BPA Controversy - toxic baby bottles

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Please read for warnings and information about BPA and baby bottles.  Are they safe?

One cannot ignore the fact that in the race to keep up with demand, while businesses aim to drive costs down and attempt to anticipate a consumer need, products are no longer as we knew them when we were children.  We are thankful when our child falls on a plastic toy instead of a metal one.  We are thankful when we drop - or they throw - their cup on the floor and it is plastic instead of glass.  Many products are now cheaper to make, more attractive, lighter and sturdier - but everyday reveals growing concern, suspicion and facts that the materials that give them these properties are also poisoning us.  Plastics and chemicals are everywhere; in our packaging, leaching into our food, in our soaps and toys. 

Bisphenol-A (BPA) has now finally come well into the spotlight over the past years within the scientific community, with disturbing evidence mounting daily.  Concerns have been raised about its potentially harmful effects on babies and young children related to its hormone-disrupting properties.  BPA mimics the effect of powerful sex hormones; this can cause brain damage, abnormal organ development and hyperactivity even when present in small doses.

An independent laboratory study on the five most popular plastic baby bottles was conducted in cooperation with the public advocacy group Environment California Research and Policy Centre.   The findings were released in February 2007.  It was found that the bottles tested from all five brands leached BPA at levels found to cause harm in numerous laboratory studies. Those five bottle brands include:

  • Avent
  • Dr. Brown's
  • Evenflo
  • Gerber
  • Playtex

The report is titled Toxic Baby Bottles: Scientific Study Finds Leaching Chemicals in Clear Plastic Baby Bottles. The report describes the harmful effects of the hormone-disrupting chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), a developmental, reproductive, and neural toxicant found in polycarbonate plastic—the material used to make the vast majority of baby bottles. 

Chemical companies and baby bottle manufacturers claim human exposure to low doses of BPA is harmless.  Yet there is growing scientific evidence to the contrary.   And do not forget - there is in excess of 6 billion pounds of BPA produced annually to make polycarbonate plastics and resins - this is big business and big money.  It generates $6 million per day in the United States, Europe and Japan alone.

Soon after the report was released, a billion dollar class-action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. against the five major baby bottle manufacturers over the dangers of BPA.

More recently, in August 2007, an expert government panel found there IS concern that Bisphenol-A causes behavior and neural problems among children who have been exposed to the chemical before or after birth.

Numerous studies have shown ill effects in the lab and yet this substance is still not banned.  Sadly it appears that industry has a "wait and see" approach on human testing effects before they will respond, and production continues. 

Many consumers are unaware of this controversy and continue to purchase polycarbonate baby bottles, having never heard of BPA or the dangers it may pose for their families.  This is particularly so in Australia - I can only recall one brief televised show on the ABC months ago on the issue.

BPA is not limited to baby bottles, it is widely used in plastic packaging, the resin of canned food (lining to prevent food acquiring a metallic taste - and this includes some baby formula tins), children’s toys, some microwavable food containers, even dental fillings.  BPA is therefore then found widespread in bodies of water such as rivers and estuaries, and in landfills, leaching into the surrounding ecosystems.

Please be uncomfortable about this.


***NEWS***

October 2008 - Canada has become the first country in the world to take regulatory action against the use of BPA.  The Canadian government has formally declared the chemical a hazardous substance and published notice of its decision to place BPA on the list of toxic substances.  Canada has commenced regulations to prohibit the importation, sale and and advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA.  The assesment notice states "There is evidence that low-level exposure to BPA, particularly at sensitive life cycle stages, may lead to permanent alterations in hormonal, developmental or reproductive capacity".

January 2009 - Washington U.S. have proposed a bill to ban the use of BPA in food and drink containers for children under the age of 3 and also for reusable sports water bottles. The proposed ban would begin July 1, 2010.


FAQ

What is Bisphenol-A or BPA?
BPA is a chemical additive commonly used in the manufacture of clear polycarbonate plastic.  It is one of the top 50 products commonly used by the chemical industry.  BPA acts as an estrogen, or female hormone in the body. It can also block androgens (male hormones).   Estrogen and its derivatives are present in both male and females

Why should we be worried about it?
Scientists have linked low-level doses of BPA to neuro-behavioral problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, increased aggressiveness and impaired learning, an increase in child and adult diabetes type 2 and obesity, increase in hormonally mediated cancers (eg prostate and breast cancers), early puberty in females, abnormal penile and urethra development in males, decreased testosterone, “gender bending” or changes in gender specific behavior, and impaired immune function.  Another study of BPA in humans found that women with a history of miscarriages had three times the level of BPA in their blood compared to women without a miscarriage history.

What can we do?
BPA has been found to alter cell behavior at very low levels, in the parts-per-trillion.  There is no such thing as a “safe” low level where BPA is concerned.  Particularly during pregnancy, and for babies and children, avoid BPA products altogether.

Educate yourself, be aware of the different types of plastics so you know which to avoid.  Polycarbonate products usually contain the triangular recycle symbol with a recycle number 7 - however, as code 7 also covers "other" plastic types, know that all polycarbonate is 7 but that 7 may not be polycarbonate!  Avoid numbers 3, 6, & Polycarbonate 7.

With awareness, new safe alternatives are available, along with resurrected oldies such as glass bottles.  The safer materials will cost more due to the raw materials, however consider $5 more for a bottle as great value for a lifetime of better health – every little bit helps; take baby steps.

KNOW YOUR PLASTIC CODES – excellent guides may found at 'www.healthobservatory.org/library.cfm?refid=77083' and also 'http://www.nontoxiclife.com.au/pdf/SAFE USE OF PLASTICS QUICK GUIDE.pdf'.   Print these Quick Reference Guides out and go through your kitchen items, within a few minutes you will start to recognise a plastic just by looking at it.  Remember, avoid numbers 3,6 & 7.

 

Please - do your own research.  If you are unsure, err on the side of caution.  Remember; asbestos and tobacco were once considered okay too, while the industry put up a good fight.

Both sides of the fence do agree on one thing - that BPA alters cell behavior.  The fight is about what the safe level is.  Our babies should not be the unwitting guinea pigs.

 

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