When the world's largest retailer decides to pull a product off the shelves most everyone stops to take notice. When Walmart takes action, it makes news. Walmart announced in April it would stop selling baby bottles made with bisphenol A, or BPA as it is commonly abbreviated. This would take place in all of Walmart's US stores early next year. The news sent shock waves throughout the baby bottle industry and provided more questions for anxious parents. The Washington Post reported that Walmart is immediately halting all sales of bottles, sippy cups, pacifiers, and water containers made with BPA in Canada. This amid speculation of a total ban on the chemical in the country. If the ban proposal survives public scrutiny, Canada will be the first country to ban products made with bisphenol A. Toys R Us is also following suit with a ban on baby products made with the chemical in it's Canadian stores.
So when this health eco-conscious Mommy/Journalist started hearing the buzz about BPA or bisphenol A, I naturally wanted to know more. Reports started coming out that many popular brands of baby bottles leach BPA. Bisphenol A is a chemical most commonly used to make your favorite clear baby bottle, well, clear and nearly shatter proof. Through use and heating studies suggest the polycarbonate material breaks down and contaminates liquids and food. The chemical is also used to line the inside of soda cans and to make water bottles.
In 2007, bisphenol A became controversial when research suggested it mimics estrogen. More than 200 animal studies show BPA is toxic at low doses. A panel of 38 experts on the chemical concluded that average levels found in people are above those that cause harm to animals in lab experiments. Studies have also shown BPA to cause cancer in lab animals. One study shows when the baby bottles are heated the BPA that is part of the polycarbonate material can leach into the liquid at high levels. These studies show links with low exposure to BPA to cancers, autoimmune problems, obesity, diabetes, and the early onset of puberty.
Some of the popular brands of polycarbonate bottles tested include Avent, Dr. Brown's, Evenflo, Gerber, and Playtex. According to the study all five of these popular brands leached BPA. The companies are disputing the health risks of the chemical maintaining that the FDA still considers BPA exposure safe. The Head of Consumer Relations for Dr. Brown's parent company Handi Craft is Scott Rhodes. He stated to Z Recommends in November 2007 that all the buzz about BPA is a "scare tactic" being perpetuated by opportunists. The company has however recently come out with a new line of glass baby bottles, but Handi Craft has no plans to abandon their current line of popular polycarbonate Dr. Brown's bottles.
So what is a parent to do?
A 2008 draft report by the U.S. National Toxicology Program agrees that their is some concern for neural and behavioral effects on fetal and infant brain development. In an ABC News report Dr. Maida Galvez, a pediatrician studying BPA, is cautioning parents to shy away from bottles containing the chemical and says, "We know that the animal studies raise concerns, but there aren't human studies showing the effects yet... so, when we don't have the evidence, what we recommend is that parents try to err on the side of caution."
With this new information many parents and care givers are turning to polycarbonate free feeding alternatives for their children.
There are currently several BPA-Free baby bottles on the market. The Adiri Natural Nurser promotes a bottle designed by doctors, moms, and lactation consultants. The Adiri Fill, Twist & Feed System is promoted as easy and hassle free. One mom I spoke who uses the Adiri bottle and says her daughter loves the soft nipple. She says the brand did not cause the same nipple confusion her older son experienced with other brands. This Mom also likes what she calls the "cute look" of the Adiri. The Adiri company is run by three moms from California who say they wanted to make it easier for parents to have safe options for bottle feeding.
BornFree bottles are another BPA free alternative. The award winning bottles are a honey color, not the shiny clear plastic in which 95 percent of baby bottles are made with the polycarbonate material. BornFree, like Dr Brown's, has a vent to sooth colic and the Mommies we spoke with who use BornFree say the results seem to suit their little ones.
There are some other BPA-free brands on the market, but these alternatives are not cheap. Most of these bottles run around $10 a bottle, but some say the price is more than worth it to protect their babies from a potentially dangerous chemical.