By Shilpa Nangali

Wal-Mart, the giant retailer, along with CVS (CVS, Fortune 500) and Toys ‘R Us, announced recently that it plans to stop selling baby bottles containing the chemical bisphenol-A. I see that BPA is the hot topic on baby blogs and forums everywhere.

Bisphenol-A has been widely used since the 1950s. The FDA, as well as Japanese and European regulators, have no problems with it. Canada is about to ban it from baby bottles, but officials term the move purely precautionary.

To be sure, other scientists worry because animal studies have linked small doses of BPA to cancer and other health problems. However, scientific debate isn’t driving the baby bottle war; a hard-hitting push by activist groups, politicians and trial lawyers is!!! Strange fact to accept!

BPA is a chemical used in the manufacturing of most plastics. It is a known neurotoxin and is used to make polycarbonate, a rigid, clear plastic for bottles, bike helmets, DVDs and car headlights. It’s also an ingredient in epoxy resins, which coat the inside of food and drink cans. About 93% of Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control had the chemical in their urine. Independent research is now showing that the chemical leaches into formula contents of bottles. It should be noted that the effect of this ‘leaching’ is yet to be determined. However, parents and others are rightfully concerned about finding the dangerous chemical in things used to feed their babies.

As traditional media picked up the story in the spring, spooked retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500) backed away from BPA, while companies that had done so earlier scored a PR coup that boosted their fortunes. One could argue, as BPA opponents do, that the government is too slow to take action to protect health, so private action by consumers and companies is necessary. Or one could argue, as does Steve Hentges, a chemist and industry lobbyist that “the science can’t compete with the emotion.”

The chemical industry has tried to get its message out, too. See the Web sites http://www.bisphenol-a.org/ and http://www.factsonplastic.com/ , which offer a defense of BPA. But the industry is often depicted as a “special interest group,” while environmentalists and politicians are seen as serving the “public interest.”

It isn’t that simple, of course. Controversy helps a few enviros to raise money, Democratic politicians love to find fault with the Bush administration. And the trial lawyers sense a big payday. The problem for the chemical industry is that its track record doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. The Dingell-Stupak investigation of BPA looked at what the congressmen call “science for sale,” finding examples of consultants promising clients how research would turn out. Needless to say, this is not how science is supposed to work.


This became a key element of the attack on BPA. Dingell has said he’s concerned about whether “the science FDA relied on to approve the use of Bisphenol A was bought and paid for by industry.” But, as Dingell must know, the FDA typically uses industry research because it doesn’t have the money to conduct independent studies of the thousands of chemicals on the market. It then reviews what industry produces.

By April, all the news had turned bad for BPA. “There is no safe level of BPA,” declared Dr. Nancy Snyderman, an NBC medical reporter, on the Today show. (Maybe NBC is the new FDA?) The Canadian government recommended its ban on baby bottles with BPA. A lengthy draft report from a part of the National Institutes of Health found “some concern” about the effect of BPA on fetuses, infants and children at current exposure levels. The NTP report is a model of thoroughness and nuance. Naturally, that makes it a flop in the court of public opinion.

With fear in the air, in the space of a few days Wal-Mart, Toy ‘R Us, CVS and others said they will phase out baby bottles containing BPA. Nalgene, a water bottle maker, and Playtex also said they will stop using the chemical.

Marc Gunther, senior writer, asked Wal-Mart – why the company is removing a legal product, which may or may not be dangerous, while continuing to sell cigarettes, which are incontrovertibly harmful. “We sell products our customers want to buy,” responded spokeswoman Linda Brown Blakley. “Our customers are telling us they want this option.”

That won’t end the war. You can expect to see anti-BPA forces keep up the pressure. Will soup, soda and beer cans be next? And is this any way to make judgments about public health?

However, I would like to mention the tips through which you can effectively minimize your baby’s exposure to BPA:

(1)Do get rid of old, scratched baby bottles and replace them with new ones. The leeching of chemicals isn’t instantaneous but rather happens with wear and tear over several washings. Scratches can also harbor bacteria.

