Judge bars NC company’s ads claiming plastic water bottles contain chemicals harmful to humans

By Emery P. Dalesio, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

NC judge bars ads claiming harm from water bottles

RALEIGH, N.C. — A North Carolina company that touted its stainless steel water bottles on television and the Internet as a safer alternative to plastic water bottles has been ordered to stop making those claims.

The International Bottled Water Association sued Eco Canteen Inc. of Charlotte in federal court last year over what it said was a scare campaign to steer consumers away from plastic bottles.

U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad in Charlotte ordered Eco Canteen against distributing advertisements that claim or suggest plastic water bottles threaten public health.

Last year, Eco Canteen ran ads for months on dozens of national cable channels promoting its reusable metal bottles, contending plastic water containers contained bisphenol A. That chemical has been linked in certain animal studies to reproductive and neurological disorders.

“Why take a chance with your family’s health?” asked an actress in one commercial using a hospital emergency room entrance as background.

The company also established several Internet sites including www.stopdrinkingplastic.org that described what it said were the harmful health effects of drinking from plastic bottles.

Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington have restricted use of bisphenol A, or BPA. The Food and Drug Administration earlier this year ordered additional studies of the chemical and voiced “some concern” about possible effects on children and infants.

BPA isn’t used in the type of plastic used for single-use bottled water, though some reusable sports bottles have been made from plastic containing BPA. The association’s lawsuit claimed the ads sought to confuse consumers into thinking BPA was in the plastic used for bottled water.

“Eco Canteen was so quick to grab a controversy that they failed to pay attention to the facts,” association spokesman Tom Lauria said Tuesday.

Eco Canteen executives did not respond to e-mails seeking comment. Douglas Hall, listed in state incorporation documents as Eco Canteen’s sole owner, did not return a telephone message left at his home Tuesday by The Associated Press.

Conrad signed the order Sept. 17 without a trial after Eco Canteen quit communicating with its lawyers and didn’t request more time.

The judge refused the bottled water association’s request to force the company to pay damages or give up the profits collected with aid of its ad campaign.

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