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Are plastic baby bottles really dangerous?


Of late, I’ve seen stories online or on TV or in magazines and newspapers about the dangers of bisphenol A, which is used in polycarbonate plastics, which are used in lots of stuff, including baby bottles, water bottles, medical devices and compact discs.

To hear the alarmists tell it, bisphenol A is KILLING OUR CHILDREN!


I tend to tune out when I hear a commercial for the nightly news in which the sentence is along the lines of a simple, “The latest hazard to your baby’s life. News at 11.”

So last week, I downloaded this report from the National Toxicology Program, which is part of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which is party of the National Institutes of Health, which, of course, is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (whew!).

I went to page 9 in the report, to the section, “Can Bisphenol A Affect Human Development or Reproduction?” After all, that’s the money question. All the rest of it, really, is so much window dressing.

I was less than alarmed, but also less than reassured by what I found.

The answer was “possibly.”

Basically, the report says “there is no direct evidence that exposure of people to bisphenol A adversely affects reproduction or development, studies with laboratory rodents show that exposure to high dose levels of bisphenol A during pregnancy and/or lactation can reduce survival, birth weight, and growth of offspring early in life, and delay the onset of puberty in males and females.”

But the tests were on lab rats and this report’s talking about really high doses. I’m not particularly scientific-minded, but I’ve always kind of assumed that if you give lab rats high enough doses of anything, they’ll die or come down with cancer or have babies with birth defects, etc.

So I went on to page 32, “Are Current Exposures to Bisphenol A High Enough to Cause Concern?”

This was potentially more troubling, as the answer, again, was “possibly.” Basically, there was “clear evidence” (emphasis not mine) that “high” doses caused developmental damage and delayed puberty, though these doses “far exceed those encountered by humans.” But it did note there were some issues with develomental problems (and, adversely, early onset puberty) with low doses.

And consider this:
• Canada just became the first nation to ban baby bottles containing bisphenol A.
• Toys ‘R’ Us (which owns Babies ‘R’ Us) has decided to phase out the sale of baby bottles that contain BPA, as it’s so cutely dubbed. So’s Wal-Mart (in fairness, I think America’s Largest Retailer was first to say so.)
• U.S. News & World Report publishes a small report on how canned foods have even more BPA than plastic bottles, so don’t eat those cans of lima beans!
• Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., is phasing out Bisphenol A in the manufacture of its Nalgene drink bottles, as is Playtex Infant Care from all its baby products.
• Not sure what products contain Bisphenol A? Well, polycarbonate plastics generally are marked with a “7” in those recycling triangles you can find on the bottom of most plastic goods. This site gives you the lowdown on what the different plastics codes mean.

So what does all this mean?

Bisphenol A just may be hazardous to your and your children’s lives and/or development. Or maybe not so much. But who, really, wants to take that chance? (Freaking out yet? I did stumble upon this: BornFree “Natural Baby Products,” has a whole BPA-free line, both plastic and glass, of baby bottles and sippy cups and the like.)

Fortunately, Markus is past the bottle stage, but I can guarantee that tonight, when I go home, I’ll be looking at the markings on the bottom of the sippy cups that both Markus and Rafael drink from all day long.

Associated Press photo by Lisa Poole of Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow and BornFree glass baby bottles, which are BPA-free.

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 21st, 2008 at 4:55 pm by Amy Vernon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: baby bottles, Bisphenol A, infant safety, plastics