogen peroxide with warm water, shaking it around, making sure to coat every inch of interior surface area, washing the lid separately in hot soapy water. Still the smell.

So I set it on its side, hoping that airing it out would get rid of the odor while I Googled “plastic water bottles.” I found lots of results. I chose the ones at the top of Google’s search list that were the most recent. One was titled “Know Your Plastics” written in June 2015, posted on the website Healthy Child, Healthy World, which turned out to be a non-profit organization of parents who take action to protect children from harmful chemicals. That’s good. These had to be informed people.

HCHW said they had “powerful educational resources” with “groundbreaking research” provided by another nonprofit organization called Environmental Working Group (EWG) whose mission is to “protect human health and the environment.” On their board of directors is a lawyer who managed a large Wisconsin organic dairy cooperative; a physician and 5-time bestselling author who specialized in “identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic illness,” and another member a pediatrician identified as a “leading advocate” for children’s and environmental health and spokesman on environmental issues for the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics. All that sounded impressive.

It turns out the common usage for PVC (or Polyvinyl Chloride) #3 is (and I’m quoting HCHW) “Bibs, mattress covers, commercial-grade plastic wrap, and some types of food and detergent containers.” The description included the warning “Avoid it. The manufacture of PVC creates dioxin, a potent carcinogen that contaminates humans, animals, and the environment. PVC may also contain phthalates to soften it.” The text went on to say that phthalates were hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to male reproductive problems and birth defects. I was dismayed to also read that PVC is “not easily recycled, but some recycling plants will accept it.” Gulp.

The other website, NRDC, posted a 2009 article (a little dated, I suppose, but it was updated in 2012) titled Plastic Water Bottles: Is BPA-Free the Same as Safe? NRDC, touted by the New York Times as “one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups,” is an environmental action group comprised of more than two million members and online “activists” backed by about 500 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals.

NRDC’s article offered a partial list of recycling codes, including #3. Reading this one left me a little queasy. “#3 (PVC) and 6 (styrene) plastics pose health risks and should be avoided. (They are not ordinarily used for water bottles but are used for other food and beverage containers.)”

So I got curious and started looking at the bottom of my other plastic water containers, some containing purified water, others containing drinking water, another one purchased from my alkaline water store. They were all labeled #2, identified on the NRDC site as HDPE (polypropylene) plastics, “generally regarded as safe.”

But wait … I hadn’t checked my 3-1/2 gallon water jugs, one of which I fill with my store-bought alkaline water, the other with vending machine water that I use only for washing dishes and occasionally washing vegetables. Both were labeled #7. Oh dear … #7 plastic, according to NRDC, “is usually polycarbonate and contains BPA.” One of the jugs also had the words “Approved for Water Use Only,” the other “For Drinking Water Only.” One has to wonder what is meant by those words. “Hey, people, this container isn’t safe, but go ahead, it’s ok to drink water from it.”

I’d like to also mention that both of these jugs come from a local area bottled water service dating back only a few years – 2013 – when the BPA scare was in full swing. The company’s website explains their natural spring water is bottled from a “protected source” at the source, and “not from any municipal source.” I wonder if that was the case in 2013 and during several years prior to that when I was drinking water out of it daily?

Day two: my smelly jug had a chance to air out and yet still gives off a noxious odor. Keeping receipts is something I starting doing a couple months ago. It has come in handy several times already. I’ll get to use the latest receipt to return the big smelly BPA-Free drinking water jug and then stop at my alkaline water store to purchase a safe water container.


For some background understanding, BPA creates estrogens in the body from chemicals which mimic the behavior of natural estrogen. This causes sensitivity – even in low doses – particularly in fetuses, infants, and juveniles. BPA has also been linked to the increase in breast and prostate cancers, heart disease, diabetes, infertility and fetal development problems. BPA can leach into food, water, or whatever is stored in it.

