The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
January 14, 2009

More BPA! Bisphenol-A in our Kids.

Oct 2013 UPDATE: The resource described in this article, Z Recommends, has ceased operations.  For information on what kids’ products do and don’t contain BPA, check out The Soft Landing’s Safer Product Shopping Guides.

Following my BPA post from 2 days ago, I got a Twitter message from Jennifer Taggart, the “Smart Mama” whose blog I recommended, asking me to also link to the ZRecs Guide for BPA-free info. And then I received a message from ZRecs themselves!

The ZRecs Guide is an intense compilation of research on chemicals in children’s products, focusing on BPA, Flame Retardants, Latex, Lead, Parabens, Phthalates, Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), & Triclosan. It’s a huge database of helpful information. And I especially appreciate that they include PVC — even phthalate-free PVC — because of the environmental hazards involved in its production.

Reading the ZRecs blog, I was surprised to learn that in addition to the types of products I listed in my BPA post a few days ago, a whole host of other products can contain BPA, including other types of plastic that are not hard and clear like polycarbonate bottles. For example, children’s dishes, tub toys, utensils. One company, Sassy, was found to be selling toys listed as BPA-free that turned out to actually contain BPA. And ZRecs was the first site to get to the bottom of the issue.

My first reaction is appreciation for all the hard work the Zrecs staff do. But my next thought was, “Why all this this hoopla to find a BPA-free plastic spoon? Who needs a plastic spoon in the first place? My siblings and I used metal spoons. Is all this plastic necessary?” And I still find myself thinking that instead of diligently searching for plastic products that don’t contain known toxins, we ought to be finding alternatives to plastic in the first place.

But I don’t have kids. And my opinion softened a bit when I read a discussion about finding a PVC and phthalate-free tub mat to keep a 14-month old from slipping in the bathtub. We don’t use a tub mat in our house because we are grown ups who have learned how to take showers without ending up on our heads. But what about a baby? It seems to me this is an appropriate use of plastic, especially for those who cannot use natural rubber due to latex allergies. It’s comparable to the plastic in my bicycle helmet that keeps my own skull safe.

So, there you go. If you haven’t already, check out the ZRecs Guide, ZRecommends blog, and The Tranquil Parent, which are all part of the ZRecs Home site. But remember that whether products are PVC- or phthalate- or BPA-free, Fake Plastic Fish encourages you to look for the entirely plastic-free option first.

24 comments
entrepreneurship
entrepreneurship

It’s interesting that no matter what someone writes, you want to read it.

Shell
Shell

I was just wondering if anyone knew how to tell if second hand items (such as bottles, cups, etc.) contain BPA....I know Playtex items label them BPA free on the bottom, but what about other brands? I am a stay at home mom with some health limitations and try to save money by buying second hand if/when I can. Needless to say, I am a fan of mom-to-mom sales where you can get cups and such for 25 cents each! LOL My mom said that the ones to watch out for are cups labeled with a number "7" inside the recycling triangle; but, I have some Gerber, Avent, etc. cups that don't have anything written on them! Instead of contacting each company individually, I was wondering if there were any shortcuts....

Fake Plastic Fish
Fake Plastic Fish

Hi Mr. Curious. I believe most plastic cutlery is made from polystyrene. Check out this page: http://www.foodservicedirect.com/index.cfm/S/75/CLID/3361/N/101373/Medium-Weight-Polystyrene-Cutlery.htmAs far as I know, PS doesn't contain BPA, but it does contain styrene. According to the IATP Smart Plastics Guide, "Styrene is toxic to the brain and nervous system,among workers with longer-term exposures, but alsohas been found to adversely affect red blood cells, liver, kidneysand stomach in animal studies."

Mr. Curious
Mr. Curious

Can someone tell where can I find ingredients for regular white / clear plastic tableware spoons/forks. I imagine that they contain bpa and other toxins? I just need a source.

Monice
Monice

I know this comment is a little late to the game, but the one justification for plastic tableware is kids banging their forks/spoons on the table. From the beginning we tried to just use smaller versions of stainless steel utensils for our little guy - our nice wood table is now gouged and dented from banging his fork on the table. So, we switched back to plastic until he is a little more civilized. But aside from that, yes, he eats of a regular salad plate and drinks from a small glass cup.

SkylarKD
SkylarKD

Regarding the comments about used child car seats: in many places it is illegal for consignment stores to sell used ones, for safety reasons. You can always get one from Freecycle, but that's something that I wouldn't feel comfortable buying used. Even a crack that you can't see on a car seat can compromise its safety. And chances are, no one is going to tell you if their car seat was in the car during an accident. It's also important to follow the manual's instructions to properly install the seat. Each one has it's own quirks, they can be tough to install in different cars, and most second-hand products don't come with manuals!Also remember that all car seats have an expiry date (varies by manufacturer), and car seats (in Canada at least - I assume in the US) must have current motor vehicle safety standard tags on it, or you can be given a ticket for using it.If someone can't afford a new car seat, a used one is much safer than no car seat, but for those of us who can afford it, buy a new one.It's frustrating to see the waste - I don't know of any company that recycles old car seats - but I consider a new car seat to be necessary plastic to keep my daughter safe. We bought her an infant seat, and when she grew out of that, a convertible seat that will last until she is 65lbs (in the US a similar model goes up to 85lbs). So at least this seat will last her a long time!

