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Plastics -- Again

Earlier this month, Canada became the first country to ban bisphenol A, widely known as BPA. In its fact sheet about the decision, the government issued the following information:

"Our focus now is on the health of newborns and infants under 18 months. Science tells us that exposure levels are below those that could cause health effects, but since they are close to the levels where potential effects could occur, the Government wants to be prudent and reduce exposures further."
Studies have shown the main source of exposure for newborns and infants is from bisphenol A migrating from the lining of cans into liquid infant formula and migrating from the polycarbonate baby bottles into the liquid inside following the addition of boiling water."

Fears of plastics have been around for awhile. But more is known now than even when we last discussed plastics in baby bottles back in February. According to Ranit Mishori's story last week in The Post health section, a draft report has now "acknowledged for the first time 'some concern' that BPA may affect neural and behavioral development 'in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures.' The federal health agency's report included early puberty in girls and hyperactivity among these developmental disturbances."

FINALLY -- a potential answer. For about a decade my sister and I have chatted about how girls seem to be developing earlier than we did. True, our observations were unscientific. They were based solely on watching her now teenage kids and their friends. Maybe it was hormones in milk, we speculated, but the FDA said no. Well now, maybe it's BPA? Only more research can tell us for sure.

Limiting our families' exposure to potentially harmful plastics like BPA and phthlates isn't easy. Maybe it isn't even possible. Plastics of all types are everywhere ... in cans, wrapping the meat at the grocery store, in some nail polish we put on kids' fingers and toes.

Has the recent hoopla about BPAs and phthlates changed your habits?

Mid-Morning Update: Democratic senators introduced a bill yesterday to ban BPA in plastics from all products made for infants and children up to age 7.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 30, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Babies
Previous: Along for the Ride | Next: Stepping Away From the Sitter


Plastic is hard to eliminate. It is every where. After your report, we did decide to use BPA free bottles. We researched and found that Gerber clear view were the most affordable BPA free bottle on the market. I think they are around $1 a bottle.

We were very grateful that we had used the same bottles for our older daughter. BPA free was not even on our radar then.

I am not sure it will really help but for an affordable bottle, it seemed reasonable to give it a try.

BTW, the other BPA free bottles were ridiculously expensive. If it had been our only option, we would have gone with the expensive bottles. We were just grateful for the Gerber option.

Frankly, I am shocked bottle makers are not switching to BPA free now. It just makes sense.

But no, we don't think we can eliminate all plastics. We do buy organic milk to reduce hormones. My daughter is a vegetarian for the most part but if she ever decides to eat meat, we would buy organic meat as well.

But you can't eliminate all things in foods because they are in everything in our food supply. Unless you want to grow your own food and process your own grains, you have to accept a certain amount of chemicals.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2008 7:15 AM | Report abuse

I chucked all the plastic stuff the kids were eating off of (sorry for the bad grammar) and replaced it with Fiestaware and small glasses and mugs. Also replaced their sip cups that we take on planes and in the car for travel with Sigg bottles.

I'm not even going to bother with the toys. My sister is trying desperately to keep her child from playing with anything plastic and I've told her there's a sitcom in there somewhere, or at least a comic strip. A baby can only hit herself on the head with a wooden rattle so many times before Mommy's sick of hearing the crying.

Foamy, I'm with you on the organic milk. Even with prices going beyond $6 a gallon and our weekly grocery bill hitting new highs, it will be the last thing I stop buying. Hormones in milk scare me.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

Clarification: I didn't throw away the plastic stuff, I gave it to the local Catholic Charity.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

As someone who's trying to have a child, I find this discussion very interesting. I don't yet have a supply of plastic bottles, sippy cups, plates, etc. I know how much I depend on plastic in my life - from the packaging of foods at the supermarket, to the bags and containers I use at home, to my coffee cups in the car. How can I think about, and plan for, a life with less plastic for my future family?

And on a different but related topic, already mentioned by other posters, can we see a column on organic vs. conventional meats, dairy, etc. I don't really think about that stuff for myself, and frankly, I'm too lazy to do a lot of research on it at the moment, but I'm interested in the benefits, and the reasons others have made such decisions for their children.

Posted by: JB in VA | April 30, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Clarification: I didn't throw away the plastic stuff, I gave it to the local Catholic Charity.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 8:38 AM

So eating off plastic is harmful to your kids but it's okay for poor children to eat off it?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 9:10 AM | Report abuse

Learning about this really ticked me off as my research led me to article after article about countries who began regulating and removing BPA from plastics years ago. The FDA has been aware of this risk for years and only now has anyone started talking about it. I think that is so wrong! I wish I had been more informed because we did use risky bottles for my last daughter. We didn't usually add boiling water or heat them in the microwave, but that doesn't make me feel too much better.

We buy organic milk when we can, but our house goes through at least 3 gallons a week and unfortunately my budget can't keep up with that. We do buy all locally grown organic produce (from May to October, after that we get what we can and have to rely on the grocery store for the rest) and grass fed meat. By dealing with local farms directly you know where your food is coming from and how it is being grown. That means a lot to me for my family's safety.

Posted by: Momof5 | April 30, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

What? Are you saying that the plastic bubble I'm raising my kids in to protect them from harm is killing them? I Just can't do anything right!

I'm not sure that growing my own food will be any healthier than the store bought stuff. My mother, who is being detoxified of the mercury from the silver fillings in her teeth, just informed me that the paint on my tomato cages will leech lead into the soil and poison all the vegetables in my garden. Great! Just what I need, more to worry about.

