Waging War Against Bisphenol A

A couple of months ago we declared war against bisphenol A, an organic compound that mimics estrogen and can mess with a person’s hormones and development. This is especially alarming for babies who rely so much on what they ingest in order to develop.

My understanding is this: bisphenol A was created as a estrogen replacement and/or supplement. At some point, diethylstilbestrol turned out to be more powerful. Bisphenol A was shelved. Later, chemists discovered that it could be polymerized to form polycarbonate plastic. But the bond is not stable so BPA leaches into whatever it’s protecting. The government has tested many of these plastics individually and the amount that leaches out is very little. But as far as I know there haven’t been tests run on the overall usage of BPA leaching components. Basically, the sum is much greater than its parts.

As with anything, the more you know the better off (or worse depending on who you ask) you are. But with bisphenol A the more I find the worse I feel. I started this post a dozen times before now and each time I get so overwhelmed, I give up. There is just too much to find and discover!

Truth be told, bisphenol A has become a bit of a monster here at our house. It lurks everywhere and in an industrialized country like the United States, it’s downright impossible to avoid. It’s something we’re trying very hard to rid our lives of. And believe me, that’s a lot harder than one may think.

I’m not going to mention all the side-effects associated with bisphenol A. And instead of trying to work them into a perfectly packaged paragraph (I am not nearly that good of a writer), I’m going to list a few of them below.

  • Low sperm count and infertile sperm
  • bisphenol A during development has carcinogenic effects and produce precursors to breast cancer
  • neurotoxicity
  • linked to obesity. (triggering fat-cell activity)
  • developmental toxicity
  • damage to eggs and chromosomes
  • hyperactivity
  • early puberty

As with many scientific studies conducted today, these are concluded after large amounts are injected into our fuzzy friends. (Thanks for taking a million and one for the team, Mickey and Minnie.) Many supporters of bisphenol A think the results are skewed. Opponents feel the findings are alarming and that the compound should be scrutinized by the FDA to find out if it’s safe for our children.

In a perfect world, a baby would drink only breastmilk straight from the breast for (at the very least) the first year of his or her life. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible for many women. In the states, women are granted 3 months maternity leave, forcing them to hit the pump. Some woman have trouble breastfeeding and turn to the pump and/or formula. Either way, the majority of women in the U.S. are going to give their baby a bottle during the first year of his or her life. Unfortunately, most of the plastic bottles on the market today are lined with bisphenol A.

Before Emory was born I had determined very early on that we would use (glass) bottles. A friend from San Francisco purchased some EvenFlo bottles from our registry. I was so out of it, exhausted and depressed for the first two months postpartum, I used Dr. Brown’s bottles instead, which worked really well with easing gas pains. Unfortunately, they are made with BPA. So, for the first two months of Emory’s life, he was being served pumped breastmilk from a bisphenol A-lined plastic bottle. What’s more, the more you heat them up, the more the chemical leaches from the plastic and into the milk. (I use our electric kettle to heat water. I then dip the bottle into a mug for a few minutes.) Eventually, we remembered all the plans we had and ditched the plastic bottles for the glass ones.

Along with retiring the Dr. Brown’s bottles, we’ve gotten rid of our Brita filter, our plastic french press (replacing it with a glass one). We’ve stopped drinking anything out of plastic that includes all store bought bottled water. I figured the tap water here in Brooklyn will do us just fine. (We do drink it every time we go out to eat and I haven’t ever once used the Brita to filter our ice.) We’ve been drinking tap water for 2 months now and neither one of us has had any unwanted leakage or strange bellyaches.

We now avoid all cans lined with the BPA. (Canned tomatoes are a big culprit.) Thankfully, we never purchased baby formula lined with it, but it is out there. I have read conflicting reports as to whether Medela’s bottles are BPA-free. (I do not think they are entirely BPA-free but I’m hoping someone reading this might be privy to that information.) Medela bottles are entirely BPA-free. Thanks to a commenter for clearing that up.

When you start looking for it, you’ll find that BPA is everywhere. It’s in everything with a recycle number 7 on it. It’s in cellophane, tupperware; It’s even found in pacifiers.

The good news is, many people seem to be catching on. It seems more and more organizations are coming out with alternatives. Born Free makes plastic bottles that are bisphenol A free. (We purchased a few of these bottles just last month.) Natursutten, came out with a BPA-free pacifier. Brita hasn’t caught on yet, which is frustrating. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how America got off on such a filtered-water tangent to begin with. I remember when it happened but I’m not sure how or why. It seemed that all of a sudden, people decided the tap water was no longer safe to drink. Perhaps the bottled water corporations such as Pepsi and Coke had a lot to do with it? Either way, drinking bottled water and water pushed through a filter first seems silly and excessive to me, unnecessary even. And wouldn’t it be ironic if we finally discover that the plastic we’re using is more detrimental to one’s health than the water being pumped through our pipes?

By now, I’m certain that many of you have rolled your eyes at least once during this post. And I’m OK with that. I know I annoyed the crap out of some folks after we ordered an organic mattress. But I invite you to take a minute and answer one question:

If we are able to cut down on the amount of chemicals we unnecessarily pump into our children, don’t you think that we should?

It took months worth of research for me to get behind vaccinations. The more research I did, the better I felt about immunizing my little guy. The opposite can be said for BPA. The more I read, the more wary I become of its role in our everyday lives.

I don’t expect everyone to get on the anti-plastic bandwagon. But I might suggest doing the research on your own and then deciding for yourself. After all, the government doesn’t always have the best interest of the individual in mind.

If there is one thing I have learned in the past year that I can state with absolution, it’s that this parenting thing takes constant research.


  1. Yes, I do think we should. This is why we haven’t used any of the cute melamine dishes we got for presents, and why I special-ordered glass bottles for milk storage and feeding. It’s so tempting to think “well, it was good enough for us growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s; what harm can it do?”—but we have only to look at all our friends on Ritalin or antidepressants or fertility treatments to poke a hole in that complacency.


  2. Do you ever worry about the tap water here in Greenpoint? My boyfriend worries about it because of the oil spill in the 70s, and insists we drink bottled water.


  3. Wow. I never even thought about our brita or canned tomatoes! Aie!


  4. Not really. That’s in our groundwater, so if we were to grow vegetables, yes, I’d be concerned. But the water doesn’t touch the oil spill. I think consuming and then discarding bottles of water is much worse for us than drinking the tap water. But that’s based on no real factual information. So, like with most things you read on here, take it with a grain of salt, my dear.


  5. That last comment was in response to Erica.

    Lana, I do believe you can get glass Brita pitchers in England, but we couldn’t figure out how to buy them so we’re just drinking the tap water for now. Probably will continue to do so. (I never used tap water to make ice, so why bother with the water? Plus, how often does one clean those out really well?)


  6. The drinking water in NYC is piped in from the mountains. It is, in fact, some of the best municipal water in the nation.

    However, with a little research I’m sure someone could find fault with it (the pipes it comes in, the animals on the mountain, the air nearby). Still, I think we’re doing pretty well with it.


  7. Another option for those who want to cut down on waste, but don’t want to drink unfiltered tap water, is to get a filter that screws directly on to the faucet. That way, it’s automatically filtered and goes straight into the glass you want to drink from, instead of sitting in a plastic pitcher, which personally I definitely never cleaned enough when I had one.


  8. I believe the Medela bottles are BPA-free as well. They say so on the packaging (though I got mine in England) and Dr. Greene (can’t think of his first name) recommends them as such in Raising Baby Green along w/ Born Free.

    Can you recommend some other BPA-free brands (formula, organic mattress, etc)?


  9. We use Similac Organic. As far as I know, and I have asked repeatedly, it’s BPA free. Our mattress is… I have to ask TJ. He researched the mattresses and was in charge of buying it. I’ll report back about that. It’s a REALLY nice mattress. We just purchased their organic sheets to go over top as well. The sheets are unbelievable soft. I often wish I could climb into bed with Emory.


  10. I think switching to tap water is a good idea. And I just ordered some SIGG bottles to keep at work. Am definitely going to reduce how much canned products I buy… fresh or frozen from now on. yikes.


  11. We bought this mattress from Naturepedic. It’s a bit more pricey than the regular mattresses but it’s firm and awesome. And will last him for many years.


  12. A relatively new site, http://www.safemama.com has some great info. She posts a couple of “cheat sheets” that lists items that are BPA-free, at the upper left hand corner of the front page.

    Bottles & Sippy Cups

    Pacifiers & Teethers

    The Vulli brand teethers mentioned in the list (from France) are also phthalate-free, all natural rubber, food grade paint and all that good stuff at http://www.kangarooboo.com The owner is a cancer survivor and donate a portion of every order to kids’ charity. Buy stuff that you want, and feel good about it too. How cool is that?


  13. We are weaning ourselves off the plastics as well. IT IS hard! Who knew? I just bought some of those SIGG bottles for us.


  14. Is this what you are referring to? can you customize them as it appears to be from the homepage?


  15. I’d question the use of tapwater in this area.

    The spill affects the groundwater, not the reservoirs… but please remember that the water pipes are below ground too.

    NYC tap water at the plants is very pure… but a lot can happen in the ‘local loop’ or the last mile. Even more can happen in your house.

    Water at my place seems to have a bit of rust/minerals in it… occasionally being slightly brown and causing stains on the tub & sink. I check it often to monitor hardness ( i like to keep my espresso machines in tune). I’m not too crazy about cooking/drinking it straight though.

    Anyways, my point is this: don’t trust tap-water reports – they talk about the health of the water at its source and at test sites, not to your own tap. For $10 you can pick up a test kit and find out exactly what is in your own tap.

    Also remember… your hot water hits the boiler first and can pick up contaminants there. Cold is generally cleaner.


  16. I’m a fan of the Sigg bottles as well. Customization for them is pretty much limited to picking a bottle (Lifestyle bottles have a number of nifty designs, but I think my favorite .6 L is the Ninja bottle in the Kids category), and then choosing a different cap for it for an extra dollar.

    If you do decide to snag a Sigg or two, here’s a coupon code I’ve been for 30% off that made Sigg bottles my go-to holiday gift:

    After having bought a few, I noticed that shipping is the same for 1-3 bottles.


  17. that was meant to read “I’ve been using”


  18. My baby was born in November so I did a lot of research after all the Bisphenol reports in the news and toy recalls of last year. I found this report before using any of the Dr Brown and pacifiers I bought. I took everything back and bought Born Free bottles and Gerber/Nuc pacifiers.


    In the news today:

    Isn’t it ironic all the ‘remedies’ out there that is just so harmful for our children. These companies are just out to make money without thinking of the effect on innocent children.



  19. Thank you for the info. I knew some of the risks, not all. We have used Avent bottles for both of our kids, now I feel just awful! My youngest probably has about 6 months left of bottle feeding…so we are calling all around to see who sells glass bottles in the area. There goes my Monday night!


  20. OH, sweetie, don’t freak out! A little bit here and there is totally fine! It’s when you add it all up! Do not worry. Seriously. I am not worried Emory ate so much out of the plastic. Hell, I’ve been drinking stuff from plastic for a long time! Don’t worry. Don’t lose sleep. Just do a little research, cut some things out and go on with your life.

    Seriously, don’t worry. Getting rid of 2 things out of however many is enough in my opinion.


  21. thank you so much for writing on this Michele – I can’t believe I haven’t heard about it til now. I think I’ll stick with tap water in my new apartment rather than get a brita. I also noticed that my Nalgene is #7 – which is a shame. I’m going to look into a better alternative for carting around the 10 gallons of water I drink every day :)


  22. I agree with your stance on reducing plastics and hope that i can acheive some level of reduction within the next few weeks in our household… my vintage tupperware addiction be damned :)

    one comment on the Sigg bottles though…

    taken from their website
    Recently, there has been a lot of press concerning Lexan plastic water bottles (Polycarbonate #7) leaching harmful chemicals into the container’s ingredients. It’s extremely important to note that SIGG bottles exceed FDA requirements and have been thoroughly tested to ensure 0.0% leaching – so they are 100% safe.

    they do not expressly detail their #7 content but only mention the sigg bottle exceeds FDA standards… and that doesnt sit 100% well with my mind since 0.0% leeching sounds like ZERO but that is a rounded figure most likely and the FDA requirement isnt ZERO. although it is better than the Nalgene bottle for sure.


  23. Wow, thanks for that info, Charm. I have to admit, I get very little time these days to really sit down and read everything. My first priority is always Emory, everything else (and I mean everything) has to come second.

    I miss a lot. Thanks.

    Also, Michelle with two l’s thank for all the helpful links! I forgot to mention that.

    Thanks, everyone.


  24. I don’t have anything substantial to add to this, but I just wanted to say thank you for writing! I don’t have any kids, but the husband and I are starting to think about procreating in the next year or so. As two academics, we are very keen to start our preliminary research, so big thanks.

    And I, personally, didn’t roll my eyes once!


  25. Off Topic:

    Happy Birthday you old mother!


  26. Kleen Kanteen…this what we replaced our nalgenes with and we love them…even better than the SIGG bottles in our opinion.
    Re: bottles…last night we made the switch from Avent to Gerber GentleFlow…the baby couldn’t tell the diff. but at least now I don’t have to worry about it.
    Next on my list of things to worry about…wireless internet in our house and what that does to our brains?!


  27. Thank you so much for posting on these topics Michele. While I don’t have children yet, I plan on starting soon. Knowledge about such chemicals is important to my own health as well.

    What do you do about food storage for your self? I bring my lunch to work with me every day, and I am looking for spill proof glass containers. I have been using glass pyrex with a plastic lid (which I don’t put in the microwave if reheating). I don’t think a glass lid will withstand my commute, but I am wondering if someone is producing food storage containers, with plastic lids that do not contain Bisphenol A. Any thoughts?

    I am already purchasing some Klean Kanteen’s and ditching the Nalgenes.



  28. Oh my god, there is nothing I can do to turn back time but if I could I would throw away all the avent bottles that my daughter drank from from 1 year to four (in France its normal to let a child drink from a bottle until they decide to stop). I used to heat them in the microwave and deliberately didn’t buy new ones to encourage her to stop…looks like I got it all wrong. Baby2 however doesn’t drink from a bottle so we’re off to a better start.

    Tap water here smells of chlorine, even the cat won’t drink it so will have to research the filter options…

    pfiou, I’m overwhelmed.


  29. one quick question, with the brita water filter is it the jug that is a problem or the filter itself?


  30. It’s the jug itself, Sharon. But the filter has some issues as well. Apparently they leach but we can’t prove that with any backup. TobyJoe read it somewhere but doesn’t feel comfortable going on the record with it. :] If that makes sense.

    So, yes, the jug has BPA and the filters probably do.


  31. I am the Director of Marketing Communications at Medela. I would like to clarify that Medela Breastmilk Feeding and Storage Bottles, in addition to all products that come in direct contact with breastmilk, have always been, and continue to be BPA-free. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this point.


  32. Thanks so much for the clarification. I will update the post pronto, Rachel. Thanks so much again. (That makes me feel better. I used your bottles whenever I first got my pump.)


  33. A couple of years ago I started drinking more water and I would re-use water bottles, and drink tap water. I later found out that water bottles are not meant for re-use and bought a lexan Nalgene bottle. I then later learned that lexan is bad, and can leech chemicals. I then switched to a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) nalgene bottle. Is this related to BPA in any way? Nalgene promptly removed all lexan based baby bottles shortly after finding out lexan was leeching chemicals.

    And, I’ve read that most bottled water is merely tap water, and the flouride in tap water is actually somewhat beneficial to preventing cavities in children.


  34. My pediatrician recommended that I drink more tap water instead of filtered water so that my baby will get the flouride he needs through my breast milk.

    On another toxic topic – what about all the cleaning products we use every day? I read conventional cleaning products don’t have ingredient labels (formulas are government protected trade secrets), but green brands such as Seventh Generation, Ecover and Biokleen willingly list their nontoxic contents. I’ve been using Seventh Generation and Mrs Meyer’s products and discovered the amazing cleaning power of Baking soda, so I feel a little better about toxins in the house and around the my baby and us.


  35. this seems to be coming up a lot lately! the news stories about it last year got me to switch to glass bottles too, but it’s so hard to eliminate BPA completely! i do what i can, but i have to admit that sometimes convenience and affordability win. (lunch containers for example—glass is just too cumbersome for me.)

    regarding infant formula, according to an article linked from tinychoices.org (they recently addressed this too) similac does use BPA in their cans, but only on the very top and bottom, so the exposure is less than in some other brands. the article itself is at http://www.ewg.org/reports/infantformula.

    i also found elle’s comment interesting, since i’ve recently read that there is concern about the level of fluoride in our drinking water, especially for infants and children. (as parents it seems we are always hearing conflicting advice, argh!) but either way, it’s important to note that most filters (especially carbon filters like Brita) don’t remove fluoride from the water, so the issue would really only be between bottled vs. tap, rather than filtered vs. tap.

    interesting conversation, thanks for sharing!


  36. Yes, it’s found in cans of infant formula. We use the white plastic bottles. I do believe they are BPA free. (Recycle number 2). It’s the organic green labeled bottles.

    I am cavity-less (34 today!) and very proud of that fact. It’s totally because of fluoride in our water when we were kids. Well, that and our genes, which I am hoping to pass on to Emory.

    We got rid of most all our tupperware and began using glass Pyrex. They RULE. I am not sure what TJ uses to get to work. I don’t leave very often, so bringing lunch is not an option for me, but I can totally understand not wanting to lug glass around! Hell, just put it (the food) on a plate first and microwave that. That’s what we do whenever we are forced to store something in our remaining tupperware containers.

    One more thing, we started Emory on solids recently, which he freaking loves. Anyway, they are also stored in plastic that I believe is lined with BPA. The organic versions are even in plastic sometimes. So, if you do care, I might suggest avoiding the plastic baby food as well. They sell glass ones just the same. :] Just think you can save them and make people small gifts sets of sauces or jams! You know, whenever you buy that pressure cooker!


  37. hey michelle, this is jessica, the Cobra’s friend and doula =) i hope you dont mind but i started reading back when i was helping the cobras and i’ve been enjoying your blog ever since =)

    along the lines of the chemicals we are adding to ourselves, i wanted to share with you a website i found a while back. i’m sure you’re already up on it, being the well informed woman you are =) but just incase…

    the site is http://cosmeticdatabase.com/index.php?nothanks=1

    here’s their intro:
    “Skin Deep pairs ingredients in more than 25,000 products against 50 definitive toxicity and regulatory databases, making it the largest integrated data resource of its kind. Why did a small nonprofit take on such a big project? Because the FDA doesn’t require companies to test their own products for safety.”

    thanks again for the awesome posts =)


  38. Totally caught the plastics fever this summer and started researching. I wrote to Brita and asked about their pitchers since we use one all the time and it had no visible number anywhere on the housing. I got a detailed email of all the plastics used in all the parts. The pitchers themselves are made of SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), a hard plastic that does not contain Bisphenol A. None of the other plastics in the filter or handle have it either, according to the email I got.

