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Safe Use of Plastics for your Family

We definitely live in a chemical world and many families have concerns about our children’s exposures to everything from preservatives, pesticides and hormones in meat and milk. One area of exposure that is getting increasing attention from toxicologists and the Department of Health and Human Services is plastics. Particularly phthalates and BPA are found everywhere and are worth some attention.

Phthalates are used in cosmetics and personal care products, including skin moisturizers. They are also used in consumer products such as flexible plastic items, vinyl toys, food packaging, and plastic wrap. The human health effects of phthalates are not yet fully known but are being studied by several government agencies. Currently they are rated as carrying a “minimal” level of concern for causing reproductive and carcinogenic affects. In 2008, former President Bush signed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act which bans most phthalates in toys for children under age 12 and in all child care labeled items for children under age 3.

Bisphenol A is used in hard, polycarbonate plastics (reusable bottles) and in food can linings to prevent rusting of the metal. It has chemical properties similar to a weak estrogen and can impact biological systems in very low doses. We all ingest BPA largely through food and beverages; studies have shown human exposure to BPA as high as that found in animal studies. Human studies have shown increased behavioral concerns (hyperactivity and aggression) in toddlers with higher exposure. Animal studies with high exposure during pregnancy also show concern for premature puberty and increased weight gain in those offspring.

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Toxicology Program (NTP) have “some concern” for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to BPA. The NTP has “minimal concern” for effects on an earlier age for puberty for females at current human exposures to BPA.

Before you fill your recycling bin with every plastic container in your home, please know that a “precautionary” approach is what most experts currently recommend until more is known. The NIH, CDC and FDA are all conducting large studies with results anticipated in the next few years.

Practical Tips to reduce your family’s exposure include:

  • Use plastics with recycling codes 1,2,4,5 – avoid code 3 and 6
  • Buy bottles labeled BPA free
  • Use latex or silicone nipples and pacifiers
  • Never microwave or heat in plastic or with plastic wrap on top
  • Do not place hot/warm liquids or food in plastic bottles/containers - most babies will drink milk luke warm
  • Limit intake of canned foods due to the plastic linings
  • Limit exposure of moisturizers and cosmetic items to infants unless medically necessary
  • FDA has found that powdered infant formula mix typically has no detectable level of BPA (there are small amounts found in ready-to-feed formula sold in cans)

For more information:

Respectfully submitted on behalf of PAMPA by
Dr. Tamara Nix





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