WorkingMomX, I think you're a hoot.

Posted by: DandyLion | April 30, 2008 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Working mom X: Organic milk is $8/gallon near us. I still drink lacotse free store brand milk (just me) and that is $6/gallon. Food is just getting really pricey these days. I shutter to think what organic meat will cost us. But if son or daughter ever decide to eat meat, we will go that route. My husband and I still eat regular meat because we figured we have already reached puberty and are exposed to so much anyway. But if either kid wants to eat meat, we will switch the whole family to organic meat.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I actually had a question. I believe it was Ryan who posted that organically grown food helps the enviroment and not people. I always thought you bought orangic food because it had less steroids and pestiscides that could be passed through the food. It also helped prevent early onset puberty. Does anyone know the truth about this?

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Dandylion, I've always thought you were a hoot!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone know the truth about this?

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2008 9:29 AM

No, but plenty of people claim to, because it's fun to work moms up into a frenzy over nothing.

Constant entertainment.

Posted by: Bob | April 30, 2008 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Having read the draft NTP brief on BPA ( and not just the media summaries, I think a lot of the concern is overblown. The report concludes that there is negligible risk to adults, and no clear risks to children at the dosage actually found in the population. Since most of the migration has to do with hot liquids in contact with BPA containing plastics, getting it out of baby bottles and can linings makes sense, but I'll be keeping my polycarbonate cold-beverage containers.

Posted by: Joe | April 30, 2008 9:47 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX, although I know you probably won't believe me, the hormones given to cows do not affect people -- for multiple reasons. However, you're absolutely right about getting rid of BPA plastic. It's strongly questionable whether the BPA in plastic food and drink containers is not reaching harmful levels.

However, I'm not sure that ALL plastic should be lumped together. There may be good environmental reasons for not liking plastic, but plastics are made in a variety of ways and, thus, have a variety of different components. At the moment, the wisest course of action is to eliminate BPA from any plastic that may be used for holding drinks or food.

Posted by: Biologist | April 30, 2008 9:48 AM | Report abuse

None of these articles have addressed whether there is BPA in disposable plastic bottle liners which is what we used for our first child and are planning to use for our second. Does anyone have any information about this?

Posted by: SoontobeMomof2 | April 30, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Au contraire, Biologist, I would love to be talked out of my prejudice against rBGH. My understanding is that the current thought in the scientific community is that it is contributing to early onset puberty, particularly in girls. I know that its presence can not be detected in milk, though. Tell me everything.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Organic milk people, you might want to check out

There's a link on the left for the "Dairy Report and scorecord". Gives a ranking in "quality" of organic milk suppliers. Although I haven't had the time to really validate the site, I find the information quite interesting and am inclined to give credance to the info.

There's also other info on the site related to organic farming, etc...

As for plastics, I try to use them a little as possible, but I don't think I'll ever stop using my tupperware/rubbermaid containers for leftover meal storage in the fridge/freezer. I have stopped reheating the tupperwared food in the microwave and I definitely don't use plastic wrap as a cover while microwaving.

Posted by: Pake Mommy | April 30, 2008 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I got rid of my Nalgene bottle and switched to a steel bottle made by Klean Kanteen. I shudder to think, though, that my regular way of ridding my old nalgene bottle of mold was to pour boiling water in it or put it through the dishwasher. Do our bodies flush BPA, or is it bioaccumulative, like mercury?

Posted by: Fern | April 30, 2008 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Foamgnome, I don't remember saying that, but I can't rule it out either. However, if I did, I spoke too quickly. I don't think the statement is quite accurate.

To clarify what I know (and have slowly learned over the years), organic food has an interesting combination of effects. Assuming that it is grown without fertilizers in the soil or herbicides or pesticides sprayed on the fields, you are, in some ways, helping the environment. Fewer fertilizers = less fertilizer runoff into the water system = less algae bloom = more oxygenated water = more fish, crabs, other animals in the water, etc.

However, there is an environmental problem with organic food. The fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides allow you to grow more food per acre. Therefore, you take up less land, and more land can be left for nature itself. Thus, organic farming, unfortunately, increases carbon levels in the atmosphere, worsening global warming.

BTW, I have no idea which is worse, on the environmental question.

Now, as to health questions, fertilizers don't do anything to you (unless used improperly -- see E.coli & spinach problem from a while back). Whether herbicides and pesticides do is another question with no straightforward answer. There's no strong evidence indicating problems with them, at the levels people are exposed to. However, it's not easy to study chronic low level exposure to a variety of chemicals. So, I really have no answer.

Where herbicides and pesticides are actually dangerous is to those who work with them -- i.e. farmer laborers. Those people are exposed to much higher levels of the chemicals and in much more direct ways. Does this mean it's problematic for those of you at home? Not necessarily. There are big differences between chronic or intermittent exposure to low levels of something and chronic exposure to high levels.

Posted by: Ryan | April 30, 2008 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Oh, by the way, I wanted to throw something out there to WorkingMom (or was it someone else who said this? Oh, well, I'm not going to re-read them all again).

BPA may be dangerous for adults as well, as it is linked to prostate and breast cancer. I would suggest that no one eat or drink from plastic containing BPA.

Posted by: Ryan | April 30, 2008 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I'll throw out another thing about organic farming: conventional fertilizers are made from petroleum products, and we all know what's happened to world petroleum and petro-derivative prices lately. Yes, there is a risk of E.coli contamination from natural fertilizers, but only if they've been improperly processed (and the spinach thing was never definitively linked to fertilizer).

