EarthTalk: Is it true that some baby bottles
contain chemicals that can cause health problems for babies?
If so, how can I find alternatives that are safer?
-- Amy Gorman, Berkeley, CA
2008 report by American and Canadian environmental
researchers entitled “Baby’s Toxic Bottle”
found that plastic polycarbonate baby bottles leach
dangerous levels of Bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic
chemical that mimics natural hormones and can send
bodily processes into disarray, when heated.
© Getty Images
links connecting specific human illnesses to chemicals oozing
out of baby bottles have been proven definitively. Nonetheless,
many parents are heeding the call of scientists to switch
to products with less risk. A 2008 report by American and
Canadian environmental researchers entitled “Baby’s
Toxic Bottle” found that plastic polycarbonate baby
bottles leach dangerous levels of Bisphenol-A (BPA), a synthetic
chemical that mimics natural hormones and can send bodily
processes into disarray, when heated.
six of the leading brands of baby bottles tested—Avent,
Disney/The First Years, Dr. Brown’s, Evenflo, Gerber
and Playtex—leaked what researchers considered dangerous
amounts of BPA. The report calls on major retailers selling
these bottles—including Toys “R” Us, Babies
“R” Us, CVS, Target, Walgreens and Wal-Mart—to
switch to safer products.
to the report, BPA is a “developmental, neural and
reproductive toxicant that mimics estrogen and can interfere
with healthy growth and body function.” Researchers
cite numerous animal studies demonstrating that the chemical
can damage reproductive, neurological and immune systems
during critical stages of development. It has also been
linked to breast cancer and to the early onset of puberty.
what’s a concerned parent to do? Glass bottles are
a tried-and-true chemical-free solution, and they are widely
available, though very breakable. To the rescue are several
companies making BPA-free plastic bottles (out of either
PES/polyamide or polypropylene instead of polycarbonate).
Some of the leaders are BornFree, thinkbaby, Green to Grow,
Nuby, Momo Baby, Mother’s Milkmate and Medela’s.
These brands are available at natural foods stores, directly
from manufacturers, or from online vendors.
of the major brands selling BPA-containing bottles are now
also offering or planning to offer BPA-free versions of
their products. Consumers should read labels and packaging
carefully to make sure that any product they are considering
buying says unequivocally that it does not contain the chemical.
switching to a BPA-free bottle is no guarantee the chemical
won’t make its way into your baby’s bloodstream
anyway. BPA is one of the 50 most-produced chemicals in
the world. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council
(NRDC), it is used in everything from plastic water jugs
labeled #7 to plastic take-out containers, baby bottles
and canned food liners. It is so omnipresent that the Centers
for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has found that
95 percent of Americans have the chemical in their urine.
nursing mothers—especially those who haven’t
discarded their old BPA-containing Nalgene water bottles—may
be passing the chemical along through their breast milk.
And if that weren’t enough, BPA is also used in the
lining of many metal liquid baby formula cans. The nonprofit
Environmental Working Group (EWG) has posted email links
to the consumer affairs offices of the major formula manufacturers
so concerned parents can ask them to remove BPA from their
product offerings and packaging.
Toxic Bottle Report; NRDC;
EarthTalk: How much “old growth”
forest is left in the United States and is it all protected
from logging at this point?
-- John Foye, via e-mail
Protecting remaining old-growth forest is important
for many reasons. These areas provide some of the
cleanest drinking water in the world, critical salmon
and wildlife habitat, world-class recreational opportunities
and critical carbon storage in our fight against global
warming. Pictured here: a section of old growth in
the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, located in Graham,
© Streaminspector, courtesy Flickr
As crazy as it
sounds, no one really knows how much old growth is left
in America’s forested regions, mainly because various
agencies and scientists have different ideas about how to
define the term. Generally speaking, “old growth”
refers to forests containing trees often hundreds, sometimes
thousands, of years old. But even when there is agreement
on a specific definition, differences in the methods used
to inventory remaining stands of old growth forest can produce
major discrepancies. Or so complains the National Commission
on Science for Sustainable Forestry (NCSSF) in its recent
report, “Beyond Old Growth: Older Forests in a Changing
In 1991, for
example, the U.S. Forest Service and the nonprofit Wilderness
Society each released its own inventory of old-growth forests
in the Pacific Northwest and northern California. They both
used the Forest Service’s definition based on the
number, age and density of large trees per acre, the characteristics
of the forest canopy, the number of dead standing trees
and fallen logs and other criteria. However, because each
agency used different remote sensing techniques to glean
data, the Forest Service came up with 4.3 million acres
of old-growth and the Wilderness Society found only two
The NCSSF also
studied the data, and they concluded that 3.5 million acres
(or six percent) of the region’s 56.8 million acres
of forest qualified as old growth—that is, largely
trees over 30 inches in diameter with complex forest canopies.
By broadening the definition to include older forest with
medium-diameter trees and both simple and complex canopies,
NCSSF said their figure would go up substantially.
In other parts
of the country, less than one percent of Northeast forest
is old growth, though mature forests that will become old
growth in a few decades are more abundant. The Southeast
has even less acreage—a 1993 inventory found about
425 old growth sites across the region, equaling only a
half a percent of total forest area. The Southwest has only
a few scattered pockets of old-growth (mostly Ponderosa
Pine), but for the most part is not known for its age-old
trees. Old-growth is even scarcer in the Great Lakes.
It is hard to
say whether the remaining pockets of scattered old-growth
in areas besides the Pacific Northwest will remain protected,
but environmentalists are working hard to save what they
can in northern California, Oregon and Washington. The outgoing
Bush administration recently announced plans to increase
logging across Oregon’s remaining old-growth reserves
by some 700 percent, in effect overturning the landmark
Northwest Forest Plan of 1994 that set aside most of the
region’s remaining old growth as habitat for the endangered
old-growth is important for many reasons. “These areas
provide some of the cleanest drinking water in the world,
critical salmon and wildlife habitat, world-class recreational
opportunities and critical carbon storage in our fight against
global warming,” says Jonathan Jelen of the nonprofit
Oregon Wild, adding that as much as 20 percent of the emissions
related to global warming can be attributed to deforestation
and poor forest management. “A growing body of evidence
is showing the critical role that forests—and old-growth
forests in particular—can play in mitigating climate
SYNDICATED COLUMN ONLY ON AMERICAJR.COM