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Sigg Bottles, BPA, the OCA and the EWG

First of all, a belated thanks to Ken Cook and Elaine Shannon from the Environmental Working Group for covering this issue so well in all of your recent articles. You've done nice work on calling Sigg and Steve Wasik out for greenwashing.

Everyone else, check out the debate on the Huffington Post. There's a plethora of great articles on the topic if you click here, or just go to the Huffington Post website and search for "Sigg."

For those of you just tuning in, what's going on is that Sigg, the maker of a hip and supposedly bisphenol A -free aluminum water bottle, recently confessed that the liners of their bottles made before August of 2008 actually do contain bisphenol A (BPA).

What's really weird about this is that back in early 2007 when the dangers of BPA began getting a lot of media coverage, OCA put out some info in our newsletter, Organic Bytes, about BPA and what water bottle brands we recommended and which to avoid (if you click the link above to see OB #104 you won't find this info, because we removed it, at Sigg's request, see next paragraph). Sigg was one of the ones we recommended avoiding, based on the information we had gotten from the Environmental Working Group.

Almost immediately we got jumped on by Sigg, saying that they had changed their liner to be BPA-free. So we issued a letter of apology and a retraction in our next newsletter, saying, in effect, "Oops, sorry, Sigg bottles are safe." We have over 250,000 subscribers to our newsletter, so a lot of people, OCA members who rely on us to provide them with accurate information and product recommendations, read that and probably went out and bought Sigg bottles, thinking they were BPA-free. And apparently, OCA wasn't the only group to issue such a disclaimer. So Sigg made a bundle, not just off of OCA members, but many, many others who rely on groups like OCA and the EWG to let them know if a product is safe or not.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Steve Wasik, the President of Sigg, then released a letter that quoted OCA's retraction. This letter circulated far and wide on the web, reaching even more people. Now that it has become public that Sigg's bottles did contain BPA at the time, and that Steve Wasik knew this when he published the letter, OCA feels that Sigg was using the OCA's disclaimer to give their product an undeserved air of legitimacy. Sigg knew OCA's retraction was false, but they publicized it anyway, in an effort to sell more of their water bottles!

This is pretty despicable stuff. We all expect better from supposedly eco-friendly businesses. Let this be OCA's "retraction of our retraction." And let's also be aware that this kind of greenwashing is going on all the time, all around us. Everyone wants  a piece of the pie, especially the green, eco-friendly and sustainability pie, the organic pie and the locally grown pie. The only way to stop this kind of fraud is to be an educated consumer, pay attention, and read labels. Even then it's hard. There are a lot of good liars out there.

Update: OCA recently learned of a class action lawsuit against Sigg that was filed in Kentucky by a firm called Caddell & Chapman. Click here to see a copy of the legal complaint filed against Sigg. The folks involved in this suit could use your help. If you were misled by Sigg's greenwashing and purchased one of their water bottles that was made before August of 2008, please let Caddell & Chapman know here via email or sound off on OCA's Forum. The more people we hear from, the more evidence there is that significant numbers of consumers were misled by Sigg, not just a few here and there.

Also, check out the breaking news story about Gaiam. Yikes.

Update #2: Oct 19, 2009 - Caddell & Chapman just filed an amended complaint that includes much more detail. You can read it here.