I'm with the poster above re: keeping my polycarbonate cold-beverage bottle. Fern, go ahead and wash your plastics with hot water - just don't drink the wash water!

Posted by: BxNY | April 30, 2008 10:23 AM | Report abuse

To SoonToBeMomOf2,
I use the bottle liners from Playtex because I pump often and like the storage system. I recall reading that the liners are BPA-free and I was relieved when I found that out since I had invested quite a bit of money in them by then. I believe most, if not all, of the liners are BPA-free. I think that BPA is primarily found in hard plastics. Hope this helps.

Posted by: KarenW | April 30, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

We are definitely making a few changes in terms of the plastics in our house. We've stopped using sippy cups which definitely have BPA in them, in favor of a Gerber cup which is made of "safer" plastic. We're expecting baby number 2 and will certainly NOT be using the same Avent bottles as our daughter used. (Freaks me out to think of what she's already been exposed to!) I haven't figured out which bottles we'll go with but am looking forward to lots of research. I wonder about the bottles that go with the breast pump, though. If they've got polycarbonate/ BPA I'm going to have to rethink the whole pumping situation for baby number two.

As regards 'safer' plastics, there was a midday discussion on WaPo last week with someone from National Resources Defense Council. She suggested that plastics marked #7 should not be used because these potentially contain BPA. She also suggested not using #6. She did say that, as plastics go, #1,2,4,5 are better options. I realize there are risks for all plastics, but this is the advice I'm following for now.

About organic milk... I talked with our pediatrician about organic vs regular. She suggested that I be more concerned about local vs trucked from across the country. Fortunately, here in CT we have several local dairies, none of which use growth hormones, so we are buying those brands for everyone in the house.

Posted by: JYinCT | April 30, 2008 10:44 AM | Report abuse

In addition to baby bottles, what about the bottled water bottles? Yes, they are kept cold or room temp when we buy them, but who knows what heating process or outside hot temps they underwent in transport?

I really try hard not to drink bottled water anymore. Think of all the sports teams who grab a bottled water after practice, etc. -- I believe, because that is clear hard plastic, that those would contain BPA as well.

Posted by: Rebecca | April 30, 2008 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Why ;put nail polish on children? That is ridiculous. There are alternatives to BPA polymers (polycarbonate) and polymers made with phthalates; do research and be prudent; substitute for those items that would get into your or children's mouths repeatedly, like plasticware. These leach BPA when heated, either by adding boiling water or even washing them in hot soap and water or in the dishwasher. You cannot account for accidents; thus those polycarbonate glasses are good (your children better not be mouthing those; they're too expensive).

Posted by: Susan P | April 30, 2008 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm due with my 4th in June and had not heard about this issue until this pregnancy. I used playtex liners for my last two and plan to for this one as well. Playtex offers BPA free bottles and are offering a free BPA free drop in liner system at this website:

Posted by: Jen | April 30, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I've never gotten into a bottled water habit (tap is so much less expensive, even accounting for the cost of a filter-pitcher), so I haven't really given that much thought. My son (2 1/2 years) does just fine drinking out of glass, and really doesn't drink hot beverages anyway. That really leaves lined cans (beans, vegetables, etc.) as out major route of exposure. I mostly cook from fresh foods, but I do find canned corn and beans handy for quick cold salads without having to rehydrate the beans overnight and then cook them. I suppose I could stop buying them, but I think that the benefits of eating beans and vegetables more often than we otherwise would more than outweighs the risk.

Posted by: Joe | April 30, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I just want to mention something to everyone. No one should get panicked about this stuff. We, as a society, unfortunately know rather little about the health effects of most things. Why? Well, for starters, it's very expensive and difficult (and sometimes unethical) to do full-blow experiments in humans.

So, frequently, we engage in little logic games to try to tease out potential health effects. We say that X correlates with Y and Y may be absorbed into the bloodstream and, in rats, blood levels of Y correspond with Z. Thus, we decide that Z is dangerous for you. Believe me, this is not good science. Normally, this is how scientists would generate hypotheses -- not come to conclusions.

I'm not arguing that we should not be vigilant or careful, but that our knowledge is far from perfect.

Moreover, worrying about some of these things is like worrying about dying in a plane crash -- even as you careen down the highway at 65 mph every day to work. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING for overall health is to maintain a balanced diet with normal weight and to EXERCISE. Did you know that exercising is correlated with reductions in all sorts of cancers? No one pays attention to that, though.

Posted by: Ryan | April 30, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Obviously, if I need to jump on this anti-plastics bandwagon, otherwise I will be judged to not love my child. But I must comment, just the suggestion that something might be harmful eliciting this kind of response? Seems a little over the top.
One point about girls going through puberty sooner now. On average, kids are fatter than they've ever been before in this country, and percent body fat is the one thing that scientists have been able to definitively correlate with early onset of puberty.
Another point, off topic, on the epidemic of autism. The definition of autism has changed in the past ten years, which probably has alot more to do with the increased diagnoses than anything going on with the vaccines. This turns out to be a good thing, borderline autistic kids that used to escape diagnosis are now getting help, and will be better understood, and better cared for than ever. We all win, including the media who have yet another scare tactic to evoke to keep us watching and reading whatever tripe they have to sell us.
Here's one for thought, if you want to protect your kids, stop driving them around, and don't give car keys to your teenager. This is statistically the most likely source of death or injury that any of us have to worry about. Of course telling people to give up their automobiles certainly doesn't encourage them to watch you nightly news program, read your newspaper, or participate in your blog.

