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  • What's the deal with BPA? - Spilling the Beans - Magic Beans

What’s the deal with BPA?

Yesterday, I received a statement from the JPMA (Juvenile Products Manufacturing Association), the well-respected organization that, among many other functions, sets safety standards for many of the most common baby products on the market. In this statement, the JPMA continues to deny the risk of using baby bottles produced with BPA (bisphenol A). The media has been having a field day with this topic over the past six months, mostly stemming from the work of an organization called the Environmental Working Group. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not sure what to make of all the fuss.

A few weeks ago, the Today show ran a segment about BPA that my mother happened to see. She called me straight away to tell me to check my beloved Lululemon water bottle to make sure it was BPA-free. In spite of the fact that it was labeled with the recycle symbol and the number 7, which the Today Show said was a sure sign of BPA, I called Lululemon to inquire. Sure enough, the bottle is BPA-free, and it turns out that the number 7 plastic is a general category, and while many things in that category have BPA, others do not. So if I’d acted based on the information I got from the Today Show alone, I would have tossed a perfectly good water bottle in the trash.

OK, so the media isn’t perfect, but are they right about the danger of BPA? The JPMA states unequivocally that all legitimate scientific evidence says that the trace levels of BPA found in the most common consumer goods pose no health risk to children, adults or fetuses.

According to information on bisphenol-a.org, “an average adult consumer would have to ingest more than 600 kilograms (about 1,300 pounds) of food and beverages in contact with polycarbonate every day for an entire lifetime to exceed the level of BPA that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set as safe.”

So that’s one opinion. But ask the scientists who are researching the effects of BPA on mice, and they’ll tell you something else entirely. They’ve found connections between BPA exposure and chromosomal abnormalities, obesity, hyperactivity, early puberty. And so on. They say that these problems occur at lower levels of exposure than the EPA says are safe, and they also have found that products containing BPA can leach the chemical at a much higher rate than expected, under certain circumstances. They are questioning the connection between the popularity of BPA and the rise in obesity, the trend towards earlier puberty and even the spike in hyperactivity disorders. It’s not such a far-fetched idea.

So although I usually follow the JPMA on most safety-related issues, in this case, I don’t think the benefits outweigh the risks, however unproven or debatable those might be. There are a lot of BPA-free options out there for baby bottles, and we have pulled all those that do contain BPA off our shelves. And I’m sticking with my BPA-free water bottles.

But I’ve discovered that BPA isn’t going to be as avoidable as I (or my mom) had hoped. Even though my water bottle is BPA-free, the 5-gallon jug of Poland Spring water in my kitchen probably isn’t. Nor is my Brita filter. (See comments below to explain this correction). Both are type 7 plastic, that high-risk general plastic category. And for formula-fed babies, eliminating the BPA from bottles is a good step, but many formula varieties are packaged in cans treated with BPA. What’s a mother to do?

It would be nice to have a straight answer about this. But it’s not happening any time soon. Both sides claim that the other is biased and/or inaccurate. But regardless of the truth, all the pressure from the media is bringing about swift changes, and major manufacturers are being forced to move away from using BPA in products that touch our food. So one way or another, it hopefully won’t be a source of concern for too much longer.

10 comments

  1. I posted about this a while back when I decided on using Born Free bottles.

    http://www.shahine.com/omar/BisphenolA.aspx

    there are plenty of good BPA free plastic like PP, HDPE etc.

    Generally milky non clear plastics are OK, and many of the BPA Free Plastics, labled as #7 are made from bioplastics or other synthetics that don’t contain BPA.

  2. Hi, my name is Georgeanna and I work with Edelman on behalf of Brita. I want to assure you that Brita pitchers do not contain bisphenol A (BPA). In fact, the main body of Brita pitchers are not made with polycarbonate, but with another type of plastic that does not contain BPA.