(2)Bottles that have a disposable ‘drop in’ system, have not at this point been shown to leach chemicals. This is likely because of just getting used once.

(3)Do not heat or microwave foods in plastic containers but rather use glass or ceramic microwave safe bowls, and plates.

Of course this is yet another reason why breast-feeding is best. Breast milk doesn’t contain chemicals that can harm your baby. Breastfeeding has been linked statistically to numerous health benefits including making your baby smarter, being developmentally advanced, reduced allergies, reduced risk of cancer and just about everything else under the sun that could be healthy and good for your baby. While formula cannot come close to mimicking breast milk perhaps another variable in the “breast is better” statistics is that hard plastic bottles have now been found to leak a dangerous chemical into the bottle’s liquid.

Powdered formulas are the best choice for parents who want to avoid bisphenol A in their baby’s diet. While powdered formula has not been tested for BPA, it is diluted with much more water than liquid formulas which reduces the amount of BPA that the baby consumes in each feeding. Nestlé has made unsubstantiated claims that they don’t use any BPA to line their powdered formula cans. Nestlé, Enfamil and Similac use a mixed metal and cardboard package with less BPA-coating. Second best are Earth’s Best Organic and PBM’s store-brand powdered formulas that use a fully metal can.

Some liquid formulas are sold in plastic, mostly polyethylene and polypropylene which do not contain any BPA. Avoid any plastic containers that are rigid and transparent, marked with “PC”. All liquid formulas sold in metal cans are lined with BPA-epoxy, which has been shown to leach into the product. If you buy formula in metal cans choose the concentrated type which is diluted with water prior to feeding. Avoid ready-to-eat formula in metal cans, which has the highest BPA leaching potential.

The majority of government funded studies found some of the following side effects from BPA:

  1. Increased prostate size
  2. Decreased sperm count
  3. Early onset of puberty
  4. Hormonal changes
  5. Behavioral problems
  6. Estrogen level changes

It has been proven that BPA does “leach” from bottles and cans into food and liquids. The plastics industry does not deny that BPA does leach which results in it being ingested, but they claim that these levels are well within guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

There are seven different labels for plastics:

* 1 PETE: Commonly used in soft drink, juice and water containers.

* 2 HDPE: Commonly used in opaque plastic milk and water jugs.

* 3 PVC or V: Commonly used for cling wrap.

* 4 LDPE: Commonly used in grocery store bags and plastic wraps.

* 5 PP: Commonly used in “cloudy” plastic containers such as baby bottles.

* 6 PS: Commonly used in disposable cups and Styrofoam.

* 7 Other: Usually polycarbonate. Commonly used in most plastic baby bottles, clear plastic sippy cups and water
bottles

As a general rule of thumb, you should use bottles and containers that are labeled 1, 2, 4 or 5. Avoid using bottles and containers labeled 3, 6 or 7.

If you do need to use polycarbonate bottles:

* Throw away bottles that are old and/or scratched. When plastic is worn, BPA will leach more easily.

* Avoid using polycarbonate containers in the microwave.

* Avoid cleaning with harsh detergents as this will cause the plastic to wear.

* Avoid placing high temperature liquids in polycarbonate containers.

As I said earlier, there is a lot of controversy and conflicting reports regarding BPA. This will probably continue to be a hot topic for some time to come and it is clear that more research is needed

The sad truth is many a times our world is a playground of hazardous chemicals! I

We must be careful not to expose our children to chemical cleaners, insecticides, and weed killers on our lawns. Chemicals used in pressure-treated wood used to build lawn furniture, decks, fences, and swing sets have also been shown to place children at risk. When young children are around, we must be vigilant to maintain a chemical-free environment.

SO TO BE A SAFE MAMA: “Think”… abt ur “baby”… with every decision u make.

References: Fortune Magazine, Baby.families.com, Ezinearticles.com, Diseaseproof.com, Mindfully.org and EWG.org.

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