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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What is BPA anyway?

While I try to make it a habit to avoid instilling fear into mommies (especially first-timers) and while worrying about every little thing will drive you nuts as a new mom-to-be, there are instances where a higher level of concern and care are healthy. Such is the case when dealing with BPA. So, I do warn you, that this post is kind of scary, but should be taken into consideration while pregnant and caring for your little baby.

When you go buy (or register for) your baby bottles and breastfeeding gear or whatever you are planning to use, there is this claim on the boxes for "BPA-free". Many people probably do not know what it means, but it sounds good right? Well, it is something every pregnant/nursing/mothers for children under 2 should be very concerned with (and really anyone for that matter) and I thought I should take the time to explain why for people who may not know or may not necessarily be taking it that seriously.

Back on August 3rd, 2009 (approx 5-6 days before I discovered my exciting baby news), the Massachusetts Department of Health released a public health advisory to consumers concerning bisphenol A (BPA). The full advisory can be found here: The advisory actually states in bold letters "The DPH is specifically advising parents and caretakers of children up to two years old to avoid the use of products that contain BPA for making or storing infant formula and breast milk. DPH is further advising pregnant and breastfeeding women to avoid products that may contain BPA."

Red flag. This concerned me. This organization rarely sends statewide warnings about public consumer products to doctors, etc; so it is something that really got my attention. I did a bit of reading on the advisory and about BPA in general and thought that other people should know about other sources of BPA other than baby bottles so you can protect yourself and your loved ones. On a side note, I think it is really sad that we need to do this, instead of the government taking strides to ensure that none of the products contain a harmful substance, but long did we use lead paint and asbestos? And now formaldehyde and BPA? And can we please do some things to get the mercury out of our tuna fish? OK, done with politics. Back to BPA.

Basically BPA is is an organic compound that is a building block of several plastics and plastic additives. Apparently according to Wikipedia, there have been concerns over its safety for humans since the 1930's (sigh again). It is an endocrine disruptor (which means it acts like a hormone in your body) and is linked to a whole host of problems--disrupted fetal development of thyroid and reproductive systems, obesity, thyroid dysfunction, reproductive issues in both men and women, breast and prostate cancers, and sadly the list goes on.

So, something we want to avoid, right? So what are the sources of BPA, and what should we do to avoid BPA exposure?

Sources of BPA:

  • BPA is used as a liner in some food and beverage cans to prevent spoilage
  • Transparent (clear or colored) plastic containers or baby bottles with the recycling number 7 and the letters PC, which stand for “polycarbonate” plastic
  • Liquid baby formulas

How to Avoid BPA exposure:

  • Avoid eating canned foods/beverages while pregnant/nursing. Fresh/frozen foods are better choices. Jarred food in glass bottles is fine. Thank goodness we can still eat our pickles.
  • Drink out of stainless steel or glass containers. Avoid plastic bottled water and canned soft drinks.
  • Replace Tupperware and other food storage with glass containers.
  • The most effective means of reducing BPA exposure to infants is to breast feed. If formula is needed, avoid liquid formula. Dry powder has not been shown to contain detectable levels of BPA.
  • Use BPA-free products to store breast milk and formula.
  • Do not heat or pour hot liquid into plastic bottles.
  • Do not put plastic bottles or containers into the dishwasher.
  • Do not use harsh detergents and soaps on plastics, which also causes leaching.
  • Pay attention to the types of plastics used on sippy cups, teething rings, pacifiers, etc.

So, I hope you aren't freaking out and thinking that the past few months you have been doing everything wrong and have done harm to your baby. The past is the past and I didn't know any of this with my first son. You can only do something about today and days ahead. So having anxiety about the past is useless. The same can be said about all those people with mercury fillings. You cannot control what you do not now. So, now you know, and you can take action!

Start by reviewing the state of the union: all of your baby's gear, your food pantry, and the beverages you drink (and your registry). Return or toss all the items you suspect to contain BPA. Replace your tupperware and other food storage containers with glass (I keep all my dry bulk goods in mason jars, which works really well and each one is $.50-1.00 at AC Moore or Micheal's). Get yourself a cute stainless steel water bottle. Toss or give away all your plastic water bottles. Stick to glass bottles or fountain drinks when you are out and thirsty. And basically do the best you can. Any action you take will reduce the amount of exposure and that is all anyone can ask of you. I have listed some resources for you to get more info. And while my post is focused on pregnant moms and babies, it isn't that good for anyone really, including your husband or partner!


In health and wellness,

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