Carol in Seattle
Carol in Seattle

Stephanie,One suggestion about buying a use car seat. Here is Washington, you have bring your car seat to the hospital and have them make sure that it is safe and that you know how to use it before you can take your child home. Some use car seats may be determined to be below current safety standards or too heavily used to be safe. I thing the National Travel Safety Board has the latest on car seats. Since children are required to be in a car seat for 4 or more years, it is a good idea to invest in one that will last.

heather t
heather t

Hi Beth - if any of your other readers are interested in purchasing hand-made toys or clothing for their kids or as gifts, they need to look into the new CPSIA regulations. They call for expensive and redundant lead-testing and labelling that - AS WRITTEN - will put many American handcrafters out of business. Thanks!The official CPSC site - http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Regulations-Laws--Standards/Statutes/The-Consumer-Product-Safety-Improvement-Act/Etsy.com forums on the subject - http://www.etsy.com/forums_board.php?forum_id=5000002

Stephanie
Stephanie

I don't understand the plastic spoons. You can easily find child-sized metal spoons at Wal-Mart. I have some in my silverware drawer for 2 toddlers that come over to visit regularly. My friend is guilty of plastic EVERYTHING for her boys. She doesn't know and wouldn't care about BPA at all. The sippy cups that she has are so worn out that the tiny plastic slots in the nipple are hanging off and can easily be swallowed. Even the pacifier nipples were getting detached from the handle. I've given up on her because it's her responsibility to prevent stuff like that and it was stressing me out majorly.When I have children I'll try my best to avoid most plastic crap, buy/allow used plastic toys, and buy a used car seat and stroller. Why do parents have to have brand new strollers/car seats? There are at least 30 used ones for sale at Once Upon A Child everytime I go in there.

Anarres Natural Health
Anarres Natural Health

I've got two kids and we use:~ metal spoons and cups for everyone~ a stepping stool instead of a high chair with an Asian wicker baby basket to hold the baby in when she was smaller. We freecycled this to as thrilled mother.~ forks to mash up adult food!I take the baby (now 3) into the bath with me, so no mat necessary. Nonetheless, we have a rubber mat with suction cups that an occupational therapist sent me because my pelvis is unstable.Our car seat is as plastic as it gets - no choices there. So is our bike seat, but our bike cart is mostly metal - okay, and some artificial fabric for canvas.But we get rid of most plastic stuff as soon as it crawls in the door - there's this plastic zipper bag of 100 foam blocks that STINKS that the baby got for Christmas that we are passing on to the Salvation army along with a cartload of similar horrors. It's a shame that our children are the excuse for relatives to consume plastics. We have gotten to the point of NOT THANKING people for these unwanted gifts. Everyone is like OH MY GAWD, WHAT CAN YOU PEOPLE USE? We say "Just buy us food if you want to buy us something." So we get relish and "moisturizing" nylon socks from Avon.Arrgh.

heather t
heather t

Hi Beth - if any of your other readers are interested in purchasing hand-made toys or clothing for their kids or as gifts, they need to look into the new CPSIA regulations. They call for expensive and redundant lead-testing and labelling that - AS WRITTEN - will put many American handcrafters out of business. Thanks!

The official CPSC site - http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Regulations-Laws--Standards/Statutes/The-Consumer-Product-Safety-Improvement-Act/ 


Etsy forums on the subject - http://www.etsy.com/forums_board.php?forum_id=5000002

knutty knitter
knutty knitter

You don't need a bath mat. A towel on the bottom does the same job.Most useless items - false plug fillers for empty sockets. My son had a ball prising them out. Same for the cupboard safety things. Took about a minute to figure those out. All they achieved was frustration on my part when using said cupboards.I do have some plastic cups but they are now three generations old and have sentimental value too. Everything else is glass or ceramic. The kids have broken the odd cup but not many.viv in nz

Jennifer Taggart
Jennifer Taggart

It is so true that we turn to plastic sometimes when other options exist. Having had lunch with Beth, I am always asking "What would Beth do?" when faced with a plastic something. So, I've now adopted stainless steel straws in lieu of my plastic ones. And they rock, let me tell you. So let's keep opting for non plastic options, as opposed to safer plastic options. Just keep asking - what would Beth do?Jennifer Taggartwww.thesmartmama.com

Carol in Seattle
Carol in Seattle

I learned to be careful with my thermos becuse once the Barbie or in my case, Flintstone thermor got broken, you were stuck with using your big brother's last years' Wild Wild West thermos, which broke up the Flintstone Set. Oh no! My mother took her milk to school in a canning jar, so everything comes back around. I think we need to spend more time teaching them to value the items that are in their possession - get them past the 'throwaway society' attitude.

