In yet another example of technology perhaps coming back to haunt us, right up there with Teflon and margarine, the time has come to rethink those trendy hard-plastic (polycarbonate) water bottles that were, until recently, all the rage.

If you’re like most people, especially parents, you’ve become painfully aware of the recent concern over Bis-phenol, or BPA. BPA is a estrogen mimicker that is contained in polycarbonate plastic, and can apparently leach out into whatever liquid that comes in contact with it. This, of course, includes your favorite beverage, not to mention that of your children.

BPA was developed over a hundred years ago as a synthetic estrogen. While it has many practical uses, it has also been implicated in a number of health related problems including recurrent miscarriages, endocrine disruption, altered brain development and behavior, and even cancer.

In 2004, the CDC determined that up to 95% of Americans had BPA in their urine, and 2006, Europe banned it’s use in products made for children under the age of three. Just this year, Canada became the first country to officially label BPA as dangerous.

The manufacturers of polycarbonate bottles state that there is no proof that their products do any harm, but the evidence to the contrary is mounting, and as any parent will tell you, even the hint or implication of a problem is enough to change out ways. And that is exactly what we are doing.

As a result, a whole slew of safer, more ecologically sound water bottles has appeared on the market, and if you spend any amount of time around children, you’re sure to have seen them. Companies like SIGG or Kleen Kanteen offer their own distinct, hip versions of the safe water bottle. SIGG bottles are aluminum but have an enamel lining, while Kleen Kanteen bottles are made of steel.

The bottles can be a little pricey, but you can’t put a price on the health and welfare of your family, right? Then again, while $15-20 may seem a small price to pay for a little peace of mind, water bottles can get lost like socks or mittens, and for most of us, continually replacing them is not an option, at least not until our freelance writing career place us in the same income bracket as Madonna.

So with this in mind, I decided to do a little research to look into the matter, to be, at the very least, a bit more well informed.

What I did learn is this - not all plastics are created equally, and they don’t all pose the same set of problems. Furthermore, all the information you need to know is on the bottle itself. Just check out the recycling code. You know the one, right there at the bottom flanked by the recycling symbol.

According to most experts, the friendly plastics are #1, 2, 4 and 5. #1 (Polyethylene terephthalate, or PETE) and #2 (High density polyethylene, or HDPE) are considered the best because thy are not known to leach chemicals and are the most commonly recycled. These are the ones you find in most water and juice bottles. Experts recommend, however, that they be used only once.

#4 (Low-density polyethylene, or LDPE) and #5 (Polypropylene, or PP) are considered safe as well, and are not supposed to leach. They are common in water bottles and yogurt containers, though they are not as desirable as #1 and #2 because they are not as widely recycled.

#3 (polyvinyl chloride, or PVC), #6 (Polystyrene, or PS) and #7 (polycarbonate) are the ones you want to avoid, for obvious reasons. While #3 and #6 don’t leach BPA, they contain a list of suspected carcinogens and are therefore suspect.

If expensive water bottles are not in your future, then at least it’s a little comforting to know that some plastics pose less risk. Just use a little common sense. Choose them wisely, and be gentle with them. Don’t heat them too high or wash them with harsh detergents, and when you keep beverages in them, don’t store them for too long.

And, of course, you can always employ the standard parental tool of the sniff test. If your drink smells like plastic, chances are there’s something plastic-like going on in there, so don’t drink it. Sometimes it is better to err to side of caution, even if it is giving-in to the fear mongering.

While this won’t solve all the plastic problems that parents must face, at least it will give you some peace of mind until you finally take the plunge and drop the big bucks on your own stylish and trendy steel or aluminum bottles.

That is, of course, until they find something wrong with them.