BPA Fears Prompting Return to Glass Baby Bottles

Last month, a group of North American environmental and health groups released a paper revealing that many major-brand baby bottles leach bisphenol A—<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/toxic_substances">BPA—and are now calling for a moratorium on its use.  BPA is a fairly ubiquitous chemical used in polycarbonate plastic products, including baby bottles and metal can coatings.  According to the FDA and the infant formula industry—which adheres to federal packaging guidelines—BPA is legal and safe.  Critics say that BPA, which mimics the hormone estrogen, causes hormonal, neurological, and behavioral problems.  Now, a small but growing number of parents are switching to glass baby bottles.

Babies “R” Us saw a dramatic increase in glass bottle sales in the spring of 2007 and current sales are more than five times what they were a year ago.  Dr. Brown’s, which has been making a polycarbonate bottle for about a decade, introduced a glass version in January due to customer demand, said Carolyn Hentschell, president of Handi-Craft Co./Dr. Brown’s Natural Flow. “If you’re a mom and you have concerns (about BPA), here’s an obvious choice,” she said. “We don’t want them to feel like they have to go to another baby bottle.”  

Evenflo, which has made glass bottles for 70 years, said its glass bottle sales are up 10 percent this year, after jumping over 100 percent from 2006 to 2007.  A few other companies are staying away from BPA altogether.  BornFree, a Florida company that started a few years ago with BPA-free bottles and cups, added glass bottles about a year ago. “From day one, we were free of polycarbonate products,” said company President Ron Vigdor. “We saw a need for that.”  In November, two California companies introduced a glass bottle sheathed in a protective silicone sleeve.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says animal testing reveals BPA has hormone-like effects on the reproductive system and more study is needed.  Some pediatricians advise families to use alternatives to polycarbonate bottles.  “I can’t assure parents that it’s safe, and I would not use that for my own babies,” said Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and author of Raising Baby Green. “There are a number of BPA-free bottles, and I also love glass bottles.”

In the lab, BPA has been linked to a variety of sex-hormone-imbalances, including breast and prostate cancer, early puberty, miscarriage, low sperm count, and immune-system changes.  Critics claim these effects may occur at exposure levels below what health authorities deemed safe, harming developing infants.  “The reproductive system is developing, the brain is developing, the immune system is developing,” said David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany.  Knowing that, he said, it is “absolutely obscene” to expose infants to BPA.  The National Toxicology Program’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction convened an expert panel to determine if BPA is hazardous to humans, including developing babies.  The panel found there’s risk as exposure causes neural and behavioral effects in children.

Legislation has been proposed in several US states to limit or ban BPA use and some stores have pulled polycarbonate bottles.

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