Some sleuthing, some PR issues and the Beaba Babycook BPA Free

Beaba BabycookI just read on Healthy Child Healthy World’s blog that the Beaba Babycook is now free of bisphenol A (BPA).  Not familiar with the Babycook?  It is a combination steamer, blender, warmer and defroster for preparing homemade baby food.  I’ve personally never used it, but it gets great reviews over at Amazon.

But, the Babycook has been subject to much frustration among green parents because of confusing information as to whether it was free of the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA.  And Healthy Child guest blogger Jeremiah McNichols of Z Recommends posts a great sleuthing story with a happy ending – the Babycook is now BPA-free. 

The tale Jeremiah tells regarding getting information from Beaba is much the same as my own.  On behalf of a Smart Mama reader in May, 2008, I investigated the Beaba Babycook.  The Williams Sonoma website identified it as having some polycarbonate plastic components, and the reader wanted to know if it was free of bisphenol A (BPA), the hormone disruptor.  She had actually gotten different information from the manufacturer, Beaba.  And, since BPA is a key monomer of polycarbonate plastic, we dashed off an email to find out.

The first response from Beaba was not particularly enlightening:

Dear Customer,

The baby cook bowl is made of a specific and technical raw material but it is not Polycarbonate (PC). Then our product complies with European and USA standard (including FDA).

This email response didn’t really answer the question and I didn’t have any luck with phone calls to Williams Sonoma or Beaba in France.  So, I asked a follow up and then got this response:

Concerning your request, please find attached some elements of answer.

All our products are regularly tested by independent laboratories and comply with the European standards, moreover known as very strict and severe. There is a standard for all the intended nursery items for liquid and solid food. In these specifications, a test is made to determine the quantity of Bisphénol A being able to migrate. It is impossible in Europe to sell a product intended for the children, having a risk of letting a too important quantity of Bisphénol A propagate (the threshold of eligibility of this substance given by the standard is moreover very low).

I give you as information, the main materials used in our products: 

–     Babycook: polypropylene PP and PSU (technical and specific raw material). There is no polycarbonate (PC) in the Baby Cook.

Small and big food jar: Polycarbonate PC.

Indeed the polycarbonate contains it, for the other materials, it is delicate to take position, there is potentially part of bisphénol A in the original components of material but residues are not necessarily present in the final polymer. Sorry for this partial answer but we try to answer to most of the European + the USA (notably for the baby cook) standards.

Having learned that the jars were polycarbonate plastic and that the Babycook itself contains PSU (which can have BPA), the Smart Mama reader decided not to purchase it, and I left the story at that, having become completely fed up.

But Jeremiah reports that Svan, in discussions with Beaba about taking over distribution, got the issue cleaned up.  And Svan confirms that the Babycook is BPA-free.

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As FDA Debates BPA Safety Today, Study Finds Bisphenol A Exposure Linked to Heart Disease & Diabetes

Ironic, isn’t it?  As the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) holds its hearing on the safety of bisphenol A (BPA) today, a major new study involving humans (not animals) finds exposure to BPA increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  So, finally, we have research suggesting that adverse health effects in humans occur as a result of exposure to BPA, the key monomer of polycarbonate plastic.  As the FDA debates whether BPA is safe.  I’m anxious to hear what happens at the FDA’s meeting.  Eager even.  I wish I could be there.  So, yes, I’m a green geek.

As you probably know, low level exposure to BPA has been linked to a host of health problems in laboratory animals, including disrupting hormones.  We are exposed to BPA from leaching of epoxy resin linings present in almost all canned food and beverages, and leaching from polycarbonate plastic, including baby bottles.  In fact, 93% of us have BPA in our systems, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The National Toxicology Program (NTP) recently issued its final report finding “some concern” (a 3 on the NTP’s 5 point scale) for current human exposures to BPA and effects on brain, behavior and the prostate.  Yet, the FDA continues to maintain that BPA is safe, having issued a draft reporting asserting such.  Today the FDA is holding a hearing to discuss its draft report, and many scientists and organizations critical of the FDA’s reliance on industry-supported, non peer reviewed studies are expected to comment.  It should be interesting, to say the least.  Well, at least if you are a green geek.  Being one, I really wish I could be there to hear the robust scientific debate.

