Please note: This report has been substantially revised and updated since this post was published, first in two later editions of the Z Report and most recently in our ZRecs Guide to Safer Children's Products. Much of the information in this post is outdated, and we encourage you to refer instead to our new consumer guide to BPA and other potentially harmful chemicals in children's products, the ZRecs Guide.
Photo by shyb.
For the past several years, research scientists have increasingly warned manufacturers and consumers about the potential dangers of bisphenol-A, a plastic softener used in the production of polycarbonate plastic commonly used in baby bottles due to its durability and clarity. Some companies have responded by developing lines of bottles made with other plastic types; other new companies have sprung up specifically to serve needs some larger companies continue to ignore.
Companies resistant to change are shielded from public scrutiny by the FDA's reluctance to examine the dangers of BPA despite mounting scientific evidence and the lack of any regulatory requirement to even disclose the types of plastics used in their products. Many consumers have learned to look for recycling numbers on their infant and toddler products, but many polycarbonate products are unrecyclable and thus unlabeled, and parents often find themselves relying on incomplete information and rumors passed from other parents who have directly approached companies to find out whether a specific product they use contains BPA.
We believe that this model of disseminating important health information serves companies far better than it serves consumers. And we believe that consumers deserve better.
Based on the response to our Sippy Cup Showdown, we decided to contact major and up-and-coming infant bottle manufacturers in the U.S. to identify the plastics used in each and every infant bottle they produce. Based on the information we collected about companies' products, we rated each company's "BPA IQ" and identified some companies as "Top Picks" and others as companies which seem ready for a challenge to do more. "Top Picks" are not based on the hands-on product testing behind most ZRecs recommendations, but on perceived corporate responsibility and commitment to reducing risks to children by providing BPA-free bottles.
All of the research included in this report has been verified with company representatives.
You can learn more about bisphenol-A by visiting our del.icio.us links on the topic. We encourage readers to suggest additional resources in the comments.
Safe: Natural Nurser.
BPA IQ: High. When asked if the company planned the Natural Nurser as a replacement for their original Breastbottle, an Adiri representative stated that the polycarbonate bottles would continue to be sold "as long as there was a demand," which she estimated at "about six months." We can't imagine why there would be "demand" for an older model that had an estimated expiration date, so reading between the lines, we are guessing she meant that they had discontinued production but wanted to sell out of their current stock. Update: Adiri has begun selling their Natural Nurser online, and no longer offers or even mentions the Breastbottle for sale on their website, although it is still the only model available on Amazon.com. Update: Adiri's Natural Nurser is available online at Amazon.com and a variety of other online and brick & mortar retailers.
Safe: Via ("disposable").
Borderline: Tempo (PC) with preformed liners (PET).
Unsafe: All bottles produced by Avent are made of polycarbonate.
BPA IQ: Moderate. For a large company, Avent makes few products which use safe plastics. But multiple calls to their customer service center confirmed that their representatives have product plastic information readily available for customer questions, the first sign of a growing sensitivity to customer concerns about plastic safety and more than can be said for many companies. Note: We recently learned from another customer service representative that the Via system is made of polypropylene plastic. The information above reflects that change.
Our challenge: Avent is owned by Philips, a company that takes pride in being at the leading edge of technology and at anticipating customers' needs. We are hopeful that Avent will add a truly safe (polypropylene or polyamide) standard bottle in the next year.
Safe: All bottles (polyamide plastic or glass).
BPA IQ: High. Born Free exists to offer safe plastic bottles, and they make glass ones, too. Polyamide is a new plastic that is BPA-free. Their prices are reasonable and their customer service is excellent, as attested by multiple ZRecs readers. The guy who started this company took huge risks to bring his product to market. If you like underdogs, passion, vision, or any combination of the three, you should like Born Free.
Unsafe: All Dr. Brown's bottles are made of polycarbonate.
BPA IQ: Low. Dr. Brown's was an early entrant, and a high-end one, into the anti-colic bottle market. The landscape has changed dramatically, and there is no shortage of BPA-free bottles which incorporate venting and other anti-colic features. Update: Handi-Craft (maker of Dr. Brown's bottles) has told ZRecs they should be distributing a glass Dr. Brown's bottle by January 2008.
Safe: Glass bottles.
Unsafe: Comfi; Elan; Classic.
BPA IQ: Low. Prior to Born Free entering the market for glass bottles, Evenflo was the only major company to offer them, and they have done so consistently for years. Yet they have don't offer a single plastic bottle not made of polycarbonate plastic.
