The Hard Truth About Plastics
It’s true that plastic has played an important part in making our lives more convenient (reusable leftover containers), fun (squishy rubber duckie toys) and colorful (kids backpacks and lunchboxes) but emerging research is showing that our increased exposure to plastics, and the chemicals that make them up, may be damaging to our health. Plastics have been linked to endocrine disruption in babies, cancers, birth defects and poor brain/nervous system development. Everyone knows that petroleum-based plastics harm the environment, but only now are we beginning to understand the potential risks they cause for our health (and our babies).
Know the Code: Plastic Recycling Numbers
When you’re shopping for baby toys and gear, you’ll find it difficult to completely avoid plastics. If you do find yourself buying a plastic item, be sure to check the recycling symbol: Products numbered 3, 6 and 7 may contain harmful chemicals, whereas 1, 2, 4 and 5 may be safer choices.
Learn more about different types of chemicals found in plastics and safer alternatives to typical plastic toys and baby essentials.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenol A (BPA) is present in polycarbonate plastic and is most commonly found in plastic water and baby bottles and food and beverage can linings.
Depending on who you ask, and what studies you read, BPA is either perfectly safe or a dangerous health risk. The plastic industry claims it to be a safe compound, whereas recent scientific research indicates that BPA exposure can impair brain function, leading to learning disabilities. BPA is known as a hormone disruptor that acts like human estrogen.
BPA leaches from polycarbonate plastic under certain conditions, particularly when the plastic is scratched, cloudy or exhibits other signs of wear. BPA leaching is also accelerated by heat. That is, when hot and fatty foods or liquids are plastic in such containers, it may dissolve traces of BPA. BPA has been found to leach from plastic bottles into baby milk or formula.
Play It Safe: Choose Bisphenol A-free bottles for your baby’s milk and formula. Glass bottles from Silikids or BPA-free plastic bottles from GreentoGrow are a toxin-free alternative to using plastic baby bottles. Replace conventional rubber or latex bottle nipples with non-toxic, clear silicon nipples.
Phthalates are considered to be one of the most toxic plastics in use today and you’ll be surprised to learn that this toxic substance can still be found throughout conventional nurseries.
Phthalates are used to make plastic soft and pliable, like that used in teethers, bath squirter toys, balls and many soft plastic toys. Phthalates can also be found in vinyl flooring and mattress covers. Consider where most soft, squishy plastic toys wind up (in your baby’s mouth) and you’ll understand how troublesome the use of phthalates in toys are.
Play It Safe: Choose organic cotton teethers, toys and dolls, non-toxic solid wood toys and look for phthlatate-free bath toys as great alternatives to plastic toys.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
PVC plastic, also known as “vinyl” is one of the most widely-used types of plastic. You’ll find it in packaging, home furnishings, toys and more.
On its website, Greenpeace USA makes a strong statement about PVC:
“Few consumers realize that PVC is the single most environmentally damaging of all plastics. Since safer alternatives are available for virtually all uses of PVC, it is possible to protect human health and the environment by replacing and eventually phasing out this poison plastic.”
We couldn’t have said it better. Exposure to PVC plastics may result in exposure to lead, not to mention that the manufacturing process releases many toxic chemicals into the environment.
Play It Safe: Instead of vinyl floor, choose linoleum or sustainable hardwood. Choose glass over plastic and buy toys made of unfinished solid wood or organic cotton. If you must buy plastic, look for toysm lunch bags and other items that are PVC-free. Fleurville makes diaper bags from recycled plastic bottles and uses an environmentally friendly polyurethane laminate instead of PVC.
For more information check out:
Green Guide: http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc/114/bpa
Healthy Child Healthy World: http://healthychild.org/
Greenpeace USA: http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/campaigns/toxics/go-pvc-free