Message in a bottle

Apr 23, 2008 at 3:00 a.m. ET

It's become more and more glaring in this highly-manufactured world that you simply cannot protect your children from all risks. There are chemicals in our bottles, drugs in our water, and hormones in our meat. Still, we all strive to do our best, even if that means accepting that common wisdom changes from time to time.

Baby with Bottle
When my son, Will, was born almost three years ago, I and most people had never heard of Bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical that is used in the manufacturing of polycarbonate plastic products. Instead, the worries were if he was eating enough, if I was bathing him often enough or too often, and if it would hurt him to give him solids before six months. But BPA became the latest buzz word for parent concerns when I was pregnant with my daughter, Paige, just a year ago.

With the jury still out on whether the level of BPA in baby bottles is safe or not, for me -- any chance is a concern.

Potential risk

The Canadian government is considering classifying BPA as a toxic substance. In the United States, a recent report by the National Toxicology Program Center said that there is some concern about the effect the plastic could have on child development.

"In animal studies, very low level exposure to Bisphenol A has been linked to impaired learning, hyperactivity and aggression," said Maureen Swanson, Healthy Children Project Coordinator for the Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) of America, said. Swift also said that LDA applauds the decision of Wal-Mart and some manufacturers to rid the shelves of BPA.

BPA is used in baby bottles, some adult water bottles like the popular Nalgene bottles and even some canned foods as a liner. Nalgene has announced that they are pulling any stock that contains BPA.

Not everyone convinced

In the plastics industry, many companies deny that there is a safety issue at stake.

"The scientists concluded in [in studies] that bisphenol A exposure to newborns and infants is below levels that may pose a risk," said Mike Dwyer, CAE, executive director of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association. "We're clearly confused and very disappointed as to their decision to ban polycarbonate baby bottles without significant evidence that BPA causes any harm to humans."

Nonetheless, some companies and stores aren't willing to take any risk.

Choice in a bottle

For Will, a reflux problem left us with only one option for bottles: Playtex Vent-Aire bottles. Though I tried many other designs, the complicated Vent-Aire was the only thing that mitigated the reflux effect. I've since learned that the bottles contain BPA.

For Paige, I knew the five-piece Vent-Aires were simply too labor intensive for us to use again. That, coupled with my newfound knowledge about BPA, led us to try Playtex Nursers. The Nursers do not have BPA in the bags, nipples or original bottles (the premium bottles do, but it's only on the body, which doesn't touch the milk). So far, these are working out great for us.

Other choices were the pricey Born Free bottles. However, the glass body didn't seem to be the right choice for us with a toddler in the house (they do make safe-plastic sippy cups too). Gerber Clear View bottles are usually BPA free as well.

In the meantime, companies are taking action. Playtex announced recently that they will be removing all BPA from their product line by the end of the year.

"We believe the right thing to do is eliminate any confusion or doubt that parents may have. For this reason, we will stop using BPA in our products this year," said Gary Cohen, vice president and general manager of Playtex(R), Energizer(R) Personal Care Division.