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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




About this blog
You make it, they eat it, right?

As most parents soon discover, feeding a family is rarely that easy, whether its nursing a fussy newborn or trying to get a hot meal into a squirming toddler (or attempting both at the same time.) And that's not even the days when work runs late, the main course burns, or your adventurous little sushi eater announces from now on she will only eat food that is pink.

As parents ourselves, we've been there, done that, even learned a few tricks along the way. And we're pretty sure so have you. Maybe together we can make eating together as a family -- gulp! -- fun again.

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!


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About the authors
Hema Easley Hema Easley has been a reporter for The Journal News since July 2002, first covering municipal government and then nonprofit agencies, women's issues and the South Asian and Muslim community in the Lower Hudson Valley. In her previous job, Hema was a correspondent for the Associated Press in South Asia. She lives with her husband and two sons in Orange County.
KatieKatie Ryan O'Connor, a Journal News editor and 35-year-old mother of three, never quite appreciated the work that went into feeding kids until she had to do it herself as a mother. If she had a food-and-kids philosophy it would be something like this: try your best to offer as much healthy food as possible, but sometimes fruits just have to be counted as vegetables and there are far worse things than chicken and spaghetti. Again.
TraceyTracey Princiotta, a 37-year-old mother of one, loves to cook, bake and eat, and is relieved that her son appears to be equally willing to chow down -- even if it's baby food and formula right now. Despite her husband's intense aversion to vegetables, she has high hopes of nurturing a true chowhound who will try everything at least once. And if all else fails, she's not above sneaking veggies into other foods.
Marcela Rojas Marcela Rojas has been a municipal reporter with The Journal News since January 2003. She is a native of Putnam County and grew up eating Peruvian food. She didn't realize until she was 13 that rice did not come with everyone's meal. After several years of living in Los Angeles -- where she grew a fondness for Thai food -- she returned to Putnam County where she now lives with her husband and daughter. Zyla (rhymes with Lilah) just turned 1 in March and, so far (her mother is pleased to note), loves to eat everything.
Swapna Venugopal Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, a Journal News reporter, started her career as a journalist in 1999 after graduating with a master's degree from New York University. Before joining the paper in 2006, Swapna worked as a municipal reporter for the Home News Tribune in New Jersey, and took a baby sabbatical to care for her two children, now ages 7 and 5. She has currently outsourced feeding her children and husband to her mother, who is visiting from India. Her friend and colleague Katie O'Connor, informs Swapna that she wouldn't mind being fed Indian food by her mother, too.
Randi Weiner Randi Weiner has been a reporter with The Journal News since 1989, having covered police, government and schools in Westchester and in Rockland. An Ohio native and 1976 graduate of Bowling Green State University, she worked for daily newspapers in Ohio and Michigan before moving east. She has tended bar and danced in a beledi troup and sat on the boards of two community theaters. She plays mandolin with the Shamrogues, Connecticuts largest Irish band. Randi lives in Connecticut with her husband and has three children.

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