Posted by: rumicat | April 30, 2008 11:08 AM | Report abuse

BPA may be dangerous for adults as well, as it is linked to prostate and breast cancer. I would suggest that no one eat or drink from plastic containing BPA.

I would also suggest you not travel by plane or car because both of those are potentially fatal!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

I too read the NTP draft report and agree with Joe that the media are blowing this report out of proportion and exaggerating the claims as are the activist groups. There is no solid link between human exposure to BPA and the plethora of maladies that are being associated with it. As a scientist this is a big clue that these issues are not real or founded. Usually most chemicals with validated effects have one maybe two effects not 27. I suggest that folks read the NTP report and not take the media or activist groups interpretation of it as such. Remember that both groups are trying to make money and need sensation to sell ads or attract donors, respectively.

Another great resource for hot topics like this is

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

By far the best site for info on BPA in baby products.

We switched from Avent bottles to Avent sippy cups, which are #5 polypropylene. The nipples and locking rings from the bottles are all interchangeable with the spouts for the cups, so we didn't have to introduce a new nipple. And now that we are switching from bottles to cups, I didn't have to buy anything else. My pump adaptor also allows me to pump directly into these "bottles". I didn't get rid of any of his plastic toys though--he is about out of his chewing-everything-in sight stage, and he doesn't have many anyway.

I have become slightly obsessive lately about this. My latest concern is the canned fruits and veggies I have been feeding my son, as they are nice and soft and easy for him to chew. Supposedly most cans are lined with BPA plastic. I've switched to frozen veggies, but it is hard to find frozen peaches and pears and things that are soft enough for a baby to eat (and berries are out). Also, I was buying those convenient single applesauce servings, but those as well are packaged in "bad" plastic. And the YoBaby yogurt comes in a #6! Also bad.

I've also been checking all of our bath products on this site and trying to buy things that are better rated for my family (but also end up being more expensive):

Posted by: PhD Chemist | April 30, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I appreciate that the media may be blowing things out of proportion (as they have been known to do from time to time) but Canada? It's not like Canadians are known for overreacting. :)

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 11:24 AM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX, you still haven't explained why it's okay for poor kids to eat off the plastic plates got rid of. If it's dangersous for your kids to use them, isn't it dangerous for poor kids to use them? Or is it okay for poor kids to be exposed to the dangers becaue they are poor and can't afford organic milk?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Did anyone hear that annoying mosquito or was it just me?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 11:38 AM | Report abuse

So you have no reasonable answer. Fair enough, just admit it.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Anonymous at 11:09 AM, you're not too bright, are you? We take reasonable risks because we have to, but we also do everything we can to reduce those risks.

Now, as for BPA, there is no benefit to me having a baby bottle that contains BPA. In other words, I don't have to have BPA bottles. Therefore, continued consumption of drinks from BPA bottles is a considerably less reasonable risk, as there are alternatives.

Comparing necessary risks to unnecessary ones is just stupid.

Posted by: Ryan | April 30, 2008 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Foamgnome you may be aware of this already, but just because you and your husband have passed pubuty doesn't mean the hormones in meat will not affect you. I am not a scientict researcher, but I have read in many places that the hormones in meat can affect prostate cancer in men and ovarian/breast cancer in women by causing hormonal cells to replicate faster and abnormally- meaning they feed the cells.

A friend's farther developed prostate cancer at 50. His doctors advised them to lay off meat and increase soy and fish. And yes, some fish contains mercury, but I guess they're least evil of the two evils. As I have mentioned I am not a scientist but the information is out there if you search for it. As an aside, I would definitely stay away from the hormone containing food stuffs especially if I had blood A type.

Posted by: lilac | April 30, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Used to buy filtered water in 12 one gallon plastic #7 bottles...just recently got our Big Berkey Filter, which my parents have had for a while. I was balking at the price, (about $240), until I more recently heard of this issue again. I actually had tried to research this a while ago (5 yrs when my 1st son was a baby) but there was not clear info on the web. Before the filter got here, I already had my 2 sons drinking out of stainless steel bottles for around town. Now my 5yo says the bottle "smells funny" (the narrow top makes it really hard to clean, and if I forget it in the car for one day, (S FLA) the bottle gets slimy....(sigh). My new strategy, now that I've recently ditched my own #7 reusable bottle, is to use my stainless travel coffee mug with ice water on the road, and I think I'll buy one for my son. I got my younger son a different style stainless for $5 clearance at Kmart (and it had Lightnening McQueen, big bonus!). I scoured the store for 1/2 hour for another, but couldn't find it.

So I HAVE been doing a LOT...even 2 years ago when I was pumping my breast milk for my younger son, I used glass bottles only. Consider it paranoia, because as I said, at that point the consensus was that plastic and especially the #7's were the safest, but now I'm relieved I was "paranoid."

The really nice thing about the Berkey Filter for me is not having to drive out to get water and haul six gallons at a time from car to store back to house. I'll probably save money on the gas alone. Not to mention "picking up a few groceries" each time, some of which were unessential. And there's also the fact that if we get hit by any natural disasters, esp. a hurricane (I'm in Palm Bch Cty) this filter will make ANY water clean.

I'm actually happy to be moving away from these things, it's making us more self-reliant, which is what I'd like to move towards, even if it takes forever. Now I have to improve my gardening next....