At the same time, today a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that higher concentrations of BPA in urine were associated with higher rates of heart disease and diabetes.  Also, the survey of 1,455 US adults tested found a lnk between abnormal liver enzymes in people and BPA.  Basically, this major new study involving humans finds a significant relationship between BPA urine concentrations and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities. 

This major new study provides human data to support the animal studies which find evidence of harm to exposure to BPA.  However, already, the plastics industry has criticized this new study, contending that the study is flawed.

In any event, the outcome of the FDA’s hearing should be interesting.  In the interim, I’ll continue to be safe rather than sorry, and avoid BPA exposure.  How to do that?  Try these Simple Steps

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FDA Finds BPA Safe & Why Andy’s Take Pisses Me Off

Baby drinking from plastic bottleYou may have already read that last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued its draft report finding that bisphenol A (BPA) is safe.   The draft report states “FDA has concluded that an adequate margin of safety exists for BPA at current levels of exposure from food contact uses.”  If you are new to the BPA debate, you might want to review these summaries of the problem of BPA in baby bottles and canned foods and beverages, including infant formula

FDA’s position is not really a surprise.  The draft assessment was released in advance of a meeting of experts in September to discuss the issues.

The same day, Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs Andrew C. von Eschenbach, MD, published his Andy’s Take on BPA:  The Science, Evaluation and Safety.  And I find Andy’s Take extremely annoying, paternalistic and smug.  It starts off with a seemingly good statement that suggests that perhaps the FDA might consider caution is in order:

Since the splitting of the atom to now global warming, society has come to realize that, regarding science and technology, with progress comes peril!

With references to the atom bomb and global warming, you would think that the FDA would urge a cautious approach.  I mean, really, with global warming, weren’t we told it wasn’t a problem for years?

But then Andy’s Take goes on:

My Take on this is that science creates these products and science must inform us of their risks.  With regard to BPA thus far, the science FDA has reviewed does not justify recommending that anyone discontinue using these products . . .

And it just bothers me.  He seems to have it completely backwards.  If science creates these products, then science should inform us of their risks.  But not after the fact.  Science should inform us BEFORE we put the products on the shelves. 

And more importantly, it is interesting that he emphasizes “the science FDA has reviewed. . .”  I suppose that gives the FDA the out – if it hasn’t reviewed the science, then it can continue to say it is safe.  And the FDA has been criticized because its review of the BPA science conveniently ignores over a hundred peer reviewed studies involving low dose exposures to BPA in laboratory animals, while relying exclusively on industry-funded studies.  And these studies include those funded by the well-regarded National Toxicology Program.  If those studies are considered, then the margin of safety heavily relied on by the FDA does not exist.

Okay, so I understand that isn’t how it happens in the United States.  We don’t require safety to be demonstrated before an item is sold.  But it just galls me that Andy’s Take doesn’t include any recognition that a parent might be concerned . . . especially since that FDA’s assessment underestimates that amount of BPA ingested by babies.  The FDA’s own analyses of infant formula show that prepared liquid formula can contain BPA as high as 13 parts per billion (ppb) BPA, yet in this draft assessment, the FDA uses 2.5 ppb.

I think the September meeting of experts will be very interesting.  In the interim, don’t you want to ask “Andy” whether his 6 grandchildren used or use polycarbonate plastic bottles that may leach BPA? 

My own conclusion, as I’ve previously stated, I’d rather be safe than sorry.  With so many available alternates for polycarbonate plastic bottles and canned foods and beverages, why take the risk?  I’m not advocating elimination of polycarbonate plastic from all applications – I certainly don’t see a risk of exposure from polycarbonate plastic in helmets or DVDs – but when it comes to food contact items, I’ll take the alternatives. 


