Health Ministry issues guidelines on baby bottles

Canadian government decides to ban use of chemical in manufacture of plastic bottles, fearing it may be implicated in diseases.

baby bottle 88 (photo credit: )
baby bottle 88
(photo credit: )
The Israel Health Ministry issued clarifications on safe plastic use on Wednesday, following the Canadian government's decision two weeks ago to ban the use of the bisphenol A (BPA) chemical in the manufacture of plastic baby bottles, fearing that it may be implicated in diseases. The ministry stated that plastic baby bottles - including those with BPA - that are used "properly" are not harmful to health when the bottles are whole, are without scratches or cracks and are less than a year old. It declared that the same held true for pacifiers and bottle teats (which are made from latex or silicone). The concern about BPA was aroused by a draft report issued by the National Toxicology Program in the US National Institutes of Health that recently suggested BPA could cause breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, hyperactivity and other disorders by mimicking estrogen in the body. But based on these lab studies, the ministry said, it was "impossible to state clearly whether BPA exposure in humans poses health dangers." Yet, just to be on the safe side, the Canadian government decided to become the first country in the world to ban BPA use in baby bottles. In addition, US Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said he would file a bill to ban BPA from all baby products, any bottle or container that contains food or drink or plastic dental sealants. The chemical is also found in liners of metal cans used to hold food, but authorities did not take action on such products. Canadian health officials said that even though the risk was unclear, a meta-analysis of some 150 studies on BPA showed that babies were at the highest risk. The news induced some chain stores in North America to remove baby products containing BPA from their shelves, and companies that make or import BPA-free baby bottles - including in Israel - boasted that their products did not have it. The North American food industry poohpoohed the news, saying that the media were full of "scare stories." BPA, the ministry in Jerusalem said, is a chemical used for manufacturing transparent, hard-plastic polycarbonate containers. It can be identified by looking for the digit "7" within a triangle made of arrows on the product. Flexible plastic products (including flexible toys) do not contain BPA. If the chemical does pose any danger, said the ministry, babies would be at higher risk because they consume more food and drink than their weight relative to adults, and thus are exposed to it more. Boiling or very hot water should not be poured directly into baby bottles for making formula or other beverages or foods, the ministry said, as the heat apparently causes some BPA to leak out from the plastic. The proper way to prepare formula, it continued, was to prepare it in non-plastic containers and wait until it cooled before pouring it into a baby bottle. The same goes for boiled water that is given for drinking at room temperature to infants under the age of one year. The ministry also recommends that plastic bottles with baby food not be heated up in a microwave because the rays do not warm the contents uniformly, so some of the contents may be burning hot and others may still be cold. A dishwasher can be used to clean plastic baby bottles, and boiling water should be used to sterilize baby bottles, pacifiers and teats and allowed to cool before food or water is added, the ministry advised. It said that unlike the Canadians, it will not bar the use of BPA in baby bottles or prevent the sale of such bottles, since the studies are only drafts and not final. However, the ministry is "following foreign studies and recommendations and will update its guidelines if necessary." Meanwhile, Medici Medical, which imports and markets B-Free baby bottles, said that they had no BPA. Alpha Cosmetics, which imports and markets MAM bottles, maintained that theirs were free of the chemical as well.