Sometimes plastic can’t be avoided. Most blenders and food processors are made out of plastic. Sometimes plastic products like water bottles and food storage containers are better for traveling or taking to school. Many water filters use plastic, too—especially countertop filters used by renters.
But not all kinds of plastic are created equal. Although they’re all created using fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals, some types of plastic are more toxic than others. In recent years, consumers have been pressuring brands to take toxic chemicals such as phthalates and BPA out of their plastic products, so manufacturers have been coming up with various “BPA-free” alternatives.
Tritan™ plastic is one of those alternatives.
Used by brands like Vitamix and Nalgene, Tritan is a type of durable plastic that’s apparently free from BPA as well as other types of estrogen-mimicking chemicals. But as we’ve seen in the past, “BPA-free” does not always mean “non-toxic.” In fact, many “BPA-free” plastics are not only just as bad as the ones containing BPA, but actually even worse.
So, what’s the deal with Tritan plastic? Is it toxic? Is it better than other BPA-free plastics? Like many other things in the world of low-tox living, the answer to this question is not a black and white one. But we’re going to give you the lowdown so you’re as informed as possible.
Table of Contents
- At A Glance
- First: A Quick Primer on Bisphenols & Endocrine Disruptors
- What Kind of Plastic is Tritan?
- Products That Use Tritan Plastic
- So, Is Tritan Plastic Safe?
- Moral of the Story: We Need More (Unbiased) Info!
- Sooo… What Do You Do?
- More FAQs About Tritan Plastic
At A Glance
- Tritan is a type of hard plastic found in products like Nalgene water bottles and Vitamix blenders. It’s manufactured by a company called Eastman.
- Eastman says its Tritan plastic is not only free from BPA and all other bisphenols (such as BPS), but is also completely “estrogenic-activity-free,” which means the plastic does not leach anything that has estrogenic or androgenic effects.
- Whether or not Tritan is truly “non-toxic” and free of all endocrine disruptors is controversial and we still need more unbiased testing to find out more.
- While Tritan is most likely safer than other kinds of plastics, there are still steps you can take to use Tritan plastic products in a mindful way in order to reduce potential exposure to endocrine disruptors. (Tips are below!)
First: A Quick Primer on Bisphenols & Endocrine Disruptors
In order to understand the nuance of the “Is Tritan plastic safe?” question, you need to be familiar with a few terms:
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are an entire group of chemicals that have the ability to negatively impact proper hormone functioning in the body. Since hormones effect so many things, the downstream health impacts of EDCs are wide-ranging, from infertility to cancer and more. The endocrine (hormone) system is very sensitive, so even small amounts of EDCs can have impacts.
- Bisphenols are a class of chemicals that include things like BPA (which you’ve probably heard of before!) along with similar chemicals such as BPS and BPF. These chemicals are often added to plastics in order to make them harder. BPA has been widely studied and is a known endocrine disruptor. BPS hasn’t been researched quite as widely just yet, but the early research says it’s just as bad (if not worse, actually) than BPA.
- Estrogenic/androgenic activity refers to the two types of hormones that EDCs most commonly affect—the female and male sex hormones. If a synthetic chemical produces any “estrogenic activity” or “androgenic activity,” that means it is disrupting the natural functioning of the female or male hormonal systems. Synthetic estrogens and androgens are not the only types of EDCs; there are other types of hormones that EDCs can impact as well.
Okay, now that you know what kind of chemicals we’re talking about here, let’s talk about Tritan…
What Kind of Plastic is Tritan?
Tritan is a copolyester plastic that’s manufactured exclusively by a company called Eastman. It’s very similar to other polycarbonate plastics (it’s very hard, durable, and impact-resistant), but it’s made without any BPA, BPS, or other bisphenols.
Tritan falls under the plastic resin code #7, which means “other.” There are lots of different kinds of plastic that are #7, including polycarbonate (the kind of plastic that most often contains BPA and other bisphenols), PLA (a bioplastic), ABS (which is used for 3D-printing), and PMMA (acrylic). So unfortunately, you won’t be able to tell much about whether or not a certain product contains BPA or any other endocrine disruptors just by looking at the number on it.
Products That Use Tritan Plastic
There’s a good chance you’ve used Tritan plastic before and you didn’t even know it. Here are a few of the products that have utilized Tritan plastic in their products:
- Vitamix and Ninja blenders
- Nalgene and CamelBak water bottles
- Certain water filters like AquaTru and Clearly Filtered
- Certain food storage containers such as INKA
- Other brands like Thermos, EvenFlo, Cuisinart, Tupperware, and Rubbermaid have used Tritan plastic in various products over the years.
So, Is Tritan Plastic Safe?
Eastman says that its Tritan plastic is not only completely free from BPA, BPS, and ALL other bisphenols but that it is also “free of estrogenic activity and androgenic activity.” This means there is nothing in the plastic that leaches any estrogen- or androgen-mimicking chemicals that may mess with the body’s natural hormone systems.