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New York Times Says Don’t Worry About BPA Leaching From Polycarbonate Plastic – I Disagree

I’m more than a little annoyed at The New York Times.  Without elaborating on the first reason much, the NYT published just a dumb article about BlogHer ’08.  Then, the second reason I’m annoyed, the NYT publishes Tierney’s 10 Things to Scratch from Your Worry List, and includes bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic bottles.

Tierney contends that BPA in polycarbonate plastic bottles isn’t a problem.  Although he doesn’t specifically include plastic baby bottles, his comments necessarily include them:

For years panels of experts repeatedly approved the use of bisphenol-a, or BPA, which is used in polycarbonate bottles and many other plastic products. Yes, it could be harmful if given in huge doses to rodents, but so can the natural chemicals in countless foods we eat every day. Dose makes the poison.

But this year, after a campaign by a few researchers and activists, one federal panel expressed some concern about BPA in baby bottles. Panic ensued. Even though there was zero evidence of harm to humans,  Wal-Mart pulled BPA-containing products from its shelves, and politicians began talking about BPA bans. Some experts fear product recalls that could make this the most expensive health scare in history.

And it is just irritating, to say the least.  His summary ignores the countless animal studies that have associated low level BPA exposure to adverse health effects.  His summary also ignores that fetuses and babies – the group that the federal panel did indeed express “some concern” over (a 3 on the 5 point scale they use) – don’t have the necessary enzyme to process BPA – an enzyme a healthy adult has.  Although, I should point out, that the European Food Safety Authority recently issued its opinion that BPA is safe, and based its opinion in part on the conclusion that the mom would metabolize any BPA before it could be passed to the fetus.  His summary also ignores that BPA is found in the linings of all canned foods and beverages with very limited exceptions, including infant formula, so that a formula fed baby will get BPA from the baby bottle and the formula container.  (And, to be fair, I should also point out that perhaps he is including this in his analysis but it isn’t mentioned.)

Adiri Natural NurserSo the risk may be small in comparison to other risks.  That being said, and even with the opinion of the EFSA, for infant, is it a risk worth taking?  To me, with so many options available for BPA-free bottle, it seems like a silly risk to take.  When you consider that BPA was considered along with DES as a synthetic estrogen for problem pregnancies, it is probably a risk no parent wants to knowingly take.  We know that DES was chosen over BPA and declared safe for pregnant women . . . look where that got us. 

Okay, so perhaps Tierney is right.  We shouldn’t worry about because we know the solution – choose to avoid BPA containing polycarbonate plastic.  That’s the Adiri Natural Nurser in the photo – but there are lots of options for BPA-free baby bottles. 

My conclusion – Tierney can keep his old Nalgene bottle.  I’ll choose my Klean Kanteen.  And, by the way, TreeHugger debunks 4 more of his 10 things Tierney claims you don’t have to worry about.


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Here PVC, PVC, PVC – Where are you hiding? Poison Plastic Present in more than Shower Curtains

I posted recently about the report finding phthalates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy metals, including, lead in vinyl or PVC shower curtains, and VOCs offgassing from the shower curtain after installation.  The toxic content and emissions reported from vinyl shower curtains have been widely circulated on the blogosphere.  If you haven’t read about it yet, check out report.

However, a recently released report from Environmental & Human Health, Inc., entitled Plastics that may be Harmful to Children and Reproductive Health reminded just how many products in our home can be made of vinyl.  The report focuses on bisphenol A (BPA), found in polycarbonate plastic, and phthalates, found in vinyl products.  But I’m going to focus on vinyl products right now, and other products in your home that may be made of vinyl.

A very brief summary of the issues with vinyl:  Vinyl is considered the most toxic of the plastics, from manufacture to disposal.  But, for purposes of this blog, I’m just focusing on the potential exposures to toxic chemicals from using vinyl products.  Using vinyl products can expose you to phthalates, heavy metals such as lead or cadmium, and VOCs.  Heavy metals are present as stabilizers in vinyl.  They are not bound up in the polymer and can migrate to the surface where they can be picked up.  Phthalates are added to vinyl to make it soft and flexible.  Phthalates are also not bound up in the polymer, and can off gas or be picked up.  Low dose exposures to phthalates have been linked to adverse health effects in laboratory animals, and researchers have reported associations between phthalate exposures and various reproductive type defects or problems in humans.  Phthalate exposures have also been linked to increased risk of asthma.

