Apr 182008

Bisphenol-A, a chemical found in many of those hard plastic water bottles (look for polycarbonates with the recycling number 7, although not all of those have BPA in them) has been in the news recently, culminating in today’s announcement of a ban of baby bottles containing BPA by Health Canada. This continues a trend from a US National Toxicology Program report that expressed concern, although it stopped short of calling BPA dangerous. Since, like many households, we have quite a few of these bottles around, and since the chemical is supposed to be particularly dangerous to infants, I figured I should see which of the many plastic bottles and baby bottles we have might be safe. The polycarbonate bottles are deservedly popular; they don’t have the “plastic” taste that bottles made of #5 plastics do (although those are said to be completely safe since they don’t leach), and they are unbreakable, unlike glass.

Looking at various manufacturer’s web sites shows you who’s prepared and who’s sticking their heads in the sand hoping it will all blow over. In the prepared category, Rubbermaid gets full marks for having a clear page listing all the products with and without BPA. Nalgene (made famous in Vancouver when MEC, a major local store took all the bottles off its shelves because of BPA) states they’re phasing out BPA and promises to have new non-BPA products using tritan instead of polycarbonate in the stores starting next month. I don’t have any of their bottles, but I know a lot of people do. Camelbak points out on their web site’s front page that not all #7 plastics contain BPA (true), but ignores the fact that there’s no way a consumer can tell which ones do. They’re also introducing a line that uses non-BPA tritan. I gave a friend one of the Camelbak bottles for Christmas and will replace it once the tritan versions come out.

In the middle, since they don’t use BPA, but don’t tell people that on the web site are Medela, who make various breastfeeding pumps and accessories, including bottles. The Brita water filter company has a horrible flash web site with no search button anywhere. The pitcher doesn’t look to me like it’s made out of polycarbonate and that was confirmed from this post. It would make sense for Brita to add that information to their FAQ.

On the unprepared side, Gerber loses points for not even mentioning the issue anywhere on their site; the baby bottles I have from them are number 7 and other sources say they have BPA, so out they go. Tommee Tippee (a U.K. brand for baby bottles ad sipyy cups) has a page from January 2007 in which they say BPA is perfectly safe and that they use it in some products, without mentioning which, so I’m not sure what to do about the ages-old hard plastic sippy cup I have from them. It isn’t polycarbonate, but does it have BPA in it? No idea. Avent is another baby bottle manufacturer that admits they use BPA and say it’s safe. Tommee Tippee isn’t available in Canada anyway, but I guess the other two are going to have some problems in the next little while, as are the retailers that stock them.

There are lots of blogs out there with listings of products that have or do not have BPA (e.g., this one). As with many health issues it’s hard to know how to far to go without going overboard, particularly with various health administrations seemingly differing in their views of what the risk really is. I find it ironic, however, that the manufacturers of products mostly used by adults, where the risk is smaller, seem to be more responsive than those of products used by the infants who are most susceptible.

  9 Responses to “BPA – Who’s Prepared?”

  1. I believe that Brita pitchers do not contain BPA. But another issue regarding Brita is their plastic filter cartridges are not recyclable, filling up our landfills and polluting our planet.

    The Brita Company in Europe has created a take-back recycling program for their filters. But the Brita Company in North America is owned by Clorox, and they do not have such a program.

    Please sign our petition at http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/recycle-used-brita-water-filter-cartridges.html to urge Clorox to take responsibility for its plastic waste as is already being done in Europe.

    For more info, please visit our site at http://www.takebackthefilter.org

    Spread the word!

  2. Not all plastics labeled #7 have BPA in them — it’s sort of a catch-all “other plastics” category. But there’s little way to tell other than that, alas.

    I would definitely ditch the kids’ bottles and cups — of course, our children are older so it’s already too late for any of their young exposure to BPA — but I wouldn’t personally be too freaked out about adult-use water bottles and the like, especially if you use them with cold rather than hot liquids and keep the beverages in them fresh.

    Of course, I already *have* cancer, so I may be a little more blase about this than others. 🙂

  3. It seems that Brita has added a note on the main Flash page that its products do not contain BPA. I don’t know if it’s a recent change. It’s also not clear whether they have ever had BPA..

    I agree with Beth that there should be a recycle program. A few years ago, Home Hardware here in Canada did take back the Brita filters, but they don’t any more. I don’t know where they went when they did run the program (maybe they sent them to Europe).

  4. I got this email from Deer Par. Their 3 and 5-gal bottles contain BPA:
    April 25, 2008

    Dear xxx,

    Thank you for taking the time to contact Deer Park® Brand Natural Spring Water regarding BPA. We welcome questions and comments from loyal consumers and appreciate this opportunity to assist you.

    Recently, the US National Toxicology Program issued a draft brief on the possible health effects of BPA (a chemical that is used in small quantities to make polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins), which expressed some concern for neural and behavioral effects. This evaluation was based solely on animal studies that stated that more research is needed.

    The use of polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resins in food packaging, including those made with BPA, has been and continues to be recognized as safe by the US Food and Drug Administration.

    For more information, please visit The National Institute of Health and Sciences website at http://www.niehs.nih.gov/

    Our clear plastic water bottles are made of #1 PETE = polyethylene terephthalate. Our white (opaque) water bottles are made of #2 HDPE = high density polyethylene. Neither of these types of plastic contains BPA. Our 3 and 5 gallon reusable bottles used for Home Delivery are made of #7 polycarbonate plastic.

    We would like to assure you that we have reported your comments to our Marketing department. We are committed to providing you with products that live up to your high standards for taste, quality, nutrition and enjoyment – in short, “the very best.”

    We appreciate your interest in our products and hope you will visit our website often for the latest information on our products and promotions.


    Kelly Henry
    Consumer Response Representative

  5. You’re not out of the woods with your drinking bottles and sippy cups – BPA is in the linings of food and soda cans, and in many other kinds of plastics.

    I’ve got sleep apnea and the top of my humidifier (which gets to maybe 140 degrees F.) is made of polycarbonate – what’s the danger of inhaling BPA? Has anyone looked? Probably not.

    BPA is problematic because it acts as an estrogen in the body. No telling how much bad stuff springs from this long-term low-level exposure.

  6. Dave: you’re right of course, that lots of things have BPA in them. At this stage, I’m doing what I can to minimise exposure and hoping that’s sufficient. I expect that over time BPA will be replaced by other things; in the meantime limiting the amount of canned foods and drinks works for me as we don’t eat a lot of canned foods anyway (I prefer frozen vegetables, for example).

  7. There was a comment from Joy, that I deleted accidentally, with the content
    “Be advised the 3 gallon reusable bottles that come with the Brita plug in water coolers are a #7 plastic. I have contacted them several times and all they say is that the plastic bottles are safe. Anyone know of an alternate replacement for these bottles?”

  8. Yes! I know great replacements for #7 3 or 5 gallon water bottles. They’re called Better-Bottle. They are recycle #1 PET plastics and very safe and durable.

  9. Check out my site for more info on where to buy a BPA free 5 gallon water bottle

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