That’s good news, right!? Well, kinda…
There are two main issues with with these claims:
1. The data is messy and incomplete.
To be blunt, the data verifying Eastman’s claims is kind of a hot mess. This article will give you a deep dive into the issue, but here’s the summary:
In 2011, some researchers published a paper which said that (among a bunch of other plastics they tested), Tritan DID indeed leach synthetic estrogens.
But the problem is that the researchers who published this paper owned a pair of companies that sold BPA-free plastics of their own. Needless to say, this was a huge conflict of interest.
Eastman sued and the two parties got into a legal battle, with both parties acting shady throughout the process. (Although Eastman has also done their own tests, it appears that they haven’t always followed the best research practices.) Eastman ultimately won the suit, which meant they could be allowed to continue marketing Tritan as “free of estrogenic activity and androgenic activity.”
As far as I can tell, the research showing that Tritan does in fact leach estrogenic chemicals has never been validated or replicated again.
2. Other endocrine disruptors aren’t considered.
The other issue is that the claims made by Eastman only take two kinds of hormones into account. And although estrogens and androgens may perhaps be some of the most impactful and well-studied when it comes to endocrine disrupting chemicals, they aren’t the only hormones that can be affected by EDCs.
So while it’s certainly may be a good thing when Eastman says Tritan is “free of estrogenic activity and androgenic activity” (if indeed that is true, of course), it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free from all chemicals that can potentially disrupt proper hormone function.
Moral of the Story: We Need More (Unbiased) Info!
Although it’s very likely that Tritan is safer than other types of plastic, we can’t say with 100% certainty that’s it’s entirely safe without more data. We need unbiased researchers without any conflicts of interest to test Tritan (and lots of other plastics!) using well-built studies, and then replicate those studies.
Sooo… What Do You Do?
As mentioned before, Tritan is most likely safer than a lot of other kinds of plastic. For instances when you can’t avoid plastic (like with blenders, for example), Tritan is probably one of the best ones to choose.
But until we know more about Tritan, it’s still good practice to follow some general “rules” to reduce potential leaching and exposure to any mystery EDCs. These guidelines are good to follow when using any kind of plastic:
- Avoid heat, as heat increases leaching. Don’t put them in the microwave. Don’t leave them in the sun or hot car (especially if there is food or drink in them). Hand wash them instead of putting them in the dishwasher when you can. When mixing hot foods or drinks such as soup, try using a stainless steel immersion blender instead of a plastic blender.
- Like heat, abrasion can also speed up the breakdown of the material and lead to more chemical leaching. So try not to use plastic appliances to grind really hard items (like nuts, etc.). When you can, use a stainless steel grinder like this one instead.
- Be mindful about plastic use in general. Just because Tritan is bisphenol-free and probably safer than the rest doesn’t mean we should necessarily start filling our homes with plastic everything. (Side note: we haven’t even addressed the environmental impact of Tritan. Just like other plastics, it’s still a petroleum product that’s not biodegradable at the end of it’s life.)
- Using glass, stainless steel, wood, and silicone products when possible is almost always a safer option than any kind of plastic product.
- Those who might consider prioritizing plastic avoidance even more are people who are pregnant, trying to conceive, and kids. This is because estrogenic chemicals have been found to be especially harmful when people are exposed in utero or as young children. In utero exposure can lead to health effects even decades later.
- Keep in mind that while consumer pressure is extremely powerful, it needs to be paired with governmental regulation. So, consider how you may get involved by calling your representatives and telling them you want more EDC testing and regulations, joining a non-profit organization, and/or voting for representatives who believe in holding companies accountable for the dangerous chemicals in their products.
- Lastly, always remember: just do the best you can! In the society we live in, it’s impossible to completely avoid environmental toxicants. Do what you can, and try not to stress too much about the things that are outside of your control.
More FAQs About Tritan Plastic
Is Tritan plastic microwave safe?
Technically, Eastman says their plastic is microwave-safe. However, we do not recommend putting it in the microwave. If this plastic does turn out to contain any mystery EDCs, they’re more likely to leach out from the plastic and into your food or drink when exposed to heat.
Is Tritan plastic dishwasher safe?
Even though Eastman says Tritan is dishwasher safe, we still recommend keeping it out of the heat when possible, in order to reduce chemical leaching.
(However, avoiding the dishwasher isn’t as high of a priority as avoiding the microwave since the product isn’t holding the food or drink you’re about to consume.)
Is Tritan glass or plastic?
Tritan is plastic. However, they do make “unbreakable” wine and drinking glasses out of Tritan plastic. These are meant to be a lightweight and shatter-proof alternative to glass for places like the pool. However, you could just use stainless steel ones (like from YETI, HydroFlask, or Target) or silicone instead, which are even better than plastic!