And we are exposed to phthalates.  Phthalates and their metabolites have been found in urine, saliva, and breast milk.  And, our children appear to have the highest exposure.  It has been reported that the highest intake of DEHP, one widely used phthalate, is children six months to four years old.  The rate of uptake of DEHP by nursery school age children is two times that of adults.

A Smart Mama tries to eliminate vinyl as much as possible.  Okay, so what are the come sources of vinyl in the home?

  • Soft plastic toys.  The European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers has stated that almost all soft plastic toys are made with PVC, including dolls, bath ducks, inflatable toys, balls, and baby care items.  Also, a lot of small figures are vinyl.  For example, my son’s dinosaur figures were vinyl.  I know it is hard to tell by looking.  But, most soft, flexible plastic toys are PVC.  Almost universally, soft bath toys are PVC.  So what can a Smart Mama do?  Try these substitutes: cloth dolls, vinyl free dolls (available on line), wood spoons for the bath, safer plastic cups and bowls for the bath (my kids LOVE a silicone turkey baster I bought at Target), etc.  For teethers, try silicone, rubber, wood, cloth (put a little water on a corner and freeze for a soothing teether).

  • Rain guards for strollers.  As far as I can tell, almost all on the market are vinyl.

  • Food packaging/storage.  Always check to make sure it isn’t vinyl.

  • Waterproof coatings on mattress pads, changing pads, etc., are often vinyl.  Other options are available, including polyethylene (a safer plastic, but still a plastic).

  • Lunch box liners and other portable soft food storage containers are often lined with vinyl.  Check the fabric content on the label before you buy.  If you have one, and need to continue to use it, make sure any food placed in it is wrapped up.  If you are buying new, vinyl free options are available – just look.

  • Rain gear.  Always skip any rain gear made of vinyl.  The classic yellow rain jacket?  Often vinyl.

  • Pleather or faux leather.  Particularly in children’s garments, faux leather is often vinyl.  Check the fabric label for “vinyl” or “PVC.”

  • Children’s dress up/costumes.  The vinyl costumes will be showing up in stores shortly for Halloween.  Firefighters, police, etc. are often vinyl.  Look at the fabric content – skip any made of vinyl.  Granted – one Halloween wearing is probably not going to result in a significant exposure – but why support the vinyl industry?  And many kids play dress up long after Halloween has passed.

  • Waterproof books.  Usually coated with vinyl.  Find something else, especially since these are often used as teethers.

  • Vinyl flooring.  The flooring used in most of our homes is vinyl – and offgasses phthalates.  If you are picking new flooring, choose a less toxic, more environmentally friendly flooring. 

Keep in mind that phthalates are also found in personal care products.  That’s right, your baby’s lotion, baby shampoo, and baby wash may all contain phthalates (among other toxic chemicals).  For more information, read here.  Phthalates usually are identified on the label – they are usually in the fragrance and need not be separately identified.  If the product is not scented with essential oils, but has “fragrance” or “perfume”, it probably contains phthalates and you may want to skip it.  Some phthalate free baby products are listed here.  For what I think is an enlightening exploration of a favorite baby product’s label, read here.

Also keep in mind that phthalates find their way into a host of other products, including almost any product with fragrance.  Think air fresheners, room sprays, scented dolls, scented clothes, laundry dryer sheets, etc. 

Okay, a shameless plug – My consulting services include testing toys for lead, cadmium, etc. using an XRF analyzer.  As part of that, I can test for chlorine, which will indicate that the toy is vinyl, and from that we can infer that phthalates are most likely present.  I test toys at your home, school, day care or wherever, or I can test by mail!

Bisphenol A (BPA) and Home Water Delivery?

