While you’re tossing toys that might contain lead or dangerous magnets, add any polycarbonate plastic baby bottles to the pile.
That’s the advice from researchers warning consumers about the common chemical known as bisphenol-A (BPA), according to The Chicago Tribune.
A Tribune article entitled “As Long As You’re Hauling Out Toys, Take Some Plastic” states that BPA is an estrogen-like compound found in a variety of manufactured items such as the liners of food cans, eyeglasses lenses, and shatterproof baby bottles. When it’s used on a regular basis, its chemical bond with polycarbonate in the baby bottles breaks down and leaches from the plastic.
An August article, “Jury Still Out on BPA/Plastics Risk,” indicates that industry uses more than 6 billion pounds of the chemical each year. Author Daniel J. DeNoon says that The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains that some 95 percent of us have measurable amounts in our blood and explains that BPA is toxic, with a half-life in the human body of around six hours.
According to Julie Deardorff, author of the Tribune article, researchers have noted that BPA acts like the female sex hormone estradiol. Studies on animals have cited female reproductive problems, puberty that occurs too early, and cancer of the breast and the prostate from exposure at even low levels. They have also uncovered a link to lowered sperm counts and development issues. According to the Tribune, last month, a Federal panel stated there was “some concern” about risk to brain development in fetuses, babies, or children. However, the relationship between animal studies and the effect on humans is the subject of major argument among scientists. Deardorff writes that a group of 38 independent BPA researchers recently published a warning that very low levels of exposure to BPA had the potential to cause adverse health effects, particularly in the case of a fetus.
The most obvious alternative to plastic bottles is switching to glass. However, what about your older child, who drank from a plastic bottle for two years? Opinion is divided on that issue, too, Deardorff concludes, because scientists have observed a range of sensitivity among individuals.
Recently, many BPA-free bottles have hit the shelves. If you want to switch but your baby will not accept another type of nipple, Deardorff writes that you can still lower the risk of exposure to BPA:
Don’t heat the plastic bottle. Avoid putting the bottle into a dishwasher, sterilizer, or microwave. Leaching is much worse from heated plastic bottles. Instead, heat the milk in a pan of the stove, then pour it into the bottle once the liquid has cooled.
Throw away cracked bottles. Researchers noted increased leaching after a bottle was washed more than 20 times, after prolonged everyday use, and when it became scratched.
Switch to more benign brands. You can still buy bottles made from polypropylene, which is free of BPA. Polypropylene brands include Medela, Born Free, and Adiri Natural Nurses. You should also make sure to check recycling labels. Many No. 7 bottles contain BPA. However, most No. 2, No. 4, and No. 5 plastic bottles are manufactured from polyethylene or polypropylene.
DeNoon maintains that if your baby will tolerate the change, one way to avoid the problem of BPA in canned formula is to switch to a powdered product. His article also notes that The Environmental Working Group last March reported results from a study in which a national laboratory tested 97 cans of food purchased at groceries in Atlanta, GA; Oakland, CA; and Clinton, CT. Results showed cans of chicken soup, infant formula, and ravioli contained the highest BPA level. One third of the cans of infant formula had BPA levels that were 200 times the exposure level the Federal government deems safe for industrial chemicals.
Deardorff states that pedicatrician Ari Brown, co-author of the 2005 book Baby 411 (Windsor Press, $11.95) urges parents to stop using any polycarbonate baby bottles until the impact of BPA is more fully known. Brown estimates it should cost only $50.00 to $100.00 to replace your existing stock.