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Guide to Safe Baby Bottles

written by: Lindsay Evans•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 2/10/2010

The polycarbonate plastic in use for years to manufacture baby bottles contains bisphenol A (BPA), a hormone-disrupting synthetic chemical. Studies have shown that BPA can leach into baby bottle contents when heated. Non-toxic alternatives to polycarbonate baby bottles are discussed here.

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    What is Bisphenol A? Why Should I be Concerned?

    For years, a harmful plastic has been used in the manufacture of baby bottles. Bisphenol A (BPA) is an essential building block of this plastic, which is called polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is still widely used in a variety of products that come in contact with food and drink, including baby bottles, plastic water bottles, plastic food wrap, and re-usable food storage containers. BPA can be found in many other everyday products, such as in the lining found inside cans of food (including baby formula) and some dental sealants.

    Numerous studies have documented health problems in animals exposed to trace amounts of BPA. "Baby's Toxic Bottle", a recent report by several environmental and public health groups, found that six major brands of baby bottles in the US and Canada leached BPA into the bottles' contents when heated. Depending on the brand, each bottle leached between 5-8 parts per billion of BPA. According to the study, "laboratory experiments with animals show that exposure to this level of bisphenol A causes a range of adverse effects."

    Because animal studies have shown a correlation between BPA exposure and serious health concerns, scientists are concerned that infants who drink from polycarbonate bottles are at risk. Babies' smaller body size and delicate systems make them more susceptible than adults to be affected by trace amounts of BPA.

    According to the report, "bisphenol A is a developmental, neural, and reproductive toxicant that mimics estrogen and can interfere with healthy growth and body function. Animal studies demonstrate that the chemical causes damage to reproductive, neurological and immune systems during critical stages of development, such as infancy and in the womb."

    The study calls for manufacturers and retailers of baby bottles to phase out bottles containing BPA and substitute a non-toxic alternative.

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    How to Find BPA-Free Baby Bottles

    If your child drinks from bottles containing BPA, you need to recycle them and buy BPA-free bottles instead. If you are pregnant - even if you aren't planning to bottlefeed - you should buy a few safe bottles to have on hand for the new baby.

    If you are wondering how to identify BPA in plastic baby bottles, just look at the bottles' recycling code. Polycarbonate plastic can be identified by it's recycling code, #7 (other plastics category), accompanied by the designation "PC". The letters "PC" can be present instead of the #7 symbol. If a food or beverage container has a #7 and/or a "PC" designation on the bottom it contains BPA. Containers labeled only #7 may be made of plastic other than polycarbonate.

    Glass baby bottles are becoming popular again as a BPA-free alternative. For folks who want to steer clear of plastic products altogether, glass is a good choice. Several baby bottle brands are re-issuing glass bottles, including Evenflo and Dr. Brown's. Other available brands include BornFree and NuturePure. Glass bottles are easy to find as big-name retailers, such as Target, are re-stocking glass bottles again.

    Plastics other than polycarbonate are now used to make baby bottles. PES plastic, the type used in plastic bottles from BornFree and Green to Grow, is a "safe, honey-colored plastic that is free of bisphenol-A," according to BornFree's website.

    Polypropylene plastic is used in Medela's baby bottles and breastpump kits, as well as some bottle lines from Gerber. Polypropylene can be identified by the recycle code #5 and/or the symbol "PP" and is regarded as a safe, non-toxic plastic for food and beverage containers.

    Think Baby offers a range of infant and child feeding products, including baby bottles, that are free of known toxins. The company vows that each product is free of bisphenol A, PVC, lead, phthalates, and nitrosamines.

    Now that you know how to identify BPA in plastic baby bottles, you can avoid harmful plastic and buy safe baby bottles for your little one.

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    Baby's Toxic Bottle report,