Since the middle of 2012 BPA has been banned nationally for use in baby bottles and children’s drinking cups. Fourteen states and some jurisdictions have taken up laws expanding the list of prohibited BPA children’s products. California restricts the level of BPA allowable in containers used by children under three years of age. At the time of this writing, Washington D.C. appears to have the strongest law. Enacted in 2011, DC’s BPA law prohibits the manufacture, sale or distribution of bottles, cups or containers if they are designed to be filled with food or liquids.

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19 ways to taste Lockhart


It’s drizzling and bone-chilling cold for “Tastes Along the Trail”, but inside the shops taking part in the Lockhart walking merchant tour, welcomes are warm, shopping selections bountiful, and the multi-cultural tasty treats lip-smacking good.

The idea for this annual event is to celebrate a piece of history dating back to the mid 1800’s, when massive cattle drives known as the Chisholm Trail carved a path starting from around San Antonio up through Abilene and into Kansas on their way east to where the herds could fetch a handsome price since beef was scarce along the east coast in those days.

In Lockhart’s 2014 version, each shopper walks along the merchant “trail”, visits local participating proprietors around the courthouse, feasts on free food, shops, and collects a ticket at each store. The tickets get entered into drawings for several cash prizes totaling $1000, thanks to the sponsors of this shindig, Lockhart Chamber of Commerce.

Trail walkers can also shop the crafts and artisan booths and enjoy live music on stage at Pocket Park, a newly built outdoor community space with open seating café dining and vendor booths. Pocket Park is an initiative created by volunteers through Lockhart Go Local. It’s a charming alley tucked in between two buildings, behind T&C Café on San Antonio Street.

Stop # 1: Logos

First stop is Logos, where Janet Grigar, the owner and one of the organizers of this annual event, greets me dressed in a floor-length dress with high stiff collar, clothing much like what her German grandparents and their kin were wearing in the photographs arranged on a wall of her custom embroidery shop. Hot cranapple cider is waiting for me, as is German potato salad and a sweet treat that I think is a combination of peanut brittle fused with bars of graham crackers she calls “Sweet Grahams.”

Stop #2: Sol & Luna Antiques & Art

Warmed from the cider, I’m ready to walk outside again. A few doors down is Sol & Luna Antiques & Art, where you can find antiques, home furnishings and accessories and collectibles. Piled high in a warming tray are chunks of glazed ham, and next to it, a Pilipino family favorite, a rice noodle dish called Pancit Bihon. I find it hard not to come back for seconds on the noodles, a savory blend of Bihon noodles, bits of pork, and slivers of green beans and carrots.

Stop #3: Wendy R Gifts

In the back of a fun gift shop for ladies and babies, Wendy R Gifts, a three-tiered tray has a mixture of French and English bites: mini quiches, scones, and a tangy olive tapenade. The tapenade is delightful smeared on a slice of the crusty French bread. The luscious arrangement was created by Lulu’s Lunch Box, a courthouse square sandwich shop that knows how to create some really interesting daily lunch specials.

 Stop #4: Fields Stable Antiques Mall

The talk around town is that Fields Stable Antiques Mall knows how to put on a spread, so I make haste, eager to see what they have in store. I’m also looking forward to moseying around more antiques, which are in plentiful supply here in Lockhart. I’m actually a bit early. A long table is set up in one the many rooms of this spacious shop, but the food hasn’t arrived yet, so I make myself at home and start my moseying. My, there are a lot of rooms with interesting items. I almost forget why I’m here (I confess, it’s for the food). When I head back to the room there are several aluminum foiled cover trays of lasagna and—to follow the Italian theme—a plate of powdered sugar dusted Pizzelles—best described as a cross between a waffle and a cookie, but prettier…kind of like an edible embossed doily. I dive into the Pizzelle plate first. One of the staff points out there’s a hint of licorice in the cookie. Must be the anise. Yum.