I’ve gotten several inquiries asking what to do about Arrowhead and Sparklett’s water bottles.  If you get water delivered to your home or office, the water probably comes in a 5 gallon polycarbonate plastic jug.  But, most of us are trying to avoid polycarbonate plastic because we don’t want bisphenol A (BPA) in our water.  And it is especially important to eliminate BPA from your water if you are mixing the water with infant formula.  Here’s more information about polycarbonate plastic, BPA and the potential  adverse health effects if you are just getting caught up on the issue.  

So, if you are trying to avoid polycarbonate plastic and bisphenol A (BPA), it is frustrating to realize that your water is delivered in a polycarbonate plastic jug.  Here you are trying to drink healthier water (although that is sometimes not accurate), and you are using polycarbonate plastic and potentially ingesting BPA.  At least in the Los Angeles area, it is my understanding that Arrowhead and Sparklett’s no longer make available a glass option for home water delivery. 

Mountain Valley BottleHowever, a Smart Mama reader informed me that Mountain Valley Spring Water delivers its spring water in a 5 gallon glass bottle.  With glass, there is no BPA leaching to worry about.  I checked several zip codes around the Los Angeles area, and delivery was available.  You can check delivery in Los Angeles too. I also found delivery in New York.  One caveat – I haven’t reviewed the water report.  But, I wanted to at least let everyone know that there is a glass bottle delivery service available.  It may be a good option if you need water delivery and you want to eliminate polycarbonate plastic.  

PLASTICS/BPA: Safe to use? baby bottles, sippy cups, plastic wrap, Tupperware, melamine?

Updated May 13, 2008, Updated May 21, 2008, Update December 6, 2008

It seems like everybody is just confused about plastics for formula, breast milk, and food storage.  PVC, phthalates, BPA – what the heck should you use?  And how do you figure it out?  I’ve gotten tons of questions – is melamine safe to use?  Can you use cling type wraps?  What about Tupperware?  Which baby bottles are safe?  Can I use the Beaba Babycook?

You don’t want phthalates in your food.  Phthalates leach from polyvinyl chloride.  You don’t want bisphenol A in your food.  BPA leaches from polycarbonate plastic (and also the epoxy resins used to line virtually all canned food and beverages).  But what is safe to use? 

First – a plastic primer.  The resin identification codes are #1 through #7.  Not all products have the resin identification code (often referred to as the recycling symbol).  Why?  Because it is used primarily on disposable and single use items – those items intended to be recycled.  And, just keep in mind that it is an identification code to make sorting plastic easier – just because there is an identification code on your plastic does not mean that your jurisdiction actually will recycle it.

Recycling Logos

Okay, so the plastic resin identification codes are: 

#1 is polyethylene terephthalate.  Considered a safer plastic, although some reports of leaching antimony after long storage.  And, although the word “phthalate” appears in the name, this plastic is NOT know for leaching the phthalates used as plasticizers in PVC.

#2 is high density polyethylene.

#3 is Polyvinyl chloride (PVC).  Avoid.

#4 is low density polyethylene.

#5 is polypropylene.

#6 is polystyrene.  Avoid.

#7 is other (not one of #1 – #6).  Often polycarbonate, although also includes the new bioplastics.  Avoid polycarbonate.

 Here are Smart Mama’s Simple Steps for most common items.

For baby bottles, skip polycarbonate plastic to avoid leaching of bisphenol A (BPA).  Here are some options

For sippy cups, skip polycarbonate plastic to avoid leaching of bisphenol A (BPA).  Here are some options.

For pacifiers, use silicone or natural rubber.  Keep in mind that the guard may be made of polycarbonate plastic.  Exposure to BPA from the guard is probably a lower risk than exposure from food storage containers since the baby’s mouth may not touch it, or may not touch it that much.  However, there is probably some leaching from the guard through saliva contact.  There are options if you want to avoid BPA-containing plastic pacifier guards altogether.

For sandwich bags, most of them are low density polyethyelene (LDPE – #4) and considered to be made from a “safer” plastic.  However, they are not as eco-friendly as using a re-usable container (such as stainless steel) or using butcher paper.

