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When research suggested that a toxic chemical might leach from polycarbonate plastic baby bottles into breast milk or formula, some parents began stocking up on glass bottles, even going so far as to buy used glass nursers on eBay. The chemical--bisphenol A, or BPA--acts like an artificial estrogen and has been implicated in developmental problems.
It's difficult to know which bottles are made with this type of plastic, as manufacturers aren't required to label components. Generally, polycarbonate bottles are rigid, clear and shiny, while non-polycarbonate bottles tend to be pliable and cloudy or tinted.
Whether bisphenol A is harmful to humans is controversial; several government agencies -- including the FDA, the European Food Safety Agency and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment - have reviewed the studies and concluded that at current exposure levels BPA poses no risk to human health, and that plastic bottles made of polycarbonate are safe to use.
The studies finding harm have been done on animals, and Steve Hentges of the American Chemistry Council's polycarbonate/BPA group says, "No one claims the animal studies don't apply to humans, but you can't assume that what happens to mice will happen to people. Research has found that BPA is processed differently in humans - people excrete it much more quickly than rodents. This difference makes the research more difficult to translate to humans."
Meanwhile, manufacturers are busy producing alternatives. Gerber's Fashion Tints, Adiri's Natural Nurser and any bottle from Born Free or Medela are polycarbonate-free. Other options: Evenflo glass nursers or bottles with a disposable liner, such as Playtex Drop-Ins or Avent Tempo Liners.
To find out more.....
• For a link to the report on baby bottles and bisphenol A, go to www.environmentcalifornia.org.
• To see the latest Food and Drug Administration position on BPA, go to fitpregnancy.com/FDABPA.
• You can see a position statement from the plastics industry at http://www.coalitionforconsumerchoice.org [Coalition for Consumer Choice].
• For other government positions, visit the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment at http://www.bfr.bund.de/cd/7294, and view the European Food Safety Authority statement at http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20070201EFSA.html.