I have written many articles about the dangers of plastic baby bottles made from polycarbonate plastic (Biosphenol A).
The authors of the popular book “Baby 411” are speaking out about using polycarbonate plastic baby bottles. They are asking their readers to limit the number of washings and heated dryings, because the chemical bisphenol A can leach from the products.
But thanks to two recent developments, the authors now say stop using baby bottles and sippy cups made of polycarbonate plastic altogether.
The first change was the statement in a medical journal by 38 BPA researchers that said BPA posed a significant health risk.
Days later, a federal panel convened by the National Institutes of Health said there is “some concern” the chemical could cause behavioral and neurological problems in young children.
“Specifically, parents should stop using Avent’s Natural Feeding Bottle and Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow (or any bottle made of polycarbonate plastic)—these products were previously recommended by BABYBARGAINS,” the authors said in the August Baby Bargains newsletter.
“All baby bottles and sippy cups made of polycarbonate plastic should be avoided,” said author and consumer advocate Denise Fields. “If you are shopping for bottles, chose an alternative made from BPA-free plastic or glass. If you have polycarbonate bottles, throw them out.”
A question and answer section helps parents understand more about the issue.
Q. What the heck is BPA? Why is it dangerous?
A. Clear plastic baby bottles (as well as some food containers and water bottles) are made of polycarbonate, which contains a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA). It is the BPA that makes the hard, clear plastic bottles . . . well, hard and clear.
Here’s the rub: BPA’s chemical bond with polycarbonate breaks down over time-especially with repeated washings or heating of the bottle. As a result, BPA leaches out of the plastic bottle or sippy cup . . . and into the liquid (that is, breast milk or formula).
While most data on BPA comes from animal research, studies show even low-levels of BPA MAY be linked to everything from early puberty to breast cancer, to attention and developmental problems.
Q. Do we really know that these bottles are dangerous to humans?
A. No, we don’t. There have been no human studies on BPA-so far, researchers have only found problems in animal research.
There is a split opinion here among scientists. The same federal panel that said it had “some concern” about behavioral and developmental problems in babies also stated that links to other ailments like birth defects and adult ailments were “negligible.” Of course, the plastics industry says BPA is completely safe.
That contrasts to the group of 38 scientists who last week called the health threat from BPA as “significant.”
But the fact the federal panel said there were “some concerns” for the health of babies tipped the balance for us.
As parents, we realize it can be hard to decide what to do when the debate is so heated. As always, our mantra is “show us the science.” We believe enough science is now in to recommend a change in course.
Q. Isn’t it a bit alarmist to say stop using these bottles? When will we know for certain BPA is harmful to humans?
A. The truth is we won’t know for YEARS if there is a human health problem from BPA. And it could be YEARS more before the government decides to take some regulatory action.
We have consulted with pediatricians and other experts before making this decision. The consensus of these experts is: if concerns exist today (and that is backed up by reputable scientific research),then why not limit your baby’s exposure to this chemical?
Babies are especially at risk when it comes to exposure to harmful chemicals-that’s one thing we all can agree on.
The bottom line: we suggest stop using polycarbonate baby bottles and sippy cups NOW. Since there are quite a few BPA-free bottles on the market (see below), we believe this is an easy call for parents.
Q. Which bottles should we NOT use? Which ones are BPA-free?
A. Polycarbonate baby bottles make up about 90% of the bottle market. The most common polycarbonate bottle are Avent’s Natural FeedingBottle and Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow. But other major baby product companies like Playtex and Gerber also make polycarbonate bottles.
Here are the alternatives that are BPA-free:
- Use glass bottles. Obviously, there is a risk of injury to baby or mom if the bottle is dropped, so glass isn’t a perfect alternative.
- Use bottles made of opaque plastic. These bottles (made of polyethylene or polypropylene) do not contain BPA.
- Consider a BPA-free plastic bottle. Born Free makes a BPA-free clear plastic bottle (Newbornfree.com) sold at Whole Foods. But these cost about $10 each, twice the price of Avent bottles.
- Use a drop-in system. For example the PlaytexDrop-in System is BPA free (that is, the bottle liners do not contain BPA). Avent’s Tempo liners are another example.
Q. Is there a way to tell if a bottle has BPA?
A. Unfortunately, it isn’t easy. Here’s a general guide:
BAD: Bottles that have a #7 on their recycling label most likely are made of polycarbonate (and contain BPA).
GOOD: Bottles that have a #2, #4, #5 are made of polyethylene or polypropylene-these do NOT have BPA.
We call on the government to require disclosure of which bottles have BPA, so consumers can make an informed choice.
Q. What about sippy cups? Breast pump collection bottles?
A. Basically, the same advice applies: avoid those made of polycarbonate plastic. Sippy cups made of opaque plastic are fine. Again, check the bottom of the cup for its recycling number (#7 should be avoided). For breast pump collection bottles, consider BPA-free bottles (such as those from Medela).