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Are Polycarbonate Bottles Safe for Use?
New Information on an Old Scare Story

May 5, 2006

Summary

For many years, polycarbonate plastic has been the material of choice for baby bottles and many reusable water bottles. In spite of years of scientific research that support their safe use, and multiple reviews of that research by government and scientific bodies worldwide, scare stories persist claiming that polycarbonate bottles are not safe. Recent research and up-to-date assessments once again confirm that polycarbonate bottles are safe for use.

The Old Scare Story

Polycarbonate plastic has been safely used for many years in an increasingly wide range of products that take advantage of polycarbonate's unique set of attributes. Along with being lightweight, polycarbonate is highly shatter-resistant and as clear as glass. These features have made it the material of choice for baby bottles for more than 25 years. More recently, reusable polycarbonate water bottles that are available in a range of colors and styles have become quite popular.

In spite of many years of scientific research that support their safety, and multiple reviews of that research by government and scientific bodies worldwide, scare stories persist claiming that polycarbonate bottles are not safe. While most commonly focused on baby bottles, the scare stories were revitalized in late 2003 in a Sierra Magazine article that suggested reusable polycarbonate water bottles might be harmful.(1) That story has continued to spread with a steady stream of articles in college newspapers and other publications on the alleged hazards of these bottles.

But not every publication has uncritically fallen for the scare story without checking the facts first. For example, in regard to the Sierra Magazine article, The Minnesota Daily recently noted "while this research should be reason to investigate the material further, it is no reason to recall the bottles and start a national scare." (2)

In fact, research has continued and, more importantly, government and scientific bodies worldwide have continued to carefully review the scientific evidence.

New Information and What It Means

A common claim is that high levels of bisphenol A migrate from polycarbonate bottles, in particular from old bottles that have been used repeatedly. In 2005, this claim was examined by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority in a study that measured migration from 22 new baby bottles (representing 14 brands) and 20 old baby bottles (representing 11 brands).(3) The old bottles had been used for up to three years in households under typical conditions including microwave heating, boiling before use and dishwashing. Consistent with many other studies, no migration of bisphenol A was detected from the new bottles. Significantly, trace migration levels were detected in only three of the old bottles. Contrary to what is commonly claimed, these results indicate that typical use of polycarbonate bottles does not lead to extensive migration.

These new migration results, along with the results of numerous health effect studies, have been recently reviewed by government bodies worldwide that have responsibility for assessing the safety of chemicals and consumer products. Three recent examples are particularly noteworthy in regard to the safety of polycarbonate bottles.

  • In January 2006, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR, Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung), which is the German expert body responsible for opinions on food safety and consumer health protection, released a statement with their views on the safety of polycarbonate baby bottles. Overall, they noted "The BfR does not recognize any health risk for babies that are fed from baby bottles made of polycarbonate." (4)
  • A November 2005 statement from the US Food and Drug Administration on the safety of food contact products made from polycarbonate concluded "based on all the evidence available at this time, FDA sees no reason to change its long-held position that current uses with food are safe." (5)
  • The overall conclusion from a comprehensive risk assessment on bisphenol A stated "current exposure levels of BPA will not pose any unacceptable risk to human health." The assessment, published in November 2005, was conducted by scientists at the Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, which is a public research organization affiliated with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.(6)

Taking into consideration recent research on bisphenol A and polycarbonate plastic, these assessments again confirm that polycarbonate bottles are safe for use. The weight of scientific evidence, as reviewed by scientific and regulatory bodies worldwide, supports the conclusion that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health.


 


1.Hazards of hydration. Sierra Magazine. November/December 2003. http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200311/lol5.asp.

2. Nalgene scare isn't pure science. The Minnesota Daily. April 10, 2006. http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/04/10/67942.

3. Migration of bisphenol A and plasticizers from plastic feeding utensils for babies. Food and Consumer Protection Safety Authority. June 2005. http://www.bisphenol-a.org/pdf/...

4. Selected questions and answers relating to bisphenol A in baby bottles. Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung. January 18, 2006. http://www.bfr.bund.de/cd/7294 (English), http://www.bfr.bund.de/cd/7195 (German).

5. Letter from Dr. George H. Pauli of the Food and Drug Administration to Greg Aghazarian, California
State Assemblymember, November 28, 2005.

6. An abstract and detailed summary of the bisphenol A risk assessment are available at http://unit.aist.go.jp/riss/crm/mainmenu/e_1-10.html. For further discussion on the assessment, see http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20060320.html.



   
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