Monday, November 8, 2010

Are your baby bottles safe?


With more studies finding BPA harmful, what should you do to lesson the exposure to your children
Over the past few years there has been growing awareness about the chemical BPA, particularly in plastic bottles, and its potential dangers.
BPA – or Bisphenol A (BP) – is an industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic resins, epoxy resins, and other products.
Polycarbonate plastic is a lightweight, high-performance plastic that is super tough and can withstand high temperatures.
Polycarbonate is used in a wide variety of products including CDs, DVDs, electrical and electronic equipment, cars and sports equipment.
BPA is also found in items or containers that come into contact with food such as drinking vessels, baby bottles, plastic tableware and the internal coating on tins for canned food and baby formula.
It is thought that BPA and other toxins can leach into the liquid contained within as the plastic breaks down or is heated – like when you leave your plastic water bottle in the sun.
Bottle sterilisers could also have the same effect on the plastic.
The older a product gets and the more it is heated or washed, the more this leaching occurs.
The first scare over BPA came in May 2008 after the US Government released draft findings by the National Toxicology Program, part of the US National Institutes of Health, that showed possible health risks from BPA.
The NTP said: “There is some concern for neural and behavioural effects in fetuses, infants and children at current human exposures.”
Laboratory rodents exposed to BPA levels similar to human exposures developed pre-cancerous lesions in the prostate and mammary glands, among other things.
The Canadian health ministry declared BPA a dangerous substance, making it the first regulatory body in the world to ban BPA in food containers and bottles.
And now for the first time, a study in humans suggests that BPA reduces a man’s fertility.

The study, by the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in the US, showed men with high levels of BPA in urine and semen were more likely to have fewer sperm overall, fewer live sperm and poor semen quality.
Earlier studies by the same researchers also linked higher BPA levels with sexual functioning problems such as low libido or impotence.
Of the 514 men who were part of the study, some worked in factories that exposed them to BPA, and had levels that were within the range allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has evaluated the safety of BPA in food, including that consumed by infants from baby bottles and concluded that levels of intake of BPA are very low and do not pose a risk to public health for any age group.
However, FSANZ is liaising closely with national and international regulators and Australian industry on this issue in order to assess new evidence and exposure levels in Australia.
So from June 30 this year, the Australian Government announced the phase out by major Australian retailers of polycarbonate plastic baby bottles containing BPA.
Earlier this year the ACCC completed a study which shows no detectable amounts of BPA migrate from typical infant feeding bottles, sip cups and two leading brands of infant formula.
In terms of potential infant exposure to BPA, there was no noticeable difference in safety between the use of glass, non-polycarbonate plastic and polycarbonate plastic infant feeding vessels.
FSANZ is currently undertaking a targeted analytical survey of the levels of BPA in food available in Australia including infant foods, foods packaged in polycarbonate plastics, steel cans with epoxy lining and some glass bottles with metal lids.
Results from this survey are expected to be released by the end of this year.
Some studies have concluded that the degree to which BPA migrates from plastic containers into liquid appears to depend more on the temperature of the liquid, such as pouring boiling water into a bottle.
And while there is some evidence of elevated leaching at high temperatures, any leaching is far below the limits set by EFSA and the FDA.
However, Professor Frederick Vom Saal of the University of Missouri has been studying endocrine disruptors for more than a decade, and said the accumulating evidence of these chemicals presents a “scary array of cancer, brain damage, behavioural changes, behavioural problems, abnormalities of the reproductive system and disease.”
His studies have found a “significant relationship between urine concentrations of the environmental estrogen BPA and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities”.
Prof Vom Saal said BPA has been shown to cause harm in hundreds of animal studies, including effects on male reproductive organs such as the testes and prostate.
The major concern for parents is that BPA seems to be in many of the items their baby comes into contact with on a daily basis.
There are many brands now available in Australia that manufacture BPA-free plastic and they are clearly labelled “BPA-free”.
While it is impractical for many families simply to throw out all their old bottles for new ones, there is also the underlying thought of being safe rather than sorry.
Guide to Recycling codes
The Plastics Identification Code number is stamped on all plastic products to identify the type of resin used. Here are some common products you will find for each type of plastic: 
1: PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) – soft drink and fruit juice bottles 
2: HDPE (High-density polyethylene) – milk bottles, detergents or shampoo containers 
3: PVC (Polyvinyl chloride or plasticised polyvinyl chloride) – cordial, juice or squeeze bottles, toys, furniture, packaging
4: LDPE (Low density polyethylene) – garbage bags and bins, plastic wrap
5: PP (Polypropylene) – ice cream containers, take-away food containers, rope
6: PS (Polystyrene) – yoghurt containers, plastic cutlery, foam hot drink cups, food trays
7: Other – all other plastics, including acrylic and nylon

It has been reported that bottles stamped with a number seven contained BPA, but this is not entirely true.
Not all plastics are the same and your local council may only be able to recycle certain types through your kerbside recycling program. In most areas, plastics labelled 1, 2, and 3 can be recycled, although many councils are now extending their recycling programs to include those labelled 4 through 7. 
Check with your council for details.
Plastic bags, bin liners, and cling wrap are not recyclable. 
Often bottle tops and lids cannot be recycled with the bottle as they may be made of a different type of plastic. 
Polystyrene foam is generally not recyclable. This includes the spongy black foam trays that meat is often packaged in at supermarkets.

Baby bottle safety
When using baby bottles, always follow the instructions on the infant formula for preparation and use. The following advice applies to all baby bottles or cups, whatever type of plastic they are made from:
* Discard any scratched bottles or feeding cups as they may harbour germs.
* Do not put boiling or very hot water, infant formula, or other liquids into bottles while preparing them for your child.
* Before mixing water with powdered infant formula, boil the water and cool it to lukewarm.
* Do not heat baby bottles of any kind in the microwave – the liquid may heat unevenly and burn your baby.
* Sterilise and clean bottles according to instructions.
Other tips to reduce exposure:
* Buy stainless steel bottles and glass food storage containers.
* Switch to fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned.
* Don’t microwave or put hot liquids in plastic containers.

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