Our Challenge: What gives, Evenflo? Why bother with the glass bottles? Nalgene is pretty. And PVC makes such bright colors! Seriously: We know you care, deep down. The gentle curve of that evenflo "f" gives you away. And we want to love you. You could create thousands of new Evenflo fans by developing a single line of polypropylene baby bottles.
The First Years
Unsafe: All current bottle lines, including Breastflow and Soothie.
BPA IQ: Low.
Safe: Clear View, Fashion Tints (also called "Plastic Pastels"), GentleFlow.
Unsafe: Nuk/1st Choice; Preemie; Comfort Hold; licensed character bottles (discontinued).
BPA IQ: Moderate. Gerber, one of the largest infant products companies in the world, may be in a state of transition. The company was sold in April, and one customer service rep told us that the company was finding that parents "didn't want to buy polycarbonate bottles," which might explain the company's unusual number of non-polycarbonate offerings. A ZRecs reader also reported that a Gerber customer service rep told her that the company plans to begin list their bottles' plastic types on their website, which would be a first for any major bottle company. Calls to their public relations desk were not returned by our deadline, but even with their motives and direction unclear, the fact remains that Gerber is one of the few leading manufacturers which is producing new bottle designs that do not use polycarbonate plastic (GentleFlow) while maintaining a low-dollar flagship product (most Clear View varieties) in polypropylene.
Our Challenge: Gerber, grab some high ground and commit to labeling all of your plastic products with the plastic types contained in them, recyclable or not. Your company's product lines are so ubiquitous that people voting with their dollars could do so while staying within the Gerber fold, which, given your brand recognition, is extremely likely. Think about it: No other company can claim that competitive advantage while demonstrating that it has nothing to hide.
Luv n' Care (Nuby)
BPA IQ: Low. Luv n' Care is a difficult company with which to communicate, and offered incomplete and sometimes clearly inaccurate information regarding its products. Emails to the company frequently pass without response, and customer service numbers are treated as privileged information. The final statements provided by Luv n' Care representatives for this report did not satisfy us. The broad method the representative suggested for identifying bottles made with "minute amounts of Bisphenol-A" relied upon design elements which we could not identify in any Nuby products and appears to contradict a consistent though unexplained "PC"/"PP" coding system on the company's own website as well as the suggestive naming of a single line of Nuby bottles as their "Polypropylene Line."
Our Challenge: Redesign your corporate website to provide clear information regarding plastics contained in your products. Allow your customers to contact you via telephone by staffing a customer service line and providing its number on your website.
Safe: All bottles.
BPA IQ: High. All Medela bottles are made of polypropylene, and Medela also makes an excellent breast pump (we used a slightly older version of this one).
Unsafe: Angled and widemouth bottles.
BPA IQ: Low.
Safe: Breast Milk Storage Kit (PP bottles).
Borderline: Premium Nurser (PC) uses an insert made of polyethylene (PET).
Unsafe: Ventaire, Baby Insulator Bottle.
BPA IQ: Low.
Safe: MAM bottles (UltiVent), Baby Food Nurser Kit.
BPA IQ: High. A Sassy representative told us that the company was phasing out the use of polycarbonate plastic "in general" in response to some states' pending bans of polycarbonates in infant products. After developing a major line of polypropylene bottles, she said they discovered that some of the main stores carrying Sassy products (she mentioned Target and Toys 'R' Us) didn't want to stock the new bottles without additional items in the line, and Sassy is currently working on a full range of products, including a breast pump and breast shields, to enhance the offering. For the time being, MAM bottles are sold online, both on Sassy's website and on Amazon. Note: We originally listed Sassy's Baby Food Nurser Kit as unsafe, based on a customer service representative's statement that it was made of polycarbonate plastic. A Sassy spokesperson has since contacted us and informed us that it is in fact made of SAN (styrene acrylonitrile), which does not contain BPA. They already had "Top Pick" status with us, so our assessment of their products frankly couldn't improve. Thanks, Sassy!
Unsafe: All Second Nature bottles are made of polycarbonate plastic.
BPA IQ: Low.
Some companies we would have liked to include did not provide customer contact numbers or did not respond to our requests for information. If we missed a company you'd like to know about, post it in the comments and we'll see what we can learn about their products.
Disclaimer: Z Recommends collects information for its reports from official company websites, company-staffed customer service lines, and company managers and public relations officials. We also update listings as needed to correct or revise information, and encourage readers or company officials to submit questions, comments or corrections as needed to ensure that this information is as accurate as possible. By reading and acting upon the information contained here, you hereby release Z Recommends from any liability for the information provided in this or other ZRecs reports.