There seems to be growing momentum in the U.S. press about plastics, their risks to our health, and the lack of legislation around those risks. Within the past year, the NY Times has had a few really interesting articles. The first one was called The Unintended Consequences of Hyperhydration, and it was about the challenges facing law-makers around recycling bills for plastic water bottles. I knew we were experiencing a massive proliferation in the amount of bottled water Americans were drinking, but I had no idea how bad it had really gotten. More recently there was a CNN video called Garbage Island, which described a place in the Pacific where the currents have brought together an island of plastic that is two times the size of Texas. Small fish are eating the plastic as it melts together and then deteriorates, big fish eat smaller fish, and humans eat the big fish. Plastics have been linked to infertility, which is also running rampant in industrialized nations today. What a mess! What are we doing to ourselves?
All of this has formed the backdrop (for me) for some vague worries about different kinds of plastics and their impact on babies. For quite some time, I hadn’t found anything to substantiate my concerns. We bought Dr. Brown’s bottles because of their reputation for reducing baby gas. Because we knew there might be issues we were washing them by hand, but we also eventually realized that the bottles were still getting heated with the milk in them at daycare.
What finally put me over the edge was an interview with Michael Schapiro from NPR’s Fresh Air. My sister sent it to me, and I just couldn’t make the time to listen to it (it’s over 40 minutes long). When I finally got around to it, though, I was glad I did. Michael talks about all kinds of toxic chemicals that are permitted in a variety of products in the U.S.. He speaks about products like baby bottles and what health problems they have been linked to. It turns out that there are many toys, too, created with toxic plastics. The European Union has passed legislation banning those toys in the E.U., and laws ban the sale of them in China as well. But China still produces them for a large and ignorant consumer market – U.S. parents. I think the thing that really struck me is that the reason the E.U. has passed legislation is because their medicine is socialized, the state ultimately bears the costs of all the health woes that may result from plastics. Since the U.S. medical system is privatized (and corporations aren’t forced to indicate what type of plastic is being used in their products), we get all the discards from other markets. Unbelievable.
Michael also talked about the composition of polycarbonate (clear plastic) baby bottles, and specifically about Bisphenol A (BPA) that is found in them. A recent, U.S. commissioned study found that BPA has been linked to “neurologic and behavioral problems in fetuses, infants, and children”. You can read more about the study and which bottles to avoid on the Baby 411 website.
We have a bad water bottle habit that is going to be hard to kick, and apparently we can’t switch to Nalgene bottles because they are suspect too. But as a starting point, we’ve already gotten rid of all of our son’s plastic baby bottles. We’ve switched to a non-BPA brand called Newborn Free, and we’re doing everything we can to alert the other moms and moms-to-be that we know. The alternate bottle options aren’t cheap, but then the consequences of BPA aren’t worth the risk, either.