Bisphenol A is a harmful chemical found in polycarbonate plastic which is used to make many popular baby bottles and sippy cups, among other things. Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that mimics the action of the human hormone estrogen, which alters our body’s natural pattern. BPA can leach from polycarbonate plastic, usually a hard, clear plastic that is common of many products we use everyday. Effects at even low BPA exposure include prostate cancer, breast cancer, early puberty onset, alterations in gender-specific behavior, decreased sperm count, affects on fertility, behavioral effects including hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, impaired learning and other changes in behavior, and other problems.
Where is BPA found? Astonishingly, BPA is found everywhere making human exposure widespread.
Baby bottles and sippy cups.
AVOID bottles such as Dr. Brown’s, Avent, clear Evenflo, FirstYears, Platex VentAire, Sassy and TupperCare as they are all contain bisphenol A. On the sippy cup side, avoid Nuby cups with handles coming up from the bottom of the cup, Gerber Soft Starter, and Gerber Suzy’s Zoo & Sippy Snacker.
BPA-free bottles and sippies flagged as safe include: glass bottles, Born-Free, Medela breastmilk storage bottles (made with polypropylene) and disposable bottle systems that have polyethylene plastic inserts.
And for sippies: Avent Magic Cup, Born-Free, FirstYears Take & Toss, Gerber Color Change, Munchkin Cupsicle, Sigg Baby Water Bottle, Playtex Sipster, and the new Boon Fluid Sippy cup. I also called Luv N Care, makers of the Nuby sippies. Their cups are made with #5 plastic except for the cup with the handles coming up from the bottom. The straw sipper’s sliding closure is also a polycarbonate piece, but since it is not touching liquid, it is considered safe. However, my daughter chews on this, so we will not be using this cup. There are many stainless steel varieties as well such as Kleen Kanteen and Thermos Foogo sippy cup, though these are much more expensive. Avoiding aluminum cups for your child would be recommended as aluminum has been linked to other health issues, including Alzheimer’s.
If you must use a bottle/sippy made with BPA (which is probably rare), you should NEVER store milk in a container made with BPA, as the chemical could leach into the milk. You should also discard any bottles that are scratched, appear cloudy or generally have an altered appearance from their “new” look. Exposing to heat, harsh detergents (no dishwashers) and microwaving can cause leaching. Not sure how many infants want milk that is not warmed. (Of course this means warming the bottle in water, NOT in the microwave.) To me, it’s not worth the risk to use these products. Unfortunate since my daughter used Dr. Brown’s at daycare when I could not nurse her. But fortunately she was mostly nursed, so at least her exposure was limited.
It’s in the lining of canned foods, where it appears to be the most common way to be exposed. BPA can leach into the food inside the can. It’s especially important to note that infants fed canned formula are at the greatest risk. Even fruit in plastic jars may be made with polycarbonate plastic, including the Dole variety. According to Dole, this is the only plastic that can withstand the heat, disturbing since heating polycarbonate plastic is how the BPA can leach into food.
Plastic food containers. Not all containers are made with BPA, but all can leach harmful chemicals when not properly used. NEVER heat food in plastic containers of any kind (this does include Styrofoam containers). Always heat food in a microwave safe container, glass is best. I know you are thinking this is a pain, but so would chemotherapy. Given the choice, I wash the extra dish.
There are 7 types of plastic. Look under most plastic products and in the recycle symbol, there should be a number that indicates the type of plastic it is made from. Numbers 5, 4, 1 and 2 are safe for food. 3, 6 and 7 are not, with 7 being BPA.
Here is a great handout I found that explains the 7 types of plastic and goes into more detail about the 3 harmful ones you want to avoid. Attention bottled water drinkers, there is bad news here for you. Plastic water bottles are typically made from the harmful plastics.
Another good resource is the bisphenol A portal. Has great info and links to a California environmental site. Noteably, California has banned the use of bishenol A in the making of products for children.
It is also important to note that the studies that found these harmful effects were government funded. The industry-funded studies did not find any threat to humans (of course), so if you embark on your own search on bisphenol A, please make sure to note if the study was industry-funded. They have a way of hiding things to protect their bottom line. Searching for and manufacturing safer alternatives can be costly.