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Are Plastic Bottles Dangerous for Kids?

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In the fifth installment of her "Dangerous or Safe?" series, pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson sets the record straight on plastic--once and for all.

In an effort to get in those touted "eight glasses per day," we schlep around water bottles everywhere we go. But is the drinking water in those plastic bottles safe? Researchers and consumers alike have become increasingly concerned about what effects the chemicals in plastics have on our bodies. More and more, the question has become: Is that plastic cup contaminating your drink? Is the water in a grab-and-go individual water bottle actually dangerous for you and your kids? Are baby bottles toxic?

The most publicly controversial of all plastics is bisphenol A, also known as BPA. BPA is a chemical found in hard, clear polycarbonate plastics. It has been used by the plastics industry since the 1950s to make products like sports equipment, medical devices, CDs, and home electronics; it coats the inside of some canned goods; and of course, it is used in the manufacturing of water and baby bottles.

As these plasticized products have become a ubiquitous part of our society, BPA exposure has multiplied. In fact, recent studies in the US demonstrate BPA in the blood or urine of 95% of all people tested. BPA falls into the category of "endocrine disruptors" (EDs), chemicals that appear to interfere with hormones and other signaling systems in the body. Specifically, BPA is accused of mimicking the effects of estrogen.

There is certainly data damning BPA. Studies have shown that exposure to high levels of BPA does cause increased risk of uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and breast cancer; it lowers sperm count; and it increases the risk of prostate cancer. The effects of BPA in the body are not limited to estrogen-imitation. There is emerging data that it may be related to obesity as well. In studies done on mice, BPA was found to cause insulin esistance. Insulin is the chemical in the body responsible for helping glucose (sugar) get into the body's cells so that it is can be used as energy. When the cells become resistant to insulin, they cannot take in glucose. The glucose sits around in the bloodstream, building up to excessive levels. High blood sugar = diabetes.

To hear more about the dangers of BPA, plus get Dr. Cara's bottom line on plastic, go to page 2.
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Read more from Dr. Cara.

Dr. Cara Natterson, author of Your Toddler: Head To Toe, is a pediatrician and mother of 2. To buy a copy, click here. She is currently working on the forthcoming book entitled Dangerous or Safe?

next: "I Kissed a Girl--and I Liked It!"
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
FactsonPET September 17, 2008, 1:24 PM

I would like to thank Dr. Natterson for clarifying that when it comes to food containers, BPA is found in polycarbonate bottles, not all plastic

It seems that many news stories omit the fact that most single-serve plastic bottles people use every day – such as those for water, soft drinks and juices – are made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET), designated by the recycling symbol #1, which does not contain BPA. PET is safe and recyclable; polycarbonate, on the other hand, is made with BPA and is designated by the symbol #7.

This is particularly confusing because PET plastic water bottles have not been linked to disease in any credible way. The picture, on page 2, that accompanies this story is also misleading because it depicts a PET bottle on the left and a polycarbonate bottle on the right. I believe the picture should be changed, removing the PET bottle on the left, and leaving only the baby bottle with the skull and crossbones. contains information on this subject that may be useful. I would hope that future stories on this topic mention how readers can identify polycarbonate bottles based on the recycling code and would choose images that accurately reflect the news at hand.

Safe Water Bottle Review October 4, 2008, 4:30 AM

This is a great video and post. I totally agree that the best thing to do about plastics is to minimize them as much as possible. Since it is virtually impossible to eliminate plastics because they just about everywhere. It is really a shame because they have made our lives so much easier.

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