Stop #5: The Jewel of Lockhart

Next stop, The Jewel of Lockhart, where you can buy jewelry and even rent a tux. The cuisine is Peruvian, in honor of the owner’s heritage. The tablecloth looks South American, and a framed image of the Peru coat of arms stands proudly on the table next to cups of a fluffy yellow mixture I’m told is potato salad. Potatoes are indigenous to this part of the world, which for some reason comes as a surprise. I thought they originated in North America. It turns out wild potato species occurs throughout the Americas, from the U.S. to south Chile. Another surprise is what’s in this spud salad. The owner rattles off the following: lemon, olive oil, picante sauce, mayo, and tuna fish—yeah, tuna fish.

Stop #6: Old School Leathersmith

The smell not of food but of leather and polish hits me as I enter the Old School Leathersmith shop. It’s a pleasant smell, and one that makes me think it rightfully belongs in this old cow town. The shop has leather and leather goods hanging everywhere. They sell and repair leather boots, belts and just about anything leather. Someone mentioned they’ll be coming out soon with handmade boots. A clerk asks me if I would like some coffee milk. “Sure,” I say, looking forward to a warm energizing drink to help me brave the brisk weather. Coffee milk turns out to be a sweet creamy cold milk with a coffee flavoring. Mark Bessette, the owner, a transplant from Rhode Island, explains proudly the coffee syrup is made in his home state and nowhere else. It’s good. Real good.

Stop #7: Simple Sewing Solutions

By now I’m stuffed and there’s no room for the stuffing I’m offered at Simple Sewing Solutions. “Stuffing is good trail food” says one of the staff. I’m told it’s one of the things the cowboys and horse wranglers used to like eating on the trail. We discuss how Chisholm Trail riders used to prepare the stuffing, and then the conversation moves to some Chisholm Trail history and speculations on ancestors from Lockhart who might have been on that famous trek. Sewing machines and colorful fabrics and quilts surround me as I sit and chat with the owners, who I get the impression have been around these parts a while. I tell them I’m not much of a seamstress, but I love to look at fabrics. “We offer sewing classes,” someone yells, as I walk out the door.

Stop #8: Lockhart Shoppes on Main

I discover yet another antique store on the trail. Twin life-size nutcrackers stand guard on each side of a ribbon draped entryway to Lockhart Shoppes on Main, an elegant vintage shop. As I head to the back of the shop where the “dining” room is set up, I hear live music. Silver trays of finger foods are arranged on a lace-covered table, both sweet and savory, with one tray thoughtfully labeled “gluten free.” Where to begin? Orange scones with roast turkey, brie cheese and cranberry compote, cucumber slices with curry chicken salad, ginger snaps sandwiched with pumpkin cream filling are some of the beautifully arranged morsels. Sadly, I can’t bring myself to nibble, but I figure I can at least have a glass of the frothy pale yellow punch. I’m impressed. I chat with Valarie Cavazos, the owner of Angels Food Truck catering, who created this lovely spread, extend kudos, and learn that the punch was the only item on the table she didn’t prepare. The punch is the secret recipe of Bebie Cole, proprietor of the shop, who is dressed for the occasion in high fashion western garb. I and members of the catering crew chat with her, naming off ingredients we think we taste in the heavenly concoction.

Stop #9: Buffalo Clover Flower Shop

Buffalo Clover Flower Shop should score points for creativity for setting up their beautifully arranged trail mix bar. Grab a bag and fill up, the chalkboard sign says. There are goldfish and animal crackers, Chex cereal, M&M’s, chocolate chips, pretzels, peanuts and popcorn…I’m probably leaving something out. I’m not sure why I don’t do as directed and just save the goodies for a late night snack. Hats off to the proprietor for an arrangement as beautiful as a bouquet of bluebonnets.