Also just threw out a bunch of plastic cups yesterday. The kids still have their decorated plates and bowls (with the bright pictures of spider man etc). These have always worried me. They say DW safe, but then they start bubbling up where the pics are. Now I hand-wash them... So I only feed them mostly sandwiches, chips etc on these. No hot foods or moist foods as I think these would logically absorb more. I'm planning on buying something else soon, though and ditching these also.

Posted by: hBrownWhyte | April 30, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

I switched to non-BPA bottles (Medela ones- not as cheap as Gerber, but they work with all my pump gear and are a good deal less expensive than the Born Free ones.)

My biggest concern now is that all of my Gerber baby food (in the square plastic containers) are marked with a "7" on the bottom, and that they have BPA. I'm thinking about tossing the lot in favor of jarred baby food.

I draw the line at toys. Life is crazy enough.

Posted by: michelle | April 30, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

OT: Does anyone know why organic milk is good for so much longer? Regular milk usually goes bad about 10 days after I buy it. Organic milk keeps for a month! What gives?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Canada is pretty conservative. I think too that up here there is a tendency to think about a ban to protect the poor too - if the whole product is banned, then alternatives will gradually come down in price.

Canada also doesn't allow rBGH (growth hormone) so our milk doesn't have the hormone levels that US milk does. Or did, the last time I checked, which was when I was deciding whether to pay for organic on which side of the border... maybe rBGH is banned now?

On the BPA issue, my own unscientific view is that probably all these additional chemicals that interact with hormone levels are in some way cumulative, so the BPA may not do it, the rBGH may not do it, etc., but put them all together and there may be some health risk.

So for me it's not about elimination but minimization, especially in tiny bodies.

Posted by: Shandra | April 30, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

re: Gerber baby food


"The #7 recycling symbol, from what I've read many times over, is a "catch all" number. When a plastic is labelled with this number it typically means there are more than one type of plastic used. Sometimes there is BPA in it. Sometimes there isn't. Researchers suggest avoiding #7 since there is no way to know if there is BPA in it or not unless you speak directly to the company.

In the case of Gerber, the plastic used for the baby food containers is made with a combination of #1 and #2 plastics. This being a combination of plastic lands the completed product in the #7 territory. In this case, there is no Bisphenol-A in the Gerber plastic baby food containers. Sonya Lunder confirmed that for me when we spoke, as well as a reader who wrote to me recently to say that she called Gerber directly. They assured her that both the baby food packs and their breastmilk storage bags (both labelled #7) are in fact BPA Free."

Posted by: PhD Chemist | April 30, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX, I actually think anon at 11:29 am has a good point: why give something you would not serve to your own kids to those who are poor? Sloppy seconds is morally/ethically acceptable? I have switched from Avent to a BPA-free brand, and I have wondered myself what to do with the bottles I have. Toss them? *cringe* Give them away knowing they are potentially dangerous? *double cringe* Send them back to Avent for a refund...tempting!

My moral responsibility to others does not stop at the doorstep to my house. I hope yours doesn't either. And ignoring a valid point by labeling them a mosquito (laughs) does not make their point any less valid. It is hard to decide what to do. Easier for me since all my bottles were either gifts or second hand from garage sales, so very little money is going down the drain. But still, which decision is morally preferable?

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | April 30, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

With regard to hormones in meat, this may be depressing for everyone buying organic meat at a premium, but the vast majority of hormones in any piece of meat were generated by the animal itself and break down in the digestive system, and the level will vary more by the age and sex of the animal than by whether it was raised organically or not. If you're concerned about antibiotic use (which I think is a greater public health concern), yes, organics are a good option; if you're worried about hormone intake, however, eating less meat is your answer.

Rumicat's point about driving illustrates the fact that we classically react much more strongly to unfamiliar risks than familiar ones. We're all hyperventilating now about the dangers from plastic - a century ago parents worried themselves sick about food-borne diseases and spoilage - life-threatening risks that modern (plastic)packaging and distribution have gone a long way (albeit imperfectly) to address. Nothing in life is free.

Posted by: lurkette | April 30, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

I am not going to apologize for giving my plastic stuff to the Catholic Charity. I am grateful that I have the means to buy something else for my children, and wanted to possibly provide for someone who may not give a hoot about plastic, who may be more concerned with where their next meal is coming from. My first job was teaching in an extremely poor, rural school district and I assure you they would not be interested in my worries about plastic.

I'm sure it would be nice if I went and bought a bunch of Sigg bottles and Fiestaware and dropped them off, but I don't have the money to do everything I want. C'est la vie.

If there is some moral/ethical imperative to not recycle my stuff, I can't wait to hear it.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Just learned that my kids pediatric dentist has discontinued using sealants because of the BPA concerns. Had no idea that was a component of dental sealants. That seems even more disturbing than drinking from a cup. It resides in your mouth all the time and whenever you drink or eat something hot. . . you get the picture. My kids had some sealants applied in the past (they are in high school and middle school) Very troubling and something I am going to look into some more.

Posted by: ChevyChaseWorkingMom | April 30, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

In my last pregnancy, I drank out of one of these #7 plastic bottles every day. My daughter who is otherwise healthy and smart, was born with "breast buds" - little breasts. She is now 3, so they do not look as large on her frame, and the pediatrician said she would be more concerned if she had other signs of puberty which she doesn't. However, I do believe there is a connection. Also, I'm not sure if anyone else read the story about fish in rivers being found having both male and female characteristics.

I've now bought myself a stainless drinking bottle from Klean Kanteen.

Posted by: D | April 30, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Wow, too much to worry about. I did not the hormones in meat could hurt an adult too. I will have to look more into it.

