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For Parents, Bottle Safety Still Unclear
"The fact that there is a dispute within the scientific community should make cautious parents concerned," said Alex Fidis, an attorney with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
Plastic manufacturers have mounted a counter-campaign to defuse concern about the compound. At BabyBottles.org, a site sponsored by plasticmakers, including the American Chemistry Council, parents are told that the bottles are safe.
"We're not ignoring the science at all," said Steve Hentges, a spokesman for the American Chemistry Council. "The science has been examined by government and scientific bodies. Every one of them supports the conclusion that it is not a risk to human health."
Questions about bisphenol A have emerged periodically for nearly the past 10 years. Most recently, the Environment California Research and Policy Center, an advocacy group, issued a report in February titled "Toxic Baby Bottles," which asserted that low doses of bisphenol A can cause, among other things, hyperactivity.
A 38-member scientific panel published a "consensus statement" in the journal Reproductive Toxicology recently that said BPA had become a chemical of "high concern." The American Chemistry Council assailed that panel for including scientists known to be critical of BPA.
The Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction at NIH found that there was "some concern" that exposure to BPA could have neural and behavioral effects on children and "minimal concern" that exposure could cause the acceleration of puberty. That panel's initial research was compiled by Alexandria-based Sciences International, which was later fired after NIH found that the company had been simultaneously working for the chemical industry, raising concerns among some environmental groups that such work could have influenced the conclusions.
The FDA is reviewing both groups' results, said Mitchell Cheeseman, deputy director of the Office of Food Additive Safety. "We do not have a reason at this point to change our opinion that bisphenol A is safe," he said. But "we're looking at the information that came out of those two meetings."
The most recent report prompted Alan and Denise Fields, authors of "Baby Bargains" and "Baby 411," to repeal their recommendation of Avent Natural Feeding and Dr. Brown's Natural Flow bottles, two of the most popular on the market.
"We take our cues from the FDA, and all of our products are FDA-approved," said Shannon Jenest, senior manager of public relations for Philips Avent. Jenest said the company uses polycarbonate plastic for all of its bottles because of its high quality and durability.
Handi-Craft, which manufactures Dr. Brown's products, declined to comment, citing an ongoing class-action lawsuit filed in California.
The Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association, which represents makers of children's goods, said it saw no reason to condemn the compound. "I think we're scaring parents unnecessarily," said Amy Chezem, spokeswoman for the group.
It is all information-overload for some parents. "It just still doesn't seem like the science is there yet," said Greg Allen, author of the Daddy Types blog. "Parents have a lot to worry about and react to anyway."
Cautioning against "headline-parenting," he said, "it's a very reactive way to parent . . .that is ultimately not good for a parent or a kid."
Staff researcher Richard Drezen contributed to this report.