For plastic wraps, some are made of PVC (#3).  If they are made of PVC, they may leach phthalates.  However, many plastic wraps intended for in home use on the market today are not made of PVC.  Glad Cling Wrap, Handi-Wrap and Saran Premium Wrap are not made of PVC but are made of low density polyethylene (LDPE).  It is my understanding that you are likely to find PVC containing plastic wraps in discount, no name wraps and commercial wraps. 

Tupperware, Rubbermaid and others have some products that are polycarbonate and many that are not.  Tupperware’s list of of its products and the plastics from which they are made can be found here.  Rubbermaid has a list of products that contain BPA and those that do not contain BPA with pictures so that it is easy to use.  However, for food storage, it would be best to switch to glass or ceramic.  If you use glass, keep in mind that some of the painted on decals can have lead, and if you use ceramic, make sure it is free of lead.

What about the so called safer plastic, polypropylene (#5)? Recent news reports stated that #5 plastic may leach potentially harmful chemicals.  A team of researchers found that quaternary ammonium biocides and oleamide were leaching for #5 plastic and interfering with their experiments.  The results are preliminary – the researchers weren’t studying leaching but discovered the leaching inadvertently.  Further testing will have to verify the results.

Is melamine safe?  It appears to be.  The melamine used in dinnerware is made from melamine being combined with formaldehyde to produce melamine resin.  It is a very durable thermoset plastic.  However, there are studies showing leaching of formaldehyde and melamine at extremely low levels.  However, if you are trying to exposure to chemicals, you may also want to skip melamine.  Also, some decals used have been found to have lead and cadmium present.  Also, keep in mind that the issue with melamine in milk products such as infant formula and pet food involved the ingestion of granular melamine.

What about the 5 gallon water bottles, such as for Arrowhead water?  They are typically polycarbonate plastic.  You might want to choose another option for water, such as glass.

What about the Beaba Babycook?  After many emails, we have confirmation from the manufacturer that the Beaba Babycook is NOT made of polycarbonate plastic.

Finally, a personal note, I’ve switched to undecorated glass and stainless steel as much as I can.  As I replace broken or lost items, I’m buying glass and stainless steel because I’m trying to reduce our plastic consumption and because, well, I’m not so sure there really is a “safer” plastic.


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Rubbermaid Identifies Products with Bisphenol A and those BPA-Free

Listening to the public’s growing concern about bisphenol A (BPA), Rubbermaid has published a list of its products that are BPA free and those that contain BPA.  The list contains pictures so the products are easily identifiable.  Those are pretty smart people over at Rubbermaid.  As summer approaches, and greedy entrepreneurial kids get ready to sell lemonade, you’ll be pleased to discover that the classic Rubbermaid pitchers are BPA free.Rubbermaid Classic White Pitcher





Rubbermaid Classic Blue Pitcher

The National Toxicology Program Issues Its Draft Report on Bisphenol A

The end result?  We are all exposed to BPA.  Testing by the CDC showed that 93% of us have BPA in our systems.  Children had higher levels than adults, but the testing did not include children under the age of 6.  Children under the age of 6 are expected to have the highest levels of BPA.

Government regulators have been debating the safety.  You may recall that the NTP was reviewing two reports – one the expert panel report from the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction and the other known as the Chapel Hill panel.  The two expert reports issued somewhat contradictory findings.  Accusations were made that the CERHR expert report was too biased in favor of industry.

In any event, this Draft Brief indicates a higher level of concern than expressed in the CERHR expert panel report for possible effects of BPA on prostrate gland, mammary gland, and early onset of puberty in exposed fetuses, infants and children.  The Draft Brief has led several legislators to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration to take action.

In sum, the Draft Brief concludes that BPA is possibly affecting human development or reproduction.

Of relevance, the Draft Brief concludes:

"The National Toxicology Program (NTP) concurs with the conclusion of the Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction (CERHR) Expert Panel on Bisphenol A that there is some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures. The NTP also has some concern for bisphenol A exposure in these populations based on effects in the prostate gland, mammary gland, and an earlier age for puberty in females.