My SIL gave me a bunch of Avent breast storage containers. It is to put pumped breast milk and store it in the freezer. I was wondering if I could use them. I would not be defrosting the milk by heating it up. I would just put it in the fridge until it defrosted. What do you think?

I used the Lansinol plastic bags with my first daughter. It was fine but you always needed to buy them.

My pump (medella-pump in style) can hook up directly to either medella or Gerber clear view bottles. So I went with the Gerber clear view to pump directly into. It was a tad cheaper then the Medella breast milk storage bottles (which I read were also BPA free).

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2008 1:56 PM | Report abuse

If there is some moral/ethical imperative to not recycle my stuff, I can't wait to hear it.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 1:10 PM

So you think it's morally and ethically acceptable to give to charity something that you consider to be dangerous?

It looks like we'll just have to agree to disagree. If I have something that I feel is dangerous to use, I dispose of it in some fashion so that nobody else will use it and be exposed to the risks from it. You prefer to "recycle" dangerous items and allow other people to be exposed to the risks.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh, really, anonymous at 2:22? Pray tell, how on earth are you going to dispose of PLASTIC in a way that no one else will use it or be exposed to the risks from it? What a crock. Either you don't understand basic science or you've got knowledge that no one else has in the world, in which case you need to market it and make yourself rich. Then you can go buy a real pedestal from on which you can perch and pass your snivelling judgments upon people.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: | April 30, 2008 2:22 PM

I think you missed the point in WorkingMomX's last post. Different people have different priorities. Having been poor, I can tell you that having food to eat is way more important than the kind of tableware you put it on. If free tableware lets someone use that money to put food on the table, that's a good thing.

Of course you don't want to give away something that is truly, demonstrably dangerous -- if I had one of those DIY nuclear fission kits that they sold in the 50s (true!!), it would get disposed of, not given to charity. But that's not this. The science is not yet determinative on what degree of risk exists (if any), or whether normal uses that don't involve heating up the plastic pose the same risk as heating it. WorkingMomX might look at the science and think, I don't know if there's a risk or not, but since I can afford to avoid it, I will. Someone else might see the same stuff and not care, because they don't think the science is clear yet, because they don't heat stuff up in plastic, or because it's just not even on their radar screen.

Where reasonable minds can differ about the danger, I see zero problem with giving away stuff to charity. At least it gives a poorer mom a choice: she can decide whether she wants to use this stuff given the possible risks, or she can take a pass and use her own disposable income -- if she has any -- to buy different dishes. If you consider donating it, but then decide to pitch it instead, you're taking away that choice -- you're declaring that you know best, that you have decided that this presents an unreasonable hazard that no one should be exposed to, and so you'd rather put it in a landfill than let someone else chose to eat off of it. Seems a tad paternalistic to me.

Posted by: Laura | April 30, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I can see myself agreeing with WorkingMomX in some sense.

I have read reports that Crocs are potentially dangerous to young kids. As part of a family that is struggling, we accepted donations from another family whose little girl outgrew her clothes. One of the things given was a pair of Crocs. If I have to choose between barefeet and Crocs, she is going to be wearing the Crocs. Sometimes, you aren't in the position where you can be picky. You take what you are given and are happy you have something as opposed to nothing.

Posted by: Billie | April 30, 2008 3:05 PM | Report abuse

And Laura you said that so much more eloquently than myself!!

Posted by: Billie | April 30, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Now, as for BPA, there is no benefit to me having a baby bottle that contains BPA. In other words, I don't have to have BPA bottles. Therefore, continued consumption of drinks from BPA bottles is a considerably less reasonable risk, as there are alternatives.

Comparing necessary risks to unnecessary ones is just stupid.

Is it? Who defines what a "necessary" and "unnecessary" risk is. I was calling you on your faulty logic and you repeated it, making a fool of yourself in the process, sputtering about "necessary" vs "unnecessary" risks. There is no such terminology in the field of risk management, so you're off in the cornfield making stuff up.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes, you aren't in the position where you can be picky. You take what you are given and are happy you have something as opposed to nothing.

Posted by: Billie | April 30, 2008 3:05 PM

You are totally missing the point. WorkingMomX isn't receiving, she's giving. She isn't saying "I need plates for my kids so I'm using plastic ones even though they are dangerous, but they are all I have." She is saying "I think these plates are too dangerous for my kids to use so I'm going to give them to other people to use."

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

some poor uninformed moms have no knowledge that BPA is bad, so they do not really have a "choice" unless these giveaways come with a warning.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you - golden rule.

If I am a poor mom, I do not want others to dump potiential dangerous items that they themselves will not use. Please be kind to poor babies and do not dump to charities.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Not missing the point at all.

My friend gave us something that was potentially dangerous. I have no idea if she gave it to us because her child outgrew it or because she thought it was too dangerous for her child. I am not even sure if I care what her motivations were. And we happily took it despite the potential risk because Crocs are better than no shoes at all.

And if my friend hadn't given us the Crocs because she thought they were too dangerous? Is that her decision to make for us? She gives... and we decide if want to take that risk. The recipients of WorkingMomX's dishes also have the right to not take those dishes if they aren't safe. If they are more interested in the dishes than they are in the possibility of health issues... that is their decision and not necessarily one that WorkingMomX should make for them.

As Laura said... we aren't taking about nuclear kits here that are obviously known dangerous.