Suzanne Ellinwood/Robin Broadbent
Suzanne Ellinwood/Robin Broadbent

OK I am not trying to master the conversation here, but I remember so well the Barbie lunch box I had in about 1969 that had a glas-lined thermos for milk in a special little spot, and i dropped the thermos on about day three and PICKING UP the thing and shaking it and hearing the rattle of the shards of all the broken glass....that sucker would prolly be worth a fortune today!

Suzanne Ellinwood/Robin Broadbent
Suzanne Ellinwood/Robin Broadbent

Since 1987 when we got married and our friends started having children, we have been giving silver spoons from Tiffany as baby gifts. WHO KNEW then what a great (AND BPA FREE) idea that would turn out to be....Suzanne

Carol in Seattle
Carol in Seattle

Thanks Susan B! Making good plastic choices is still new to me. Until I heard about the BPA ban in Canada a few months ago, I never even knew or thought about health risks associated with plastics. I have been recycling for quite a while :) but our single stream process is ever evolving and the lastest list from my provider did not have any plastic recycling numbers on it at all. I had to send them email and they still haven't responded. :(On the kid front, I'm in agreement that most of the fearmongering around items for kids is just a marketing ploy. Millions of children worldwide make it to adulthood without child sized spoons, bowls and toothbrushes not to mention all the safety items. Many of the safety items are ineffective and/or cheaply made so they don't do they job intended anyway. We bought a child-proofing item for our oven drawer, because my grandson likes to open it and stand on the rim. The latch installed quickly with double sided tape and voila! a safe drawer. Oh no! Within a day, Logan had ripped it off and snapped it in too. Now we had a piece of useless plastic that had to go in my trash bin, still no way to secure the drawer and $5 less in our pockets.I believe the human race would have died out by now if we weren't smart enough as species to 1) stop our children from engaging in activities that would cause death or massive injury and 2) learn as children from other activities such as falls, jumping of things, going too fast or slow, eating nasty things and putting our fingers into bi-fold doors. By the way, when I was a kid, we took our milk to school in a Thermos, which was lined with glass and we quickly learned to take care of it! Take care all!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper
Erin aka Conscious Shopper

Another point to consider when discussing kids, plastic, and alternatives to plastic is the cost. For example, stainless steel water bottles are very expensive, and even if I splurged to buy each of my kids one, one of them would lose it or ruin it pretty fast. (Stainless steel seems indestructible, but they've put some big dents in my own water bottle.) Plastic is cheap and durable, so until they're a little bit older, we've gone with BPA-free water bottles.

Carmen
Carmen

Just to be clear, I'm not saying kids shouldn't use car seats or safety gear. It is a different world with a lot more fast-moving vehicles, it's all the other stuff (foam padding for the fireplace corners, separate plates, cups, silverware, etc.) that's just over the top to me.

SusanB
SusanB

Carol in Seattle, 5 gallon food grade buckets and gamma lids are plastic code 2, which does not use BPA in the polymerization. Check your bucket or your source, they are usually very well marked.

Chiot's Run
Chiot's Run

I agree with Carmen. When we were young we didn't sit in car seats or have helmets when riding bikes and plenty of us made it to adulthood. It's all a marketing ploy to get people to spend their money. Kids don't need different things than adults. Some things of course may be choking hazzards or something and in those cases yet, but I agree with Carmen. Kids should learn to use adult thing properly.

Carol in Seattle
Carol in Seattle

Beth, I was wondering if you do any long-term storage. I do sometimes buy large amounts of bulk - like dried beans at the co-op and have been storing them in food grade 5 gallon plastic buckets with gamma seals. I need to find out if the buckets have BPA. I'm betting they do. So, when musing on this issue, I had to ask myself, WDBD? (what does Beth do?)

Carmen
Carmen

Plastics and kids is a tough nut to crack. There are many times you just can't avoid it. Car seats, for example - never seen one without plastic.But, the plastic spoon one is a good example. We have kind of gone overboard with things that kids need to have differently from grown ups. Sippy cups, for example. Why not just teach a child to drink from a regular cup. Sure, there will be some messes in the beginning, but you'd be surprised how quickly they can pick it up.I was just recently at a family event and talking about reducing plastic in the lunch box. My relative was shocked that I sent a 5-yo to school with glass jars (canning) to hold their food. Kids should learn how to use glass and be careful with it. You have to work pretty hard to break a canning jar. And if one does break - is it the end of the world? Can we not use a broken glass jar as a teaching opportunity?

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

Hi Shell. Good question. First, I want to encourage you to look for non-plastic foodware. Even if a plastic product doesn't contain BPA, it could contain other chemicals that we don't want in our children's bodies. The fact is that manufacturers are not required to disclose to the public what additives are in the plastics they produce, so we can't know for sure whether any of those products are safe or not. That said, there is a site called Z Recommends that reviews many children's products and has kept a database of what products do and don't contain BPA. You could check there to see if the products you are considering buying are on the list: http://www.zrecsguide.com It's true that the hard plastics numbered 7 are usually the ones that contain BPA. But there are other plastic products which may not have a number that could also contain BPA. Hope this helps.