Thursday, October 25, 2007

:: A Letter9 First: Glass Bottle Give-Away ::

In honor of Evan's four-month birthday, I'm giving stuff away!  It's like birthday presents, but for *you* instead of us.  Read on to learn more... 

Move Over SIDS, Bisphenol-A Is The New Big Fear

The new big thing for parents of infants to worry about is Bisphenol-A, an industrial chemical first synthesized in 1905 that is used primarily to make polycarbonate plastic. This plastic, which provides optical clarity, shatter-resistance, and high-heat resistance, is used in eyeglass lenses, medical equipment, 5-gallon water bottles, digital media (e.g. CDs and DVDs), cell phones, consumer electronics, computers and other business equipment, electrical equipment, household appliances, safety shields, construction glazing, sports safety equipment, and automobiles. And yes, baby bottles.

Because the ester bonds in these BPA-based polymers are subject to hydrolysis, leaching of BPA has led to widespread human exposure. This means that when we use, wash, sterilize, or heat polycarbonate plastic, small amounts of BPA seep out.

When my sister-in-law first alerted Brian and I to the supposed Evils of BPA right before Evan was born, my first inclination was to think she was worrying about nothing. I figured this was the latest trend in a long line of fear-based trends. When she sent us a set of BPA-free baby bottles, I suspected that this was a fear driven more by someone's desire to make money off of overprotective parents than it was driven by facts. We tried the BPA-free plastic baby bottles, hated them, and promptly returned to using our BPA-laden ones.

And then our plastic bottles started cracking. I contacted Evenflo about this and they offered to replace them. I didn't really want the same bottles since all ten of the ones we owned, which were bought at different times and at different stores, had cracked. So looking over my options I saw that Evenflo also sells glass bottles. Since they were bigger than the ones we had and since Evan was on the verge of needing bigger bottles anyway, I told the Evenflo rep that we wanted those.

At the same time, more interested now in BPA because all our bottles had cracked, I did some research.

Trying to determine the risks associated with the use of products containing Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an object lesson in the necessity of understanding where information comes from and who funds it. For example, a very fascinating and reliable-seeming website,, provides an extensive archive of information and fact sheets relating to Bisphenol-A. This website reports that BPA provides no significant risk and it cites studies conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Association (the FDA), the U.K. Ministry of Agriculture, the U.K. Department of Trade and Industry, and the Japanese National Institute of Health Sciences. The website appears authoritative and the use of the .org extension in the web address suggests that you're looking at the website of an independent, probably non-profit organization.

Some research reveals that the site is actually maintained by the American Chemistry Council, which "represents the companies that make the products that make modern life possible." In other words, this website is run by the folks who make and sell products containing BPA, folks who have a strongly vested interest in keeping you in polycarbonate plastics.

More interesting to me than is a study published in 2005 in Environmental Health Perspectives and currently available at the National Institutes of Health website.

This article, written by Frederick S. vom Saal (of the Division of Biological Sciences, University of Missouri) and Claude Hughes (of the Department of Medical and Scientific Services, Quintiles, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina and the Department of Biology, East Carolina University), provides an extensive review of scientific literature on the effects of Bisphenol A. In other words, the authors do not conduct their own research but provide an analysis of 115 already-published studies on the effects of low doses of Bisphenol-A.

The authors find the following:

A recent report prepared by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis and funded by the American Plastics Council concluded that evidence for low-dose effects of BPA is weak on the basis of a review of only 19 studies; the report was issued after a delay of 2.5 years. A current comprehensive review of the literature reveals that the opposite is true. As of December 2004, there were 115 published in vivo studies concerning low-dose effects of BPA, and 94 of these report significant effects. In 31 publications with vertebrate and invertebrate animals, significant effects occurred below the predicted "safe" or reference dose of 50 μg/kg/day BPA. An estrogenic mode of action of BPA is confirmed by in vitro experiments, which describe disruption of cell function at 10-12 M or 0.23 ppt. Nonetheless, chemical manufacturers continue to discount these published findings because no industry-funded studies have reported significant effects of low doses of BPA, although > 90% of government-funded studies have reported significant effects.

