As Retailers Drop BPA, Baby Bottles Get New Scrutiny

A mother considers tossing them all; can little Kendall make it to sippy cups first?


Last week, we learned that a chemical called bisphenol A, which is in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics like those used to make many baby bottles, certain reusable water bottles, and even containers for canned foods, may pose health risks. Specifically, the federal government's National Toxicology Program expressed concern that BPA exposure could cause neural and behavioral abnormalities in fetuses, infants, and children.

Since that announcement, Canada has proposed a BPA ban, and retailers Toys "R" Us and Wal-Mart both said they plan to stop selling BPA-containing baby bottles, according to USA Today. Playtex also said it would stop using BPA in its products, and Nalgene, a maker of durable plastic water bottles, said it intends to do the same.

Companies aren't the only ones reacting strongly to the news. Like many other people, I found myself worrying for the safety of the baby in my life. My 14-month-old niece, Kendall, drinks from a bottle before bedtime each night. Would she be better off with new, pricier, BPA-free bottles?

So I asked my sister, Courtney Peterson, who is Kendall's mother, what, if anything, she planned to do in response to the news. "I am concerned about it," she told me. "It is very upsetting that something you think is safe could be harming your child." It's possible that the bottles Kendall drinks from don't even contain BPA, my sister said, but she can't tell from the unclear labels. And since glass bottles would surely break when Kendall throws them across the hardwood floor, my sister has decided against going that route.

Courtney said that she'll stick with the plastic bottles Kendall currently uses for now, since she'll soon transition to sippy cups. But when it comes time to stock up on those cups, my sister says she'll invest in the BPA-free type, especially since we now know that the chemical may be bad for babies.

If you're also worried about how BPA-containing products might affect your child, you can take a look at U.S. News's tips on how to avoid BPA-containing products. I also found a blog called Z Recommends, which in February posted what it calls the third edition of its "Z Report on BPA in Children's Feeding Products"—a guide to products that don't contain the controversial chemical.

For those on the go—perhaps in a store, browsing baby bottles or other products—Z Recommends also offers a free tool that permits people to send a text message from their cellphones to check a product's BPA status. The blog lists brands that make BPA-free products and assigns a rating based on the "company's overall relevance to parents who are committed to reducing the BPA exposure of children in their lives." To meet the blog's definition of BPA free, not only the main body of the item but all other parts must be free of the chemical.

—January W. Payne