While using unbreakable plastic baby bottles may seem like a logical and safe choice, research is showing that there are several serious health-related benefits to using glass baby bottles instead of plastic ones.
Plastic baby bottles contain bisphenol A (BPA), the primary chemical used to make polycarbonate, the plastic used in many baby bottles. These bottles are usually clear and rigid, and generally have the recycling symbol 7 marked on the bottom. Low level exposure to BPA has been linked to numerous health problems, including brain damage, altered immune system prostate and breast cancer and early puberty.
Seven studies, conducted between 1999 and 2003, demonstrated that the presence of acidic or basic food, heat, and repeated washing of polycarbonate products releases BPA into food or beverages in contact with the plastics. In a different 2003 study, BPA leaching was detected in 12 polycarbonate baby bottles after dishwashing, brushing, and boiling. Researchers at Nagasaki University in Japan found that BPA leaching into baby formula nearly doubled in used bottles during sterilizing and heating on the stove-top.
Plastic bottles can also be made of vinyl (PVC), a highly toxic plastic that can contain lead, which can reduce attention spans and lead to other learning disabilities. PVC has also been linked to cancer, birth defects, genetic changes, chronic bronchitis, ulcers, skin diseases, deafness, vision failure, indigestion, and liver dysfunction.
Avoid using bottles made of polycarbonate or PVC. As information about BPA-related dangers spread, more parents are choosing to use baby bottles made of tempered glass instead of plastic ones.
Safer plastic options include polyethylene or polypropylene (recycling symbols 1, 2 or 5). If there is no recycling symbol on the bottom of a plastic bottle you’re considering using, call the manufacturer’s customer support line to get more information.
As for bottle nipples, clear silicone is preferable to plastic or yellow rubber. The rubber nipples tend to develop cracks faster than silicone, creating a harbor for bacteria. Rubber nipples may also release carcinogens and cause allergic reactions. Not only do clear silicone bottle nipples hide less bacteria, they are heat-resistant and can be safely put in a dishwasher. Some manufacturers still produce nipples made of soft PVC that contain phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals used as plastic softeners. You’ll want to avoid these.
And always use caution when using canned baby formula, as it has been found to contain dangerous chemicals.
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By Terri Hall-Jackson, Care2 Green Living contributing writer