Do plastic baby bottles cause diabetes and heart disease?
A study was released today that some scientists believe implicates bisphenol A in the formation of diabetes and heart disease in humans. Results are preliminary, and more studies need to be done. And, of course, the FDA still says that plastics are more or less safe.
"Some scientists say the study — released today to coincide with a Food and Drug Administration meeting— shows that bisphenol A, or BPA, is too dangerous to allow in consumer products, especially those used by babies and pregnant women." USA Today
"Higher BPA exposure, reflected in higher urinary concentrations of BPA, may be associated with avoidable morbidity in the community-dwelling adult population. " JAMA
"Two weeks ago, the National Toxicology Program said it has "some concern" that BPA alters development of the brain and prostate gland in children and babies, both before and after birth." USA Today
A number of stores are removing products that contain bisphenol A from their shelves - Toys R Us and Walmart have both been pulling toys and plastic baby bottles since early summer.
The plastic industry is, of course, fighting every attempt to reduce or change the way we use plastic in our everyday lives. From fighting the plastic bag fees that are being instituted in my fair city of Seattle and elsewhere, the American Chemistry Council is doing their darndest to keep a lid on this possibly dangerous substance. To be fair, the Canadian plastics industry is no better.
Of course, I see the value of having plastics in our lives. I certainly wouldn't want to ride my motorcycle wearing a helmet made of tree bark and sheepskin. And it IS difficult to know if studies like this one are truly causal: it's possible that high levels of bisphenol A in humans with diabetes and heart attacks are linked, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the relationship is causal. Perhaps people with heart disease and diabetes eat more prepared (unhealthy) food from plastic packaging, hence the higher levels of the chemicals in their blood.
I don't like fear-mongering, but I'm also aware of an industry's deep-seated need to fight scientific evidence.
In any case, I have been limiting my exposure to products containing bisphenol A as much as I possibly can, and will continue to do so.
Six Wise has some good tips on how to avoid BPA in your life (following list is taken from Six Wise).
If you want to avoid products with BPA, keep in mind the following:
- Plastic that contains BPA carries the #7 recycling symbol.
- Most clear plastic baby bottles and child cups are made of BPA-containing plastic.
- Dental sealant may leach BPA; this is being debated. You may want to avoid dental sealants on your children's baby teeth.
You can minimize your BPA exposure by:
- Replacing plastic food and drink containers and utensils with glass, ceramic or metal varieties.
- Purchasing glass baby bottles.
- Using baby bottles and sippy cups made of polyethylene plastic (#1, #2, #4 recycling symbols) or polypropylene (#5) (these are usually colored, not clear, and should still not be heated).
- Not using canned foods or foods wrapped in plastic.
- Not letting children put plastic toys in their mouths.
- Being careful with BPA-containing plastics, if you choose to use them. This means not exposing them to heat (microwave, dishwasher) or harsh detergents (bleach, etc.) and not letting food or beverages sit in the containers for too long.