Don't Buy Hype on Plastic Baby Bottles

Don't Buy Hype on Plastic Baby Bottles

March 14, 2010
Originally published in The Sun Sentinel

Imagine your infant tossing a glass baby bottle. It shatters and you try to clean it up before your child crawls across the floor. Now imagine a plastic bottle falling — no worry. That is why babies have been tossing break-proof plastic bottles for decades — we value safety. Yet now, environmental activists are urging us to go back to glass, and they have convinced some lawmakers to consider banning the plastic.

Greens say a chemical — bisphenol A, or BPA — used to make plastic baby bottles and many other products is dangerous to humans because high doses are dangerous to rats. Yet humans metabolize and pass BPA quickly before it can have any health impact. Rodents do not. This is true for many substances, such as chocolate and peanuts, which are toxic to rodents but safe for humans.

Moreover, the best available science reveals that consumer exposure to BPA is most likely 100 to 1,000 times lower than EPA's estimated safe exposure levels, for both infants and adults. In fact, there isn't any research showing adverse effects on consumers after 60 years of BPA use. Not surprisingly, panels around the world — in Japan, the EU, Canada, Norway, France and more — have not been able to link BPA to any public health ills and have ruled that BPA is safe at current exposure levels.

Still, greens claim BPA is dangerous because it may be weakly "estrogenic," which they suggest impacts human development. Yet the simple fact that a substance might have weak estrogenic qualities is not cause for alarm or bans. If it were, we would need to ban soy, peas, beans and a host of healthy foods. These foods contain so-called "endocrine mimicking" substances similar to BPA but at much higher levels. According to data from the National Academy of Sciences, exposure to natural "endocrine mimicking" chemicals is 100,000 to 1 million times higher than exposure to similar substances found in BPA. It appears that BPA is less dangerous than a few tablespoons of soy milk. And that's pretty darn safe, even for a baby.

No one can blame parents for becoming alarmed about plastics, since all we hear is misinformation and hype. But we can blame our politicians when they fall for hype, fail to do any homework, and force the rest of us to use less safe or inferior products.