Parents have been bottling up their concerns about whether a chemical called BPA found in some plastic bottles and containers can be harmful to their children. Well, let me take the lid off this issue and provide some information on BPA.
BPA stands for bisphenol A, a chemical used in the making of plastics used for baby and water bottles, disposable tableware, CD packaging, some car parts and even mobile phones. It can also leach through some water pipes, and many food and infant formula cans. BPA is everywhere, given that miniscule amounts have been found in 95% of people age 6 and up, as well as in breast milk and pregnant women's blood.
While the Food and Drug Administration knows that BPA does leach out of food containers into food products that we eat or drink, they believe the amounts that leach are too small to cause a problem and are not a concern. The National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institute of Health, however does not feel we have convincing proof that BPA is safe.
What are the concerns about BPA? There are some animal studies that suggest it could cause behavioral and brain problems, and possibly cause early puberty. Even less likely, but remotely possible, animal studies suggest BPA could be linked to fetal or newborn deaths, birth defects and growth problems in babies. It is important to note, however, that animals in these studies break this chemical down differently than humans, so the FDA feels the risk of BPA in these animals should not be equated with human risk and that more research is needed.
So what can you do, if you do not want to risk exposure despite the lack of human studies proving BPA is a danger for your child? First and foremost avoid bottle feeding by exclusively breast feeding your infant, but if you want to have your baby take a bottle, consider glass or BPA-free bottles made by some companies. A plastic bottle that has a number 7 inside a triangle on its bottom or says "PC" may contain BPA and should be avoided. Don't microwave any bottle containing BPA since that will cause the chemical to leach out into food or drink. Another good idea to avoid possible exposure is to buy frozen or fresh fruits and vegetables rather than canned foods.
If you have any questions about BPA, ask your doctor, who can help you find answers to questions I may not have specifically addressed in this article. Hopefully tips I have provided will be just the formula you need and be good food for thought when it comes to knowing more about the possible but unproven risks of BPA.
Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9 FM and WCAX-TV Channel 3. Visit the First with Kids archives at www.vermontchildrens.org.