Do plastic baby bottles cause diabetes and heart disease?

by Andrea Karim on 16 September 2008 8 comments
Photo: Giant Nipple.

Me, I've been a big proponent of doing away with plastics for a while now. I'd like to feel vindicated, but today's issue of USA Today just sort of made me sad. Check out the slide show here.

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.
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Guest's picture
Ed

Andrea,
What is the story with canned foods? They are normally only in metal containers. What is the risk there? I sometimes give my baby canned fruit/vegetables. Thanks.

Guest's picture
Laura

Ed,
Cans are coated on the inside, so that your food will not react with them. You can see it sometimes, when the inside is not quite the same color as the outside of the can.

Also: not all plastic with the #7 symbol contains BPA--#7 just means "none of the above" and is on anything that isn't 1-6.

Guest's picture
Shay

As A grandmother to be I did suggest to my daughter that glass bottles would be a better alternative to plastic while the baby is still young...I had my last baby 10 y ears ago and I used glass....here in Australia do you think we could find glass baby bottles!!!!! No and the ones we did find were priced at 18.99 each not a great price considering I only paid 5.00 a bottle not that long ago I asked the chemist about the price and he said no on uses glass anymore...he said some mum's thought of it as dangerous to use in case of glass chips etc comming off. I really don't know what is "safe" these days as everythign we consume use etc seems to have some drawback to it that can cause cancer, heart problems etc etc etc....Not only with item but with our food as well.

Thanks for the informative article keep up the great work.

Andrea Karim's picture

Thanks, Laura, I didn't see Ed's comment. Ed - I imagine that canned (jarred) baby food is safe. It's aluminum cans that you have to look out for, and I'm not sure that ALL cans have the coating - I see it, for instance, when I buy a can of green beans, but not peaches.

What I don't know about is the coating on the inside of a can of Coke. I don't even know if they are still coated the way they were back in the 80s.

Carrie Kirby's picture

The metal lid of a glass baby food jar usually has some kind of coating on it. Also, a lot of baby food comes in plastic tubs nowadays.

I blog at www.shopliftingwithpermission.com.

Guest's picture
Matt Miller

Andrea,

I bumbled upon your writings... just a note to say I enjoy both your wit and style. Diverse and intelligent.

Thanks for the mind food!

Best,

Matt

Andrea Karim's picture

Thanks, Matt. Great to have you reading. :)

Guest's picture
Wingsofarbla

nothing added can be not harming a child so yes.