Your baby tableware may not be what they seem. Jane Turner looks at what you might be serving up to baby.
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 EU’s ‘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 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.
Polypropylene products 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.
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 Baby Bottle Sterilisers 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 them.
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 Brown’s (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 3 Greenpeace Plastics Pyramid 4 Breaking the Rules 2004 (IBFAN)