Posted by: Billie | April 30, 2008 4:18 PM | Report abuse

I rarely side with WorkingMomX, but criticizing her for recycling instead of filling up a landfill is pretty silly if not entirely without conscious thought. This reminds me of my neighbor who threw out her late husband's classic 1950s hats, suits and ties because they were "junk" and was totally pissed when I trash picked them and sold them on ebay, because she was CONVINCED they were trash and whether other people felt that way or not, she was "right." And conversely, my ebay customers were wrong.

I do not believe that BPA poses a health risk given all that I've read on the subject.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Good Lord, could we be more patronizing today? Now we need to protect poor, uninformed moms from the possibility that they may make a bad choice?

Poor does not equal stupid. A poor mom who cares about BPA is just as able as a wealthier mom to read the newspaper or hop on-line at the library and figure out what to look out for. It's just that most poor moms have bigger things to worry about. When you are trying to figure out whether you can I afford to take your sick kid to the doctor, whether some component in some plastics might leach out under some circumstances is just really not cause for a lot of angst.

And no, WorkingMoomX is NOT saying "these things are too dangerous for my kids, so let's dump them on some ignorant poor mom who doesn't know any better." She's saying there may be a risk, there may not, and she's respecting the fact that other people might reach a different decision and find them useful.

Seriously, a little perspective is in order. If you actually have time, energy, and disposable income to worry about BPA in plastics, at least realize that you're among the luckiest .000001% of people on the face of the planet. And if you're going to protect poor moms from themselves, start with the stuff that really matters. Once every poor kid is in a carseat, once every poor mom has stopped smoking, once every poor kid gets his immunizations, once every poor mom has stopped buying prepackaged processed crap and started buying food with actual nutritional value -- heck, once every poor kid comes home to food on the table every night -- THEN I'll spare a little bit of thought about how to protect poor women from BPA in plastics.

Posted by: Laura | April 30, 2008 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I am as well puzzled by WorkingmomX given those plastic things away instead of throwing them away. Life is unpredictable and then there's karma. When you're a parent somethings are beyond your control. While WorkingmomX may be trying to get rid of potential poisons by passing it on to others less fortunate; down the line it may potentially find it's way back to her and her love ones by marriage,surrogacy or other means. You can plan, but you can't know how life will turn out. We are more connected than we would like.

Posted by: lilac | April 30, 2008 4:34 PM | Report abuse

"Poor does not equal stupid. A poor mom who cares about BPA is just as able as a wealthier mom to read the newspaper or hop on-line at the library and figure out what to look out for".

The key word is UNINFORMED. Not all have access to newspaper, library or Internet. Think rural or even Third Worlds. When you dump dangerous items to them, you have taken away their "choice" because they have no knowledge of potential dangers.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 4:50 PM | Report abuse

No way am I giving up on dental sealants - BPA or no BPA. After two moderate stays in the pediatric ward and IV antibiotics for systemic reactions to a tooth infection - I'll take the BPA risk any time. We brush, but my kids got unlucky in the tooth resistance gene pool. And if my dentist tries to take that choice away from me, well I'll just switch dentists.

I agree with Billie and WorkingMomX, very paternalistic to thrift store shoppers to say plastic dishes can't be given away. Let people choose whether or not to take them.

Posted by: inBoston | April 30, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

WorkingMomX and others:

Regarding hormones in milk and organic milk, I wanted to point out something. "Organic" milk does not mean just no hormones. In fact, much of the "regular" milk found in grocery stores is also hormone-free. The milk sold at Publix (grocery store in my area) is all hormone-free. However, it is "regular" milk.

So, for those of you complaining about the cost of organic milk, make sure you realize that you're not paying for the lack of hormones. You're paying for all the other stuff that makes it "organic" (e.g. cows happily grazing in pastures, living lives of endless happiness, etc.).

Posted by: Ryan | April 30, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

WorkingmomX is recycling poisons because she is fully aware that there is a potential risk. Canada bans it and now USA senators working on it. If the charties receiving tons of these items and nobody wants them, what do they do next? Dump to remote rural Third Worlds with expection that those poor moms there are not ignorant and are well informed? My point is what right WorkingmomX has to recycle something that she herself will not use? If she is giving it away to someone with a warning that it contains BPA, I have no issue. But if she gives it away to an ignorant mom, rich or poor, with NO KNOWLEDGE, this is a different matter. So why gamble for sake of "recycling"?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

"WorkingmomX is recycling poisons because she is fully aware that there is a potential risk."

Wait -- so "potential risk" is the same as "recycling poisons"? Umm, wow.

Ok, how about this: I realize that driving my car every day poses a higher risk of imminent death or injury to me and my family than anything else I do, hands down. Absolutely known danger, with irrefutable statistics to bear that out. So I decide to move downtown, so I can walk to work, walk to stores, etc. I no longer need my car. But, boy, I sure wouldn't want to expose anyone else to such horrible dangers. So since I know the risks and have consciously decided to save myself and my family from them, I should -- indeed, ethically must -- send my car to the junkyard, so others who might not have access to the same information I do, or who can't be trusted to make a rational decision if they knew of the risks, won't be exposed to those risks.

Posted by: Laura | April 30, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Uh, not quite Laura. The flaw in your analogy is that every car has pretty much the same risks associated with its use. (Yes, some cars are safer than others, but for the most part they are pretty comparable.) WorkingMomX feels that the plates made from plastic #7 are significantly more dangerous than other plates.

A better analogy would be that you have a car where the brakes don't work right, so you get a new car with working brakes. Then you give your old car to someone else, knowing full well it poses a safety risk to them and their children.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 9:25 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Billie and WorkingMomX, very paternalistic to thrift store shoppers to say plastic dishes can't be given away. Let people choose whether or not to take them.

