Plastic NOT Fantastic: BPA – The silent poison. Hormone Disrupter.

Written by admin on February 6, 2011. Posted in Boobs & Bottles, Healthy Home, Toxic Nursery

In this modern world of ours the convenience of plastic and the silent price we pay is really something that goes unthought of. Plastics are practically unavoidable in our everyday lives but when it comes to what we choose to allow into our newborn baby’s mouth and stomach (and yours while you’re pregnant), we should pause and consider what some plastics actually contain. When you consider the amount of contact our babies have with plastic on a daily basis (bottles, teethers, sippy cups, feeding bowls, storage containers for food purees, etc) this is a serious issue that every mum & dad should be well informed on. There is a plethora of discussions about BPA and if you Google it you’re sure to find conflicting information on whether or not there is any danger. The fact that some major companies are removing BPA from all their baby products suggests that there is some merit in the health concerns and moving away from it is just the smart, socially and ethically responsible thing to do. Here is one article from Medical News Today, NY Times.

“The substance of concern is bisphenol-a, or BPA, an industrial chemical widely used as the starting material in the making of the hard, clear and nearly unbreakable plastic called polycarbonate. Studies and tests show that trace amounts of BPA are leaching from polycarbonate containers into foods and liquids.

While most of the focus is on products for children, including clear plastic bottles and canned infant formula, the chemical is also used in food-storage containers, some clear plastic pitchers used for filtered water, refillable water bottles and the lining of soft-drink and food cans.

While there is debate about how much of a health worry BPA really is, retailers in the US including Wal-Mart have said they are withdrawing baby products made with it. Nalgene, the maker of a popular sports bottle, and the baby-products maker Playtex have announced they will stop using it.

Several studies have shown that BPA disrupts hormones in animals, leading to early sexual maturity, changes in development and organization of tissue in mammary glands and reduction in sperm in the affected organism’s offspring. The early stages of fetal development are thought to be the most vulnerable to harm from BPA, said the authors in a prepared statement.

Michels said that:

“We found that drinking cold liquids from polycarbonate bottles for just one week increased urinary BPA levels by more than two-thirds.”

“If you heat those bottles, as is the case with baby bottles, we would expect the levels to be considerably higher,” she added, explaining that is worrying because “infants may be particularly susceptible to BPA’s endocrine-disrupting potential”

How do I know if the plastic containers in my home contain BPA?
Any product made of hard, plastic is probably made from polycarbonate unless the manufacturer specifically states that it’s BPA-free. One way to check is to look for the triangle stamp on or near the bottom: polycarbonate plastics should have the numeral 7 in the triangle, sometimes with the letters PC

(Unfortunately, 7 is a catchall “other” category for a variety of plastics. In my own kitchen, I found our Happy Baby food bowls’ lids were #7 while the bowl component was a #5 (#5 is a plastic that is considered ‘should’ be safe). I would never, ever, heat or reheat food in the microwave for baby in a plastic container WHATEVER the number. Toddle off to KMart and buy yourself a couple of Pyrex containers. They have plastic lids but you won’t be putting those into the microwave. We found these really useful for taking out on shopping trips and heating the twins’ meals….lids off. JK)

How do I lower my exposure?
Switch to frozen or fresh vegetables. Use glass, porcelain and stainless-steel containers, particularly for hot foods and liquids. If you don’t want to use a glass baby bottle, several companies, including the popular brand Born Free (in the US, sold online or through Target), now sell BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups. For formula-fed babies, you can switch to powdered formula rather than liquid.

Although many plastic products claim to be microwave safe, some scientists warn against putting any plastic in the microwave. “There is such a wide variety now, from disposable containers to actual Tupperware,” says Dr. Anila Jacob, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, a Washington-based advocacy group. “I don’t know of anyone who has done definitive testing of all these different types of plastic containers to see what is leaching into food.”

Ref:    Medical News Today
NY Times

Here’s what the Australian Food Standards have to say (19 January 2010):

What is BPA?
BPA is an industrial chemical used as the starting material for the production of polycarbonate plastics and synthetic resins. BPA is found in items or containers that come into contact with foodstuffs such as drinking vessels, baby bottles, plastic tableware and the internal coating on tins for tinned-food.   In some circumstances, chemicals in food packaging can migrate into the food product, and vice versa, depending on the nature of the packaging and the food contained within.

What are the health effects of BPA?
Bisphenol A does not cause cancer. BPA belongs to a group of substances which can act in a similar way to some hormones and, as such, are sometimes called ‘endocrine disruptors’. Some studies in laboratory animals suggest that low levels of (consumed) BPA may have an effect on the reproductive system.   Similar consequences in consumers at these low concentrations are considered unlikely because BPA is rapidly inactivated and then excreted in the urine.

