Bonus Material: Bottle safety Q & A

Bonus Material: Q&A on baby bottle safety.

Are plastic baby bottles toxic? An FAQ

So just what the heck is bisphenol -A? And what is it doing in my baby’s bottle? Here’s an FAQ for answers.

Q. What the heck is BPA? Why is it dangerous?

Most clear plastic baby bottles (as well as some breast pump collection bottles, sippy cups 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, attention and developmental problems.

The debate on BPA heated up in 2007 when, in an article in a peer-reviewed medical journal (Reproductive Toxicology), 38 researchers said BPA caused a significant health risk. Then 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.

Q. Do we really know that these bottles are dangerous to humans?

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.

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 in now 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?

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 parents stop using polycarbonate baby bottles and sippy cups NOW. Since there are quite a few BPA-free bottles on the market (see page 277 for alternatives) we believe this is an easy call for parents.

Q. What about sippy cups?

A. Basically, the same advice applies: avoid those made of polycarbonate plastic. Sippy cups made of opaque plastic are fine. Check the bottom of the cup for its recycling number (#7 should be avoided). Metal sippy cups are a good alternative to polycarbonate.

For a primer on how to spot polycarbonate plastic and the latest info no this, see our blog and click on bottles!