RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Parents with new babies don’t want to expose those tiny little bodies to chemicals that can cause long-term health problems, which is why the market for baby bottles and other baby food containers made without the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) has boomed in the past year. Numerous studies have linked the chemical to diseases including cancer, obesity, and diabetes, and as a result, cities and states in the U.S., as well as the Canadian government, have banned its use in products designed for children. However, a recent test by the Canadians has found that a “BPA-free” label may not guarantee a BPA-free product.
THE DETAILS: Health Canada, a government agency that oversees public-health and product-safety issues, tested a variety of baby bottles labeled bisphenol-A free that were made from polysulfone, polystyrene, or polypropylene plastics. None of these plastics are actually made with BPA. However, the government scientists detected “very low trace amounts” of BPA—in concentrations as low as parts per trillion—in some of the BPA-free plastic bottles it tested.
The names of the companies whose products were tested weren’t disclosed, but manufacturers of BPA-free bottles reacted quickly to the tests, calling the agency’s methods flawed. Rodale.com contacted one manufacturer of these bottles, Green To Grow, who said they test their bottles regularly for BPA and have never had a problem. A few days after the test results were published by a Canadian news agency, Health Canada released a statement saying that BPA-free baby bottles were still safe and that the levels found were too low to cause harm. The agency’s complete findings will be published in a peer-reviewed journal later this year, say Health Canada officials.
WHAT IT MEANS: Because none of the plastics tested contained BPA, the source of the chemical detected in the tests is unclear. One possibility is that the manufacturers of the bottles use molds that contain BPA to make the products, and dust from those molds winds up in or on the plastic, says Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy for the Breast Cancer Fund, an advocacy group that reviews scientific evidence on how chemical exposures can influence breast cancer. If that’s the case, she says, “These manufacturers should be tracing the process for possible contamination. If the label says ‘BPA free,’ it should be BPA free, period. I would think that it’s splitting hairs to say that a little bit doesn’t matter.”