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.