    I’d also like to clear up some confusion about number 7 plastics. The numbers on the bottom of plastic containers are placed there voluntarily by manufacturers and indicate a product’s recyclability, not its chemical content. Because BPA makes plastics extremely hard, almost all products that contain BPA fall in to the No. 7 category, but not all products in that category contain BPA. No. 7 is a catch-all for a variety of plastic items, including those that are made from a mixture of several types of plastic that fall into the other recycling number categories. Items marked with the No. 7 designation are not included in most recycling programs, however, they are generally meant to last years, so you shouldn’t need to dispose of No. 7 plastic products until they show wear and tear.

    For more information about recycling symbols, check out this guide from thedailygreen.com: http://www.thedailygreen.com/green-homes/latest/recycling-symbols-plastics-460321. If you have further questions about Brita products, please let me know, visit http://www.brita.com or call Brita at 1-800-24-BRITA.

  3. The Brita filter is not made with BPA. This has been erroneously stated on Treehugger and elsewhere, but it is in fact made of SAN plastic (a #6, not the best option but BPA-free).

    Brita is one of the more than 50 companies covered in Z Recommends’ Z Report on BPA. You can read about Brita products here, or access our full report here.

    The Senate just introduced a bill proposing a total ban on BPA in all children’s products. This issue has enough momentum now that I think it’s difficult for anyone to paint it as a witch hunt. Unless, of course, you’re the JPMA.

  4. Thanks for blogging on this. This came up in my mommy group about four months ago with 50% of mommies saying they’re freaked out by BPA and 50% saying if it was illegal, they’d take it off the market (my pediatrician was in the latter camp). I’ve also heard that the risks are higher if you heat liquids in containers containing BPA (ie warm up a bottle). We decided to stick with our Dr. Brown’s bottles since our daughter takes a bottle at room temperature and we mix it right before she takes it (thus we feel the exposure to BPA is limited). It was also hell finding a bottle she would take, so we’re not up for that again.

    Since the Washington Post article last weekend, a lot of my mommy friends are switching to glass bottles to avoid the whole concern over plastics (BPA today, what next?). The only ones anyone can find right now are the Evenflow (which are not great) as the glass versions of Dr. Brown’s and Born Free are sold out almost everywhere (including amazon.com!).

    Craziness!

  5. Wow – So glad to hear that the Brita filter is BPA-free! I’m sorry for the confusion. I knew from my experience with the Lululemon bottle that the #7 classification was questionable, so I shouldn’t have jumped to conclusions based on other sites. I’ll put a correction in the post.

    I didn’t want to be pointing fingers erroneously, so I just called Poland Spring to confirm whether or not their jugs contain BPA. They do indeed. The customer service person I spoke to tried very hard to minimize the legitimacy of all the press surrounding the BPA issue (“this was just a college student’s thesis,” she said) and she assured me that they test their water from the jugs on a regular basis. Test results range from undetectable amounts of BPA to fewer than 2 parts/billion. I dearly love my water cooler, both at home and at the office, so I’m not sure what to do about this.

    Jeremiah – I completely agree with you about the momentum this has taken on. It’s why I’m pretty surprised that JPMA is still not backing down.

  6. Wow, what a fortunate college student that would be! Watch out or they’ll take over the world… 😉

  7. Weego also makes glass bottles, for those interested in non-plastic ones. They have a cool silicone sleeve to protect the glass from breaking. I bought mine from thesoftlanding.com which also has tons of other BPA-free feeding products and a blog and information about the whole BPA issue.

  8. babies r us has a sale going on now with all this stuff as well. it is organic and safe week there now. most of the bottles are greatly reduced in stores this weekend. they have a great selection of all the bpa free bottles and cups.

  9. JPMA well respected? Huh? An industry group is the last organization from which I’d take product safety advice.

  10. Bisphenola.org is a plastics industry website, and not a good place to find reliable information about BPA. They exist to tell you the industry side of the story–not the facts. If you’re interested in getting the facts, rather than the hype, check medical sites instead of industry sites that have a vested interest in making you believe their products are safe. Try Googling “bisphenol a +risks” (without the quotes) to get a more accurate picture.

    Thanks to Georgeanna from Brita for providing a link to a legit website. It’s nice to see some folks in the industry actually want people to know the truth.

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