From the July 2008 Idaho Observer:

Lucky #7: Beware of harmful plastics

As survivors of the last four or five decades, most of just accept whatever plastic containers, toys, tools or gadgets that come our wayóand throw them away when we are finished with them. With unquestioning abandon, we have surrounded ourselves with plastic and even think nothing of plastic devices being surgically inserted into our bodies. But plastics are synthetic substances with toxic properties that leech into whatever they touch and they degrade over time, contaminating organic material in a cumulative fashion.

It can be rightly stated that we never throw plastic away; we just send it downstream. It is nearly impossible to remove plastics from our lives. But we can consciously consider plastics and choose to minimize the volume of plastic we dump into the waste stream. We can also reduce the amount of plastic that enters our bodies by consciously avoiding the use of products packaged in plastics.

The following story checks out and it fits the profile: Government and industry claim "BPA" is "safe" while corporate-neutral scientists claim it is harmful.

If last monthís story about the volume of plastic grocery bags we consume each year didnít get you thinking twice about plastic grocery bags in particular and plastics in general, this monthís story from "" ought to do the trick.

Dear Mr. Dad:

Q: Iíve been reading more and more that baby bottles and sippy cups are made from harmful plastics. How do I know which ones are safe?

A: Youíve probably been hearing about bisphenol A (BPA), which has been making headlines lately. Even if you havenít heard of it, itís all over your houseóbesides baby bottles and sippy cups, itís in just about anything made of hard, clear plastic, as well as in the lining of food and beverage cans. And if your childís teeth were sealed by her dentist, thereís a good chance that the coating contains BPA.

The problem is that BPA mimics estrogen in the body, and experts suspect that it may cause birth defects, developmental delays, cancer, ADD, early onset puberty, and more. [The plastic industry and some government agencies claim that BPA is "safe"].

In a recent study by the Environmental Health Fund, every baby bottle tested leached BPA into the contents in unsafe levels. Thatís at least in part why, in April, Canada banned BPA entirely, saying the health concerns of its citizens outweighed the potential benefits of BPA.

In the U.S., a number of states are introducing legislation restricting or outlawing BPA in childrenís products. The federal government, however, is still clinging to the idea that itís safe.

So, as parents, what can we do? First, check the bottom of the bottle, cup, or other product. If you see a triangle with a number seven, put it down and back away slowly. Numbers three and six donít contain BPA, but have similar chemicals that may make them unsafe. Stick with one, two, four, and five.

Baby and discount stores around the country have vowed to phase out baby bottles with BPA by the end of 2008. Some are now offering store credit in exchange for BPA laden bottles. Store policies seem to vary, even within chains, so call first and ask. If youíve got any old Nalgene bottles, consider getting rid of them too, since they also contain BPA (the manufacturer is recalling current stocks and has stopped producing BPA bottles so new ones should be okay).

My personal preference would be to completely ban BPA from the home. However, if thatís not possible, there are a few things you can do to at least reduce the risks. Washing plastic bottles and other products in hot water causes higher levels (as much as 55 times higher!) of BPA to come out, as does using a steam sterilizer, running through a dishwasher and boiling.

Stay away from bottle warmers too. And if you formula feed, use room temperature water and mix the bottles as you need them instead of premixing and heating.

And finally, scouring them causes tiny scratches in the plasticís surface, which can cause BPA to leach out faster than a smooth surface. Instead, wash in lukewarm water and let them drip dry.

Fortunately, not all baby products contain BPA. Safer Sassy bottles and utensils are BPA-free, as are bottles made by BornFree, Gerberís Clear View, and Playtexís Drop-in Liners. Other consumer product companies such as PUR, Thermos, Brita, Adiri, and Combi, as more and more data about BPA comes out, are abandoning BPA-containing plastics.

Thereís a continually updated list of good products at

Itís scary to realize that you may have unknowingly been allowing potentially harmful chemicals to contaminate your babyís (and your own) food. At this point, thereís nothing to be gained from beating yourself up over it. But now that you know, I strongly recommend that you take some steps towards getting BPA and other harmful plastics out of your familyís life.