Should you use plastic or glass baby bottles to feed your baby?
The answer is one of personal choice however there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that chemicals in plastic products including baby bottles can be harmful. There are no such chemicals in glass baby bottles.
Studies have shown that a chemical called Bisphenol A leaks out from products made from polycarbonate. If the product is packaging or used to store food, Bisphenol A contaminates the food. Polycarbonate is used to make baby bottles, drinks bottles, plastic food containers and for the lining in aluminium cans.
Bisphenol A (or BPA) is associated with a plethora of conditions and diseases in rats even in extremely low concentrates. Studies have not been carried out on humans and therefore the case has not been proven. It is therefore individual choice as to whether or not to use plastic or glass baby bottles based on the evidence.
What is Bisphenol A?
BPA is a chemical, discovered in the 1930’s and used to make polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a type of rigid, strong, clear plastic that can tolerate heat and is virtually indestructible in normal conditions. It has many uses and can perform certain functions better than alternatives.
Since it’s discovery, Bisphenol A has been known to act like a synthetic oestrogen hormone. More recently, it has been thought to be associated with hormone-related illnesses such as breast and prostate cancer as well diabetes and infertility.
How does BPA get into our bodies?
BPA leaches out of the products that contain it (ie, polycarbonate).
Contact with BPA is probably unavoidable since it is widespread in our environment. It has been found in rivers and estuaries and in the water we drink and bathe in. It has entered our ecosystems through landfill sites where much polycarbonate ends up.
BPA leaches out of products we use and can enter our bodies that way. In particular, this leaching happens when products are washed and heated. The particles then find their way into the food which we then consume. Since baby bottles are made from polycarbonate, Bisphenol A finds its way into the milk. Polycarbonate is also used for the lining of cans and the chemical finds its way into canned food, including formula milk and baby food. This can be avoided by buying products in glass jars.
Scientific research has proven that the process of leaching BPA takes place.
How do I know it is polycarbonate?
On the bottom of all plastic containers there is a mark indicating the recyclability of the material used and sometimes there is an abbreviation. Polycarbonate is indicated by a number 7 within the ‘recycle’ triangle. Sometimes it will also bear the initials ‘PC’. Some plastic materials are safer but others have been known to contain suspected harmful chemicals. Look for and use plastics with a 1, 2, 4 or 5 (polythene and polypropylene). Avoid Number 5, PVC which contains potentially harmful phthalates. Glass baby bottles do not contain such a mark.
What are the harmful effects of BPA?
There is no proven link between BPA and any disease. Extensive research has been carried out on rats which prove that BPA causes dysfunction of many systems. These problems were caused at extremely low dosages. Tests on food kept in polycarbonate containers show that BPA is present in far greater quantities than the dosages required for a reaction in rats. It has also been found in the human body in larger quantities, particularly those who eat canned food or drinks.
BPA was given to rats in a number of environments – pregnant rats, new born rats, nursing rats and adult rats. The results found that BPA caused the following conditions:
• Chromosome sorting errors leading fertility problems, miscarriage and birth defects.
• Early onset of puberty
• Possibly link with diabetes and obesity
• Impaired brain development
• Impaired immune function
• Increased cancer cell growth
• Sperm defects
• Impaired female reproductive organ development
The animals used in the experiments have identical tissue sensitivity to humans and it is widely acknowledged that research on these animals can predict how humans will react to the same chemicals. There has been no research to test whether or not humans do react the same way. What is recognized is alarming increases in cancers, fertility problems and brain disorders since polycarbonate was first used.
How can I avoid BPA?
Since BPA seems to be in many of our ecosystems it could be impossible to keep completely BPA free. By avoiding certain products and processes the amount of BPA can be reduced. Using glass baby bottles and food and formula packaged in glass containers will reduce the exposure in infants. Children are particularly susceptible because their organs are still developing. Avoid canned food and drink, do not heat food in the microwave in plastic containers, throw out polycarbonate containers regularly.