The AAP recently released a study and new recommendations warning against plastics for children and infants, including not using plastics in the microwave and dishwasher (even BPA-free plastics). They also included other warnings of chemicals in various food packaging and other sources.
As a sleepy new parent with a sleepy 3 month old in my arms, the plastic warning was especially concerning for her baby bottles (and plastic pump parts) and plastic sterilizing kits that used the dishwasher or microwave. I’d like to delve more into the science, but below are the actual AAP recommendations and the purchases I made to decrease the risk in the meantime. (These are unpaid, unbiased recs for items I got to keep my own family safe.) Your own research or input is always welcome at the Contact Us section!
AAP recommendations (directly from their source here):
- Prioritize consumption of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when possible, and support that effort by developing a list of low-cost sources for fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Avoid processed meats, especially maternal consumption during pregnancy.
- Avoid microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic, if possible.
- Avoid placing plastics in the dishwasher.
- Use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible
- Look at the recycling code on the bottom of products to find the plastic type, and avoid plastics with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) unless plastics are labeled as “biobased” or “greenware,” indicating that they are made from corn and do not contain bisphenols.
- Encourage hand-washing before handling foods and/or drinks, and wash all fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled.
My Purchases and Actions to Decrease Risks:
- Boil materials to sterilize (?) rather then contaminate be microwave and dishwasher (but I do wonder about plastic contaminating my pots or leaching materials from pot chemicals…or if heating the plastic whatever way is the problem…I didn’t see a quick answer in the AAP report. Regardless the CDC still recommends sterilizing bottles). Picking a safe pot type: I use nonstick in general; however, for sterilizing I thought maybe it was safer to follow the Environmental Working Group (EWG) recs that cast-iron or stainless steel may be the safest material (although the $30 Made In China “stainless steel” pot I got from Amazon leached a chemical film on my bottles despite good reviews…paying more or purchasing from a reputable source or store is probably worth it if you’re replacing cookware!) AAP thoughts on non-stick pans: Chemical PFCs like PFOA/PFOS are warned against by the AAP and can be in nonstick pans, especially before 2015. The chemicals in old nonstick pans and pots meant I replaced them, picking a mostly copper new nonstick pot similar to this from Marshalls…although I do wonder if it might have other variants of PFCs that still can cause harm. Less scientific sources make claims of the safest cookware here or here, another slightly scientific chemistry-based source says “Overall all cookware made by reputable manufacturers using reputable coating systems is safe. One should only have concerns about low end low cost cookware made by unknown manufacturers.” It can be tricky to know what is “best” though… Perhaps avoiding nonstick to pick a ‘purer’ boiling pot for sterilizing bottles would be best (like my stainless steel thought) as the AAP specifically says: “Because of health and environmental concerns, US production of PFOS was phased out in 2002, and PFOA was phased out in 2015.107 However, these particular compounds are only 2 of more than a dozen members of the parent family. For example, closely related PFNA chiefly replaced PFOA; increasing PFNA concentrations were detected in the 2003–2004 NHANES and have remained stable thereafter.102“…In January 2016, the FDA banned the use of 3 classes of long-chain PFCs as indirect food additives.108 Yet, structurally similar short-chain PFCs, such as PFHxS, may continue to be used.” In the very least, changing out my plastic bottle parts dishwasher rack for a purely silicone one might help…but I think I’ll avoid the dishwasher all together for sterilizing my plastic bottles and pump parts. I still use it for the glass bottles and silicone nipples I bought below. (I’m still in limbo of what seems best for sterilizing plastic parts, however!)