    Probably “safe” to use the pitchers then? Have you gotten different information? Gah. This stuff is making me bananas.


  39. right, i didn’t even think of the plastic bottles! those probably are BPA-free. i haven’t seen those with the organic similac. (we use the cans of powder, ourselves. oh well.)


  40. I’ve been studying this topic, and I too feel overwhelmed not just by this but by all the toxic things in our environment and even by all the ones we aren’t yet aware of. The more processed and consumeristic we become the worse it gets. I am also curious as to why even though you are concerned with this topic of toxic chemicals in our bodies (thank you!) you’ve chosen vaccination? Is it because the mercury derivatives have been pulled? Or that it is worth the risk? I too am a parent to little ones and I’d be interested in hearing your reasoning here. ;)


  41. Great article. I think we all make a difference every time we become more educated about these things and decide to do something about it. This is a good article about a company Thinkbaby Bottles that makes BPA free bottles and stainless steel sports bottles, see: http://www.thecradle.com/eco-cradle/talkingwith_kbrodwick.


  42. I found this info about Brita water pitchers:


    Personally, I feel that the choices you make regarding this issue should be made after thoroughly researching the water quality in the area that you live. Some water supplies have measurable contaminants that are potentially much more hazardous than BPA. Additionally, the age of the plumbing in your house should be a consideration, since many older houses have lead in the pipes and lead is one of the major contaminants that water filters (mostly) remove. Lead, a heavy metal, has been irrefutably proven to cause serious and lasting damage to the human body.

    Although Brita water pitchers appear to be safe, if you’re really concerned about it one option may be to go ahead and filter your water but store it in a glass container.

    We have done so much harm to the planet that there is currently no way to escape from exposure altogether, but there are steps that we can take to lower our risks. I suspect that, faced with consumer advocacy and a drop in sales of toxic products, we will continue to see an increase in environmentally friendly products and practices. Hopefully BPA-tainted plastics will soon be a thing of the past.


  43. Thank you for posting this.

    I have a rather simple question that I haven’t been able to answer – can you see BPA?

    The reason I ask is that the one canned product I will have difficulty giving up is canned tomatoes, which I frequently use in cooking. When I open the cans of different brands, sometimes I see a white plastic liner around the interior, sometimes I see bare metal. Does the white liner indicate the presence of BPA? Are the cans with seemingly bare metal interiors BPA-free?

    It was difficult finding ways to bring my lunch to work without using plastic containers. I’ve found that mason jars work wonders, especially when transporting liquids (soup, for example), though they are significantly heavier.


  44. THANK you for the Information.

    we just found out that so many baby bottles out there are not BPA free. And what a shame that lots of adults or even children in school uses plastic bottles or even plastic food ware. Geez! I’d always like to use filtered water, you know, the one with the big tank under the sink. WE tested it with a testing device, and found out that, the water we used with the filtered tank is much purer than those with Brita or any other means of filter, but of coz, the tank itself, I think is plastic too. What an irony. Who can avoid all things, just like pesticides!!!! Anyway, I am thinking that, I might need to get one of those larger baby bottles which is bpa free, for even myself , to bring filtered water to outdoor uses.


  45. Hi I just bought a French press. It has a glass center, that comes out , and that is surrounded by a polycarbonate outter shell. Can that be harmful, since the hot liquid doesn’t touch the polycarbonate?


  46. Hi
    Thanks for this wonderful Report on Bisphenol A.
    One question?
    Please. Were do I buy the 10 dollar kit for testing? lol
    Be Well,


  47. I feel very strongly about this. My wife had breast cancer and I have never been so angry about it. She is OK and clear now, but it was a tough time. Hormone balance is SO important and we mees with it at our peril.


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