Don't use old baby bottles, ministry warns

Baby bottles and other products made of polycarbonate, are believed to leach into contents a chemical called bisphenol A.

The Health Ministry advises parents to throw away baby bottles that have been in use for over a year and those that have cracks or scratches. In addition, pacifiers (dummies) and teething rings that are worn out or torn should not be used. The advisory was released following a TV report on Friday about the alleged dangers of baby bottles and other products made of polycarbonate, which are believed to leach into the bottle contents a chemical called bisphenol A. This chemical mimics the female hormone estrogen and is suspected of affecting fertility and inducing cancers. The ministry said on Sunday it is watching recommendations from relevant organizations abroad and is working with the Israel Standards Institution to produce a standard for baby bottles and related plastic products. A Japanese study on rodents found recently that plastic tableware and unbreakable containers made of polycarbonate release hormone-mimicking compounds, especially if the plastic is heated - which occurs in sterilization of baby bottles - or when scratched or torn. Approximately 95 percent of all baby bottles currently on the world market are made of polycarbonate. Toxicologist Koji Arizono of the Prefectural University of Kumamoto, Japan, and his colleagues tested 10 different brands of polycarbonate baby bottles purchased in the US, Germany, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, along with other types of clear-plastic tableware. When heated, all leached bisphenol A. Pollutants that emulate hormones - especially estrogen - have emerged in recent animal studies, which suggest they might increase an individual's likelihood of developing certain cancers. In addition, during development, exposure to these environmental hormones also risks disrupting the normal growth and function of reproductive tissues and the brain. Last year, the US Environmental Protection Agency launched a program to begin identifying and studying such hormone-mimicking pollutants. A petition - as yet unanswered - was presented to the US Food and Drug Administration asking that polycarbonate baby bottles and foodware be labeled so that concerned consumers could avoid using them. The only way to know if a baby bottle is not made with polycarbonates is if it is a pliable, milky-colored plastic.