- Buy glass baby bottles. Evenflo brand is compatible with Medela pumps (as are Dr. Brown’s, Parent’s Choice at Walmart, and a few others, which I learned from the graphic for this product). Evenflo glass bottles were relatively inexpensive on Amazon Prime for 4oz or 8oz (6 for ~$16), I purchased them and they’ve seemed durable and were made in Mexico. The nipples were silicone and milk only comes in contact with the silicone rather than the plastic cover and lid they still have. Dr. Brown’s also sells glass bottles, but apparently only in the wide-neck version now that is not Medela compatible. I also got a $6 Stainless Steel Parent’s Choice bottle from Walmart (sold in 5oz or 9oz), which still has a plastic lid but silicone nipple–being opaque makes it not as useful for pumping, but it is a non-breakable option for travel. When I opened it had a heavy plastic/chemical smell (maybe from the packaging-but it made me wonder if such a cheap, Made in China version might have chemical issues and not be as good), but I haven’t noticed the smell as much after using the dishwasher…
- Glass or Pyrex food storage for myself to avoid contamination of the microwave or dishwasher. After much trial and error I found some slightly more expensive glass&silicone only ‘Ultimate’ sets made by Pyrex (glass made in USA) that worked great and were much cheaper at Target, Williams Sonoma or sources than on Amazon (and less likely for the low-quality/false positive review/bait-and-switch error of other cookware I got from Amazon). My searching process: Well many Snap-on lids looked clear like glass and report a silicone seal, they are actually made of PP (polypropylene, #5) plastic–not the high risk#3,6,7 plastics the AAP warns against, but also still has unclear risks. My original compromise was to buy extra silicone lids to try, and not use the plastic lids or at least hand wash it and not microwave or dishwasher it. That opened many options of brands online of glassware storage with plastic lids/ After seeing reviews where even well reviewed ones would break, I originally chose to side with a reputable one like Pyrex; however, there were reports in Amazon of Pyrex breaking too, especially if they are in the cheaper ‘storage’ not the baking category and put in hot environments. This set from Anchor Hocking is purportedly American made, but the lower quality plastic lids might not be (but in my selection I was less about the lid quality as I would try not to use the plastic lids; however, they arrived chipped and seemed cheaper than Pyrex so I returned them and don’t recommend!). There were also silicone containers that were more expensive but would be plastic free. They reportedly retain taste and smell more than others in reviews, and I’m not sure if low quality ones might have some contamination since silicone isn’t reported by the AAP (and apparently some silicone dyes might have issues). Generally pure silicone is safe for medical use, but I wasn’t sure quality online (it is generally endorsed as safe in not-super-scienc rticles). After much searching and some returns, I was happy with the Ultimate Pyrex Glass&Silicone only sets (available in many sizes and dishwasher safe and plastic free!), plus some extra flexible silicone lids filled the gap replacing old plastic lids I had (bonus those fit over multiple shapes and even foods and were dishwasher safe– replacing Syran wrap too).
- Silicone lids for food storage. These reportedly can fit on any container and I did not notice them on the AAP negative list. This could be an alternative to plastic for covering the glassware, and I ordered these to give it a try. They have been good so far and are reportedly dishwasher safe, although they are a Chinese company.
- Got rid of old Tupperware and cheap baby plates once I knew my replacement worked well. This would help avoid my habit of putting them in the dishwasher or microwave, but others may be happy just keeping them and washing by hand if they are concerned. I wasn’t actually sure if my Tupperware was BPA free on reflection since it was quite old. I also reevaluated whether my current silverware was safe has a left metal marks on my bowls and it was cheap from Marshalls-I may get new stainless steel ones and do the Montessori approach of real glassware instead of plastic for kids ¬ my bpa-free plastic I got from Ikea once my baby starts on foods.
Lots to think about! Those were things I ordered after a sleepless night researching and reading the AAP Recommendations. They have a lot more in the article that is worth looking over the science and safety (I included some more relevant quotes from them below). Hopefully I can look into more soon!
Summary of Other Chemicals and Risks relevant quotes from the AAP Article:
“The potential for endocrine system disruption is of great concern, especially in early life, when developmental programming of organ systems is susceptible to permanent and lifelong disruption. The international medical and scientific communities have called attention to these issues in several recent landmark reports, including a scientific statement from the Endocrine Society in 2009,42 which was updated in 2015 to reflect rapidly accumulating knowledge3; a joint report from the World Health Organization and United Nations Environment Program in 201343; and a statement from the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics in 2015.44 Chemicals of increasing concern include the following:
bisphenols, which are used in the lining of metal cans to prevent corrosion45;
phthalates, which are esters of diphthalic acid that are often used in adhesives, lubricants, and plasticizers during the manufacturing process17;
nonpersistent pesticides, which have been addressed in a previous policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics and, thus, will not be discussed in this statement46;
perfluoroalkyl chemicals (PFCs), which are used in grease-proof paper and packaging47; and
perchlorate, an antistatic agent used for plastic packaging in contact with dry foods with surfaces that do not contain free fat or oil and also present as a degradation product of bleach used to clean food manufacturing equipment.48
Additional compounds of concern discussed in the accompanying technical report include artificial food colors, nitrates, and nitrites.
Environmentally relevant doses (ie, low nanomolar concentrations that people are likely to encounter in daily life) of bisphenol A (BPA)4 trigger the conversion of cells to adipocytes,9disrupt pancreatic β-cell function in vivo,49 and affect glucose transport in adipocytes.9–11Phthalates are metabolized to chemicals that influence the expression of master regulators of lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors,21with specific effects that produce insulin resistance in nonhuman laboratory studies. Some studies have documented similar metabolic effects in human populations.22 Some phthalates are well known to be antiandrogenic and can affect fetal reproductive development.18,19,50 Authors of recent studies have linked perfluoroalkyl chemicals with reduced immune response to vaccine27,28 and thyroid hormone alterations,29,51,52 among other adverse health end points. Perchlorate is known to disrupt thyroid hormone34 and, along with exposures to other food contaminants, such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers,53–55 may be contributing to the increase in neonatal hypothyroidism that has been documented in the United States.56 Artificial food colors may be associated with exacerbation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms.57 Nitrates and nitrites can interfere with thyroid hormone production40 and, under specific endogenous conditions, may result in the increased production of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds.37,38“
Other Resources (often summarizing AAP recs in layman’s terms):
Initial AAP News Release:
Other related articles: