Tips on How to Keep Your Family BPA-Free

You submitted questions about BPA to Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana. Below are her answers.

Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana is in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington's Harborview Medical Center and sees patients at the Harborview Children and Teens Clinic. She is also a researcher at Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, and a member of the Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit at UW. Sathyanarayana's research focuses on the effects of prenatal and early childhood exposures to environmental chemicals, such as phthalates and bisphenol A, and she has a special interest in human risk, public health and policy.

Sarah from Delray Beach, Fla., asked: "Do you have a detailed list of products that contain BPA? "


Sathyanarayana answered: Given that BPA is ubiquitous and used in numerous products, a detailed list does not exist at this time. You can use the plastic recycling symbol #7 on your plastics to identify those that may contain BPA. Also, any can with a protective epoxy lining, such as those used for canned vegetables and soups, likely contains BPA as well. If you try to avoid these products, you will likely be decreasing your exposure to this chemical.

Katherine from Hamburg, N.Y., asked: "I have a 2-week-old baby and have been using Avent bottles that I also used with my other two children. Do I assume that these bottles do contain BPA, and stop using them immediately? If so, what do experts recommend? What would be comparable to the Avent bottle with respect to the nipple?"

Sathyanarayana answered: Dear Katherine, if these bottles have the #7 recycling symbol on them, they likely contain BPA. If you are heating them or microwaving them in any way — I would recommend to stop using them and switch to a BPA-free bottle (the Born Free line is BPA-free). The nipple is made of latex or silicone and likely does not contain any BPA so it is not a concern at this time.

Edeana from Chicago asked: "Is there any way to test infants to determine what level of BPA they've been exposed to?"

Sathyanarayana answered: Dear Edeana, we can test infant urine for BPA and its metabolite, but I do not recommend this because we do not know what these concentrations might mean in terms of toxicity. In addition, very few laboratories around the country can perform these tests.

Connie from Dadeville, Ala., asked: "Does this warning include the 'drop-in' liners for Playtex bottles?"

Sathyanarayana answered: Dear Connie, it is unclear whether the drop-in liners would contain BPA. The only way to truly know is to call the manufacturer and ask if BPA is in this product.

Patty from Fresno, Calif., asked: "How can we tell if a bottle, beverage or water container or trays containing frozen foods contains BPA? The trays containing frozen foods are also what you put into the microwave to cook the food."

Sathyanarayana answered: Dear Patty, you can look at the recycling code on the bottle to determine if it contains BPA — #7 is the type that may contain BPA. Most store-bought water bottles are not #7. It is the hard polycarbonate plastics such as Nalgene or baby bottles that are this type of plastic. The plastic trays in the frozen food boxes should also have this recycling code.

Dawn from Maryland asked: "How do we find bottled water that is BPA free? Is there a safe alternative to plastic water bottles? To add to the difficulty, my son has a bad mold allergy and thus we cannot reuse bottles or let him drink from an open water bottle older than 24 hours, even if it was refrigerated."

Sathyanarayana answered: Dear Dawn, I would recommend using the new stainless steel canisters for a reusable container of water.

Kristie from Weir, Miss., asked: "My baby is 3 months old and I'm using the Avent bottles. When I started looking up this issue on bottles it said the bottles made with the plastic were marked by a '7' or 'PC.' I have looked all over my bottles and they are not marked with anything. Does all of this include the sippie cups made by these brands too?"

Sathyanarayana answered: Dear Kristie, the only way to truly know is to call and ask the manufacturer if they contain BPA. If you are not sure, you can switch to a BPA-free line of bottles/sippie cups such as the Born Free line.

Rita from Pensacola, Fla., asked: "What does BPA stand for? I am a RN nurse, and also took organic chemistry in college, all plastics contain basically the same chemical structural makeup, or chemical formula, why the false scare? Why rush to conclusions without scientific data?"

Sathyanarayana answered: Dear Rita, BPA stands for Bisphenol-A. We are not concerned about the toxicity of the plastics themselves — we are concerned specifically about BPA which is a chemical that may be used in plastics. This chemical can leach out of the plastic into liquids and foods that are heated in BPA-containing plastics. BPA is very similar in structure to DES (diethylstilbestrol) which is a synthetic estrogen that was used to treat women for nausea during pregnancy. It caused major malformations and birth defects in newborn infants. BPA in numerous animal studies causes a wide variety of serious health effects, but no human studies have been published at this time. When we decide as a society to regulate a chemical, the decision process is usually based on animal toxicity because we cannot ethically expose humans to chemicals that we think may be toxic. Given the wide variety of of health effects observed in animal studies at low doses, the National Toxicology Program determined that there is some concern to fetuses, infants and children. Therefore, I am personally concerned for adverse health effects in these populations.