Baby bottle blues
Your baby bottles, toddler cups and baby tableware may
not be what they seem. Jane Turner looks at what you might be serving up
Roughly 95% of all baby bottles currently on the market are made from
polycarbonate plastic (marked PC with the number 7 in a recycling symbol).
Trainer cups with spouts or straws and tableware may also be made from it.
This plastic contains the chemical Bisphenol A which is known to mimic the
oestrogen hormone.(1) It is feared that Bisphenol A may be partly responsible
for the decline in sperm counts and increased rates of hormone-related cancers
such as cancers of the breast, testes and prostate.(2)
Studies have shown that Bisphenol A leaches into the contents of containers,
particularly when they are scratched or heated.(1) The levels leached are
very low compared with the EUs tolerable daily intake,
but many parents may feel that it is best to adopt the precautionary principle
and avoid the risk, however small.
There are two choices:
switch to baby bottles, trainer cups and other feeding equipment
not made from polycarbonates
discard scratched polycarbonates and buy new ones. Heat food and
drink outside the containers and transfer it when it is cool rather than
heating the containers up as well.
There are a number of alternatives to polycarbonate products. For baby bottles
there are a couple of toughened glass bottles available on the UK market,
the Baby-Nova and Emil brands, made by German companies. The Emil bottle
comes with a padded, drawstring bag. Glass is also a good environmental
option because it can be easily recycled and is more sustainable when compared
to plastics, which are usually petroleum-based.
The Bfree brand of anti-colic baby bottles are made from Bisphenol-A free
plastic because of its associated health risks, hence the brands name
B free. The baby bottles are made from polyethersulphone (PES) and
the trainer cups from polypropylene. The Bfree website has links to articles
about Bisphenol A and endocrine disruptors and to NGOs campaigning in this
area such as WWF and Friends of the Earth.
Polypropylene baby bottles are also available. They may be marked PP with
a number 5 inside the recycling symbol. Polypropylene is Bisphenol A free
and has one of the lowest impacts on the environment of all plastics, according
to Greenpeace.(3) It also has a high potential for recycling, although the
infrastructure is currently not in place. Two baby bottle manufacturers
market their products as made from polypropylene - the Farlin and Medela
brands. The Medela brand is sold as breastmilk storage bottles so youll
have to buy teats.
Polypropylene is more widely available in trainer cups and beakers. But
whilst many brands may be made from polypropylene only one brand markets
its products as using it for environmental reasons - the Bfree brand.
A sterile environment?
It is recommended that baby bottles are sterilised before use and you can
buy electric steam sterilisers or microwave steam sterilisers. The major
brands of these are covered on the table. Another option is cold sterilising
using a chemical solution, most often sodium hypochlorite, a product of
chlorine chemistry and the sort of thing used in waterworks for the chlorination
of water. A lower-tech option is to just boil them in a saucepan. Bear in
mind that if you are using polycarbonate bottles, heating facilitates the
leaching of Bisphenol-A so allow them to cool down thoroughly before filling
The companies featured in this report are the obvious candidates - baby
products manufacturers and retailers and toy companies. The most unlikely
appearance is that of the the French oil company TOTAL which owns the NUK
brand. TOTAL is the fourth largest oil company in the world and one of the
biggest foreign investors in Burma. It has a joint venture with Burmas
dictatorship in the Yadana gas project in southern Burma, which earns the
regime hundreds of millions of dollars every year. Aung San Suu Kyi, Burmas
democracy leader, has said that TOTAL is the biggest supporter of
the military regime in Burma. A global campaign against TOTAL which
aims to force the company to withdraw from Burma was launched earlier this
year. See the links section to check out a report on the campaign.
Breaking the rules
Many of the companies on the table receive a mark in the Irresponsible Marketing
column for breaking the baby milk marketing code. The code was adopted by
the World Health Assembly in 1981 as a minimum standard to help protect
and promote breast as best. The Code prohibits any advertising of baby bottles
and teats, free samples or special offers to mothers and misleading labels
which often equate bottle feeding with breastfeeding.
Avent, Chicco, Dr Browns (now called Bfree), MAM, NUK, Playtex and
Tommee Tippee have all been criticised for breaking the code in their promotion
of bottles and teats. Of these, Avent was judged to be the worst in a survey
undertaken in 2004 by the International Baby Food Action Network.(4) Boots
and Heinz have both been criticised for violating the code for their marketing
of baby milk.(4)
1 ENDS Report 360, January 2005
2 Bisphenol A - a known endocrine
disruptor, WWF, April 2000
4 Breaking the Rules 2004 (IBFAN)