Stop #10: Blackbird Studio and Atelier

Last stop (I didn’t make it to all 19 of them) is Blackbird Studio and Atelier, where I can only gaze at the thoughtful frontier style selection of Santa Fe Stew, cornbread, sweet potato tarts and buttermilk pie. The bleached skull of what appears to be a ram completes the cowboy ambience. The studio is a place I want to explore more, but there’s not much time left. My tickets need to be turned in at the Trail Boss Tent by 5 p.m. if I want a chance to win one of the cash prizes. I take a few more glances at the work of local artists, and a member of the studio extends an invitation to take an art class. The studio offers open life drawing classes, exhibitions and art events, and is the new home of Lockhart Visual Arts Collective.

End of the trail

As darkness threatens to descend, temperatures drop and light rain continues to fall. A group of diehard shoppers and trailblazers huddle around the Trail Boss Tent to find out if they’re winners. Tickets are in, winners announced, and I’m not one of them. Close though. I was one number off from winning a $500 check.

It’s the end of the trail for Tastes Along the Trail this go-round. It’s been an excursion worth taking. I ride off into the sunset…until the next roundup.

View Slideshow

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It’s a great day for the dead in Lockhart, Texas



Some build altars to pray, some visit gravesites, and others come together to the center of town for a festival of sounds, sights and street food…a day many of the living in Lockhart like to spend remembering and celebrating their departed loved ones.

A Mexican tradition some say that dates back to Aztec’s mythological Goddess Mictecacihuatl (don’t try to pronounce this without help), Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) has been absorbed by many cultures around the world. Usually celebrated over three days beginning October 31, it coincides with the Roman Catholic inspired Halloween (derived from All Saints Day) and shares at least a few things in common with America’s spooky annual tradition: a preoccupation with death, skeletons, sweet treats and community gatherings.

This year, Dia de los Muertos, Halloween, Main Street Market, and local musicians, cooks and artisans converge on what couldn’t have been a more beautiful sunny autumn Saturday around the courthouse and adjacent streets on the first day of November. A cultural mash-up like this one is nothing out of the ordinary for Lockhart locals. They soak it up with gusto, filling the streets to experience this special blend of ancient Mexico, American West pioneers, and modern street fair… as enthusiastic if not more so than other country folk hailing from south central Texas. They get into the “spirit” in more ways than one.

Images of La Catrina, the elegantly costumed female skeleton of ancient lore—a central theme of Dia de los Muertos—are everywhere. Children especially like to walk around the square wearing skull-shaped paper masks they’ve painted with bright colors and dotted with glitter and colored stones, or with hand-painted faces styled by local artisans. Make-up artists show off their skills, each outdoing the other as they expertly brush on ghoulish hues and haunting images of creepy white skeletal bones on faces of kids—and adults trying to act like kids. Nearby, a painter dabs his paintbrush onto a canvas forming his own skeletal version of death.

Food stands repeating the La Catrina theme in banners, signs and twirling hanging cutouts feature vendors hawking chili, tamales, funnel cakes, cookies, barbeque, hot dogs, Mexican hot chocolate, soft drinks, and teas. Food is everywhere. The sharp smells blend together like any well-planned festival, enticing the crowd to sample lip-smacking morsels while they stroll around listening to live tunes by Latin American and country western performers and admire the handicrafts.

Rick Trevino is a big attraction on this day, aside from los muertos. This Austin native artist and Grammy Award-winning country music artist and his band drove down to rustle up a full day’s performance, drawing a sizable crowd of folks who lay sprawled out on chairs and blankets on the courthouse lawn to soak up Trevino’s foot-stomping sounds.

The whole shebang is actually two events taking place on adjoining streets: the Dia de los Muertos festivities on Main Street organized by Feria de Culturas, and the events around the square by Lockhart Go Local and HatRod Productions in cooperation with the City of Lockhart. Word has it we can expect more of these types of shindigs monthly so folks can consume a steady diet of local music, crafts and farm fresh produce, and culture.

A round of applause for Lockhart, everyone…a city that really knows how to honor the dead.

View Slideshow: A Day for the Dead in Lockhart, Texas

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