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YES! But How? :: Is There a Safe Plastic?

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Is there any plastic container that’s safe for food and drink? I have a baby, and most products for infants and children are plastic.

BPA-free Baby Bottles

Dr. Brown's bottles are made without Bisphenol A (BPA), the main component of polycarbonate plastic.

Photo by Alicia Voorhies.

Plastic utensils, dishes, and storage containers designed for both children and adults are ubiquitous.

Take beverage containers, for instance. Bisphenol A (BPA), the main component of polycarbonate plastic, leaches from several of the most popular and affordable brands of baby bottles, sippy cups, and water bottles when they are heated.

BPA is believed to be a threat to the health of infants and children, and has been banned in Canada. In the United States, Minnesota and Connecticut have banned it, and Congress is considering regulating BPA with the proposed Ban Poisonous Additives Act.

Products made with BPA are lightweight, clear, and can withstand high temperatures. But scientists from the Japan Neuroscience Society, the University of Cincinnati, Yale, and the University of Missouri-Columbia have found that BPA levels lower than those found in children’s plastic products are linked to a number of diseases and illnesses, including breast cancer, testicular cancer, reproductive deformities, and neurological defects.

Some 95 percent of baby bottles—almost every major brand—contain potentially unsafe levels of BPA, according to the National Toxicology Program and The National Institutes of Health. Consumer concern has prompted several manufacturers and retailers to provide their customers with BPA-free alternatives that cost little more than the polycarbonate versions.

Some companies, such as Green to Grow, Earthlust, and BornFree, provide only BPA-free products.

You can check the bottom of your bottles and containers to determine whether they are BPA-free. Avoid those with the number 7 or the letters “PC” in or near the recycling triangle, which mean that the item was made with polycarbonate plastic. And if the plastic is transparent, whether colored or clear, it most likely contains BPA. Glass or stainless steel bottles, sippy cups, and other products are safer alternatives.

A handful of Web sites evaluate and rate products for safety. Check out,, and

—Heather Purser

Send questions to YES! But How?, 284 Madrona Way NE, Suite 116, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 or to

Heather PurserHeather Purser wrote this article for Climate Action, the Winter 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Heather is a YES! Magazine editorial assistant. After YES!, Heather Purser is ready to dive professionally and begin harvesting geoducks. (And thanks to her internship, she feels a little funny about the whole thing now.)


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