Posted by: inBoston | April 30, 2008 5:01 PM

So if someone gave you some plates and said, "I don't want my kids to eat off these because they leach poison into the food, so I thought I'd give them to you", that wouldn't bother you?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Hi, it's the poisoner of the poor here. Just in case the anonymous troll or karma girl checks the blog tomorrow, I wanted to add a couple of things.

First of all, I think you need to get out among the poor and you will find that your ideals of the poor do not match the reality. It would be great if we all had the means and desire to outfit every needy person with organic cloth and safe plastics and build them "green" homes to live in as you all seem to want to do. Until such a day comes, I will continue to give my used stuff, plastic and otherwise, to various charities.

Anonymous troll said "My point is what right WorkingmomX has to recycle something that she herself will not use?"

God, you're so right, how dare I give away things I won't use or have no use for in case someone less fortunate might be able to use them? What gives me the right to think of others? Honey, it's a good thing most people don't think the way you do.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | April 30, 2008 10:27 PM | Report abuse

Is it possible to agree to disagree on the point of what to do with the stuff containing BPA that we conclude we don't want in our homes and quit calling each other names?

I think this is a pretty close call about what to do with the stuff. I hope that we are all over reacting about BPA and that it turns out to be fine. I'm not willing to take that risk but I don't know for anything close to sure that the stuff I am getting rid of is harmful to anyone (unlike things that have been recalled such as those toys containing magnets, etc). WorkingMomX and the others are very persuasive that poorer moms may well conclude that they will take the risk with BPA plates and use the extra money to buy hormone free milk or organic apples or just food in general. On the other hand, there are a lot of moms who don't have time to follow all this and those working themselves sick to just make the rent might well fall into that catagory so they might not be making an informed choice if they pick up the donated plastic cups.

I ultimately concluded I was going to toss my stuff but I didn't feel good about it, just for me it felt less bad than donating it. I see how others feel differently.

Let it go.

Posted by: Mary | May 1, 2008 12:59 AM | Report abuse

Just in case anyone is still reading. We were given a portacrib that had a broken side. We used it to store toys when my daughter was young. When we finally got a toy box for her, we did throw it out because we felt it would be dangerous (as it was intended to be used) to anyone else. Same with the cradle that we got.

We were also given Avent bottles (which have BPA in them) with breast milk storage caps. I know my SIL would like to pass them on to her other SIL after we are done with them. (We are still unsure if we will use them to freeze breast milk). Anyway, I will give the bottles back to my SIL but pass the article on to her other SIL and let her make the decision.

Really, I think you need to take things on a case by case basis. I know I lent my cousin a ton of stuff for her first baby. She was very worried about health and safety as she was a new mom. I told her that I would never pass anything to anyone (even charity) if I thought it was dangerous.

But BPA in plastic plates is a toss up. No one really knows how dangerous it is and at what levels. I really don't think WorkingMomX is doing anything wrong. These were not baby bottles. These were plates and cups. And we still are only speculating on the dangers of BPA.

Yes, we decided to use BPA free bottles for our next baby ( we did with our first as well-although unknowningly). But for a $1 a bottle we figured it was a reasonable to err on the cautious side. But if it was a matter of feeding my daughter or my family versus BPA free plates, darn it I would feed my family. Because the risk of malnutrition is a quantativable known risk.

Posted by: foamgnome | May 1, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Thank you to moms who decided to throw away these plastic items instead of giving them to charities. There are probably millions of these items available for recycling. Do we have 4 millions babies per year in USA? Multiple by the number of plastic items, we have millions. Question is will these items be shipped out to Third Worlds? I hope not. I have seen first hand how poor/undernourish these kids are. Their Governments/charities/churches provide some of their basic need. It is not like they are swapping money for food. What they do not need is more potential harmful items. They are uninformed groups and they will not be able to tell the difference between good plastic and bad ones. BPA? How do you explain to them in their languages? They will use these items and pass them to the next generations for years. When in doubt, it is better to dump them in the trash.

Posted by: troll | May 1, 2008 9:06 AM | Report abuse


you clearly don't have a clue what you're talking about as evidenced by the above post. Why won't you please just stop talking?

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Sorry if my message is confusing. Think global. To sum up, it is not OK to dump/ship potential dangerous plastic items to third world countries if nobody in USA wants those plastic. Some poor people in third world countries are not well informed as us. They will not question or know if those plastic items have potiental safety risks. They will use those donated items and pass to their generations to be used again and again, thinking that these items are 'safe'. Everyone on this post has a choice of making an intelligent decision - to use or throw away. Those in third world countries, they have no such knowledge, so they do not get to make a choice to accept them or throw them away. OK. I will stop talking. Thank you.

Posted by: troll | May 1, 2008 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Well, after my note to WorkingmomX about the ethical point the anonymous poster was trying to make, I actually can follow up with what I did do with some of the Avent bottles I have (and have replaced with Green to Grow bottles): I came across a donation solicitation for a homeless refugee who is 9 months pregnant and in no way able to provide for her baby the basic things every baby should have. So I donated the bottle set to her. I think, along the lines of WorkingmomX's rebuttal about priorities and patronizing, that she will have more to worry about than BPA's in plastics. I also think the benefits of a child having access to quality bottles at no cost to the mother outweigh the potential health issues of BPA. I doubt the mother will be using a microwave or other high heat device given her living arrangements! Sighs. So win-win is possible here.

Posted by: CyanSquirrel | May 1, 2008 5:15 PM | Report abuse

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