Are very low levels of BPA in food of a concern?
FSANZ has evaluated the safety of BPA and plasticisers in food, including that consumed by infants from baby bottles and concluded that levels of intake of BPA or plasticisers are very low and do not pose a risk to public health for any age group. For example, a 5kg baby would need to consume around 80 large (240 mL) baby bottles full of infant formula a day, every day over a lifetime, before reaching the daily safety limit for Bisphenol A of 50 micrograms/kilogram body weight per day. This would be around fifteen to twenty times more than a baby would eat. (NOTE: This comment refers to prepackaged ‘liquid’ baby formula not powdered OR the risk of heating powdered milk formula in plastic bottles. JK)
However, FSANZ is liaising closely with national and international regulators and Australian industry on this issue in order to assess the new evidence and exposure levels in Australia.

Is there anything I can do as a consumer?
Regulators around the world have concluded that exposure to low levels of BPA is safe.
However, when using baby bottles, always follow the instructions on the infant formula for preparation and use. The following advice applies to all baby bottles or cups, whatever type of plastic they are made from:

  • Discard any scratched bottles or feeding cups as they may harbour germs
  • Do not put boiling or very hot water, infant formula, or other liquids into bottles while preparing them for your child
  • Before mixing water with powdered infant formula, boil the water and cool it to lukewarm
  • Always remember:  do not heat baby bottles of any kind in the microwave – the liquid may heat unevenly and burn your baby
  • Sterilize and clean bottles according to instructions on infant formula labels and they should be left to cool to room temperature before adding infant formula.

While agreeing with their recommendations for reducing the safety risks, forgive me for not swallowing their “very low levels of BPA are safe” promise. It springs to mind many different promises by government bodies touting things safe when history later shows they were anything but! (‘Back in the day’ campaigns touting cigarette safe and actually GOOD for you!) With many companies deciding to take plastic bottles containing BPA off their shelves it’s a move that acknowledges and reflects parents’, researchers’, retailers’ and manufacturers’ sincere concern worldwide. Sydney Morning Herald article We’re talking about our most vulnerable members of society, our babies, that are being exposed at every turn in our households to plastics that contain dangerous chemical substances, regardless of the so called “safe” and “acceptable” quantity levels.

Our twins were four months of age when I wised up to the risks of BPA in plastic bottles and I’m sorry to say that in the wee hours of the morning I put the bottles into a container of boiled water to re-warm the milk inside (if I’d mucked up making the bottles when the girls weren’t quite ready for them). To this day I can’t fathom why I thought that was a good idea as I would never heat plastic in the microwave but did not make the connection with sitting it in 100 degree Celsius boiled water. (It’s amazing what sleep deprivation does to your mind!) So take the time now, if you’re pre-pregnancy, pregnant or mum/dad to a newborn, toddler or child to avail yourself to the information and alternatives. Our girls are now 19 months old and starting to show breast ‘buds’ (they came and went when they were younger too) which is of HUGE concern for me and a source of excruciating guilt for not doing the research on plastic bottles before they were born. It remains to be seen what the consequence of my lack of action/knowledge will bring.

Check ALL of the plastics in your cupboards (especially those for baby) and make sure that none of them have the numbers 3, 6 or 7 printed on the bottom (The reasons why are in the article “3 Plastics To Avoid: #3, #6, #7….and Why”). If they do, do your family a favour. Collect them all up, walk yourself out to your recycling bin, open the lid and toss. It’s empowering and you’ll feel better for it!

Next find yourself a supplier of “BPA FREE” bottles and tupperware (and buy silicone teets as rubber ones can set off allergic reactions in some babies). There’s also the ever reliable and safe glass baby bottles and pyrex containers. One internet supplier I’ve found is with cheap postage deals. After looking at all the BPA free baby bottles we decided to buy glass bottles with the silicone protective sleeves. Why? Because at the end of the day glass has zero risk of leaching any nasty chemicals. Just double check the bottle if you ever knock it about. I take the sleeve off, run my finger around the inside edge of the neck and carefully look over the entire body. When our twins were 12 months old they unceremoniously tossed the bottle aside after finishing it but as we fed them laying on the carpet floor, coupled with the silicone sleeve, we’ve never had cause for concern. Now they’re 19 months old they get up and bring the bottle to me wherever I am and say “tankyou”. *Awwww* We have bought BPA-free water sippy cups from I think KMart, but I made sure I washed it several times before giving it to the girls (by hand, not in the dishwasher) and taste tested the water after it had been in there an hour or two. My routine every day is to fill fresh when they wake (6:30am), empty it and refresh again at morning tea (around 9:30am) and again at lunch (11:30am) and again when they wake from their midday nap around 3:00pm and again for dinner at 5:00pm. Even though it’s a BPA-free bottle it still tastes funny to me so I continue this routine every single day and even do taste tests in between. I can’t bear to double the regret I still feel about their milk bottle feeds those first four months!

I hope to reach many mothers and help generate a lightbulb moment so they Google to learn more, throw out their baby’s current plastic bottles and go shopping for BPA-free or glass bottles.

Lighten the chemical load. Your recycling bin awaits!

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