The scientific evidence that supports a conclusion of some concern for exposures in fetuses, infants, and children comes from a number of laboratory animal studies reporting that "low" level exposure to bisphenol A during development can cause changes in behavior and the brain, prostate gland, mammary gland, and the age at which females attain puberty. These studies only provide limited evidence for adverse effects on development and more research is needed to better understand their implications for human health. However, because these effects in animals occur at bisphenol A exposure levels similar to those experienced by humans, the possibility that bisphenol A may alter human development cannot be dismissed."

What's a concerned mama to do?  To be honest, this is one area where I don't need certainty to act.  So many alternates exist that it is easier just to let the scientists and bureaucrats debate it while choosing, with my green purse, to skip polycarbonate plastic and canned goods.  So, my recommendation?  Skip polycarbonate plastic bottles and sippy cups.  Check out here for some substitutes for baby bottles and sippy cups.  Also, try to avoid canned goods – buy fresh, frozen or dried.  If you have to go canned, choose foods in glass or other plastics instead.  For infant formula, canned prepared formula has the highest leach rate, so buy prepared formula in glass or go powdered. 

How do you identify polycarbonate plastic?  It is identified by the #7 recycling code.  Which is really a resin identification code, not a recycling code.  And #7 means other – not polycarbonate.  It just usually is polycarbonate. But, those Gerber First Foods that are labeled with #7 – they are NOT polycarbonate – they are a combination of plastics so they are labeled with #7 as "other plastic."

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What now? Toxic lead in baby changing pads & diaper bags

You may not even want to hear this but it is actually nothing new.  It gets almost tiresome – the daily reports about this toxic chemical in this product.  You may stop even paying attention.  I can’t say a blame you.  You almost want to give up.  But don’t!  We can eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals in our homes.  It may take some sweeping policy changes to make a real difference on a global scale, but you can make the environment you want a home.

So, what’s the latest?  Diaper bags and changing pads contain lead.  A report from the Center for Environmental Health found high levels of lead in a number of diaper changing pads and diaper bags.  The CEH purchased 60 diaper bags from major California retailers and specialty stores in February and March, 2008, and tested the bags and the changing pads that came with the bags for lead using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer.  The bags & pads were also sent to an independent laboratory to verify the results.

And the results?  Some of the bags came back with elevated lead levels.  Why?  These bags and changing pads, or parts of them, were made with polyvinyl chloride (“PVC” or vinyl) plastic.  PVC plastic has to be stabilized to retain its strength.  It is often stabilized with lead, although other metal salts can be used.  The lead isn’t bound up in the plastic polymer, so it will migrate to the surface, especially with exposure to heat and friction.  The result?  Lead is available for pick up on the surface of some vinyl items. 

The CEH compared the lead levels to the federal standard for lead in paints and other coatings, which is 600 ppm.  This isn’t a standard for lead in vinyl, but it was at least a benchmark for comparison purposes.  There is no federal standard for lead in vinyl.  California’s Proposition 65 requires warnings for listed chemicals, and certain standards have been established for lead in certain products – above the level, a warning is required and below it, no warning is required.  Most of these standards are below 600 ppm for lead in vinyl products, such as tool handles and electrical cords.

Does it matter?  Lead exposure can cause significant adverse health consequences, including lower IQ scores, at low levels.  Children are more at risk for lead exposure.  The benchmark is 10 micrograms lead per deciliter blood, but it is fairly well established that there is no safe level for lead, and health effects have been demonstrated at blood lead levels of 2.5 micrograms per deciliter blood.  Lead exposure is cumulative, so little small exposures can add up.  Lead based paint and lead in household dust remain a more significant exposure for children, but you still might want to check out  your diaper bag.  The highest lead levels were found in the changing pads of three bags from K-Mart including a Disney Baby “Winnie the Pooh” bag, a Baby Got Bag leopard print bag, and a “Baby Necessities” brand bag. A fourth with lead in the changing pad was a “George” store-brand bag from WalMart. A “Red” brand bag from Mimi Maternity and a Carter’s “Out ‘N About” bag from Babies R Us had high lead levels in other parts of the bag.