[...] We propose that a new risk assessment for BPA is needed based on a) the extensive new literature reporting adverse effects in animals at doses below the current reference dose; b) the high rate of leaching of BPA from food and beverage containers, leading to widespread human exposure; c) reports that the median BPA level in human blood and tissues, including in human fetal blood, is higher than the level that causes adverse effects in mice; and d) recent epidemiologic evidence that BPA is related to disease in women.

Based on their literature review, vom Saal and Hughes argue that exposure to low doses of BPA "has been related to adverse effects in a large number of recently published studies." They report that low-level exposure to BPA can lead to "estrogenic activity" (meaning the chemical acts lie estrogen, having potentially feminizing effects), disrupted thyroid hormone activity, the proliferation of human prostate cancer cells, and blocked testosterone synthesis.

Despite this literature review, I'm still not 100% converted to the BPA is Evil cause. Or rather, I think BPA probably is bad but I'm not sure that it's worse than all the other things out there that are going to kill us anyway and I'm not sure that avoiding it or not avoiding it is going to make a discernible difference in my own life or the life (lives) of my child(ren). We all have to die somehow and removing all possible environmental threats isn't really going to change that. Worse, living a life that does try to eliminate all possible environmental threats seems exhausting and overly stressful. I don't want to be the mother who forgets to have fun because she's worrying about too many things at once.

Of course that said, I have always been wary of the proliferation of plastic in our contemporary lives. It was, like, just barely invented and we, like, use it all over the place and for every possible application. We put it in these things called microwaves which also seem, um, scary. How can bad things not be leaching out into our homes and our bodies?

Given this literature review, I probably owe my sister-in-law an apology (although I never actually let on that I thought she was being silly). Given this literature review, I am definitely glad I chose glass bottles when given the opportunity. I'm also frustrated because in the weeks since I received my glass nursers, I discovered that they're available (at the same price as the plastic ones) with all the other baby bottles at Babies R Us and I just never noticed. Me, the girl who buys mayo in the smallest jars possible because they're the only ones that come in glass instead of plastic (oh yeah, and because mayo is gross). Me, who gets cans of soda instead of plastic even when it costs four times as much. It's like when I shop for Evan some part of my brain shuts off and I just get what everyone around me is getting. I just didn't even look.

At any rate, because I suspect that others might also have had their bottle blinders on when perusing the rows and rows of baby bottles at their baby store of choice, and because I'm glad I did all this research on BPA, and because I love my glass bottles so much (they come out of the dishwasher so shiny), and (let's be honest) because Evenflo sent me extras to cover the cost of me returning the plastic ones that were all cracked, I'm giving some away.

Yup, you heard me right: I'm giving away glass baby bottles.

Leave a comment to this post below by midnight on Monday, October 29th and I will choose a random winner on Tuesday who will receive three Evenflo glass nursers and a homemade burpcloth (just for fun). Make sure to provide a valid email address so that I can contact you if you win.


aBookworm October 26, 2007 at 7:42 AM  

Wow, I must have supersize blinders on. I didn't even know glass bottles for babies were there in B'rU! and I hadn't heard of BPA - ever! I'm now officially scared. Plastic bottles abound in my home and now I have to get rid of them - ugh. As if they weren't expensive enough to buy the first time around.

Evan's mom, I NEED those glass bottles! So count me in. Thanks!

callmeabookworm at gmail dot com

aBookworm October 26, 2007 at 7:45 AM  

In all my worry I forgot to wish Evan.
Happy 4 months, sweetheart! May you have many many more (plastic-free, bpa-free) happy months!

Christina October 29, 2007 at 3:17 PM  

I haven't tried glass bottles yet, but we have tried the Gerber Gentleflow, which are BPA free, and Mira will tolerate them. We have yet to find a bottle she will happily accept.

And I'm impressed with the customer service of Evenflo! Replacing bottles with a different type? That's awesome!

Sucks Hormone-Laden Eggs « Letter9 November 12, 2007 at 9:07 AM  

[...] toys – then I’d be singing a different tune. But honestly, while I believe that pesticides (and BPA, for that matter) are probably harming us, I also believe that we all need to die of something and if dying from 80 [...]

Melisa December 6, 2007 at 11:00 PM  

I too, have banished all plastic bottles and sippy cups from this home. To think of all the hundreds of dollars and bags of bottles, nipples, pacifiers that are not ? recyclable. Our truck wouldn't accept them!

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