Should Companies Replace BPA Baby Products In The U.S.?

There’s nothing official about BPA in the U.S. (yet), and there’s no legal reason (again, yet) for a company to refund or replace any products that have BPA in them. But with Canada’s newly awarded “toxic” status on the chemical last week, and the subsequent announcements by Nalgene and Playtex that they would stop using BPA in their products, what do you think other companies should do? At least one reader who’s now stuck with some BPA baby bottles thinks they should offer a refund.

Hello Consumerist,
 
After reading your articles on Canada banning BPA filled baby products and hopefully soon the US, I did some research and was shocked to find the ever popular “First Year’s Breastflow” baby bottles I bought for myself last Christmas at Target were not BPA free. Nor has the “First Year” company done anything to remedy the BPA in their wide variety of baby products. Thank goodness my little girl hasn’t been born yet and the bottles still sit in her nursery waiting to be used.
 
I figured they’d own up if confronted about it and provide a refund since A) they haven’t been used and still sit in their original boxes and B) they should feel some sort of remorse for not making BPA free baby products. I know Target isn’t going to care since it’s been 90 days and who knows where the receipt is anyways. I don’t think it necessarily needs to be solely Target’s issue anyways, “First Years” needs to take responsibility for selling products with the BPA chemical and hopefully if more parents catch on and email in, they might actually recall their products and start making safer items for our kids.
 
So I sent in an email to customer care and got this bs canned response about how they don’t care. Any advice on how I can get this taken care of and actually read by someone of importance? Thanks!
 
Sincerely,
Portia

  From: CustomerService
Date: Mon, Apr 21, 2008 at 7:39 AM
Subject: Re: Care and Safety Question or Feedback for LearningCurve.com Customer Care
 
Thank you for your inquiry,
 
If you are unhappy with your purchase, the company has established return policies with retailers who buy our products directly. Please return the product along with your receipt to the place of purchase for an exchange or refund. The exchange is subject to the discretion and return policies of the individual retailer.
 
Thank you,
Consumer Services

RC2, the company behind Learning Curves, still has no official statement on its recall page.
 
From a strictly PR perspective, we think this is a prime moment to jump in and shore up some goodwill from consumers—first movers in the market who go BPA-free and make a big deal about it can claim to “really care” about you, which translates to brand loyalty and blah blah blah. We also imagine that the faster a company moves to address the issue, the less likely they’ll be stuck with any sort of viable class action lawsuit, which you know is only moments away from emerging, like a magical money dolphin only lawyers can see.
 
On the other hand, BPA hasn’t been banned or labeled toxic in the United States, and there’s still a possibility it won’t be proven harmful to humans. (In Canada, chemicals can be labeled toxic for being proven harmful to animals; in the U.S., only humans count.) And the companies who sold the products had no way of knowing, when they initially produced BPA products, that the chemical might turn out to be bad news.
 
What’s the general opinion on how a company should proceed?
 
In the meantime: if you’re concerned about BPA, take matters into your own hands. Hit up the website Z Recommends for an exhaustive list of companies that produce baby products—it ranks them from excellent to poor and gives you pretty much all the info you need to shop wisely for your baby. They even have a free text message service (which we wrote about here) so you can query them from your phone while you’re in the store.
 
Added bonus: here’s a good summary article on BPA—what it’s found in, what the studies have shown, and what the real risk is once you get past the wall of newscycle hype. (One big takeaway is that you should probably stop using any plastic in the microwave because there haven’t been anywhere near enough tests on what chemicals, if any, are released.)
 
RELATED
“The Z Report on BPA In Children’s Feeding Products, Third Edition” [Z Recommends]
“Get Info On BPA-Free Baby Products Via Text Messaging”
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. pine22 says:

    i say get rid of them, better safe than sorry.

  2. dondiego87 says:

    Precautionary principle says ban it.

  3. Better safe than sorry.
    Depending on who you ask, any kind of contact with plastic is harmful, especially for men.
    I’m not claiming to be an expert on this, but supposedly, plastic contains estrogen mimics, and all of our contact with, and drinking and eating things in plastic are causing men to become more feminine, and is creating all kinds of homrmone disruptions in animals.

  4. SonicMan says:

    Ya know. I think I may have some lead paint in my garage that I will never use. Maybee I can get a refund. Since we do not use lead paint anymore….

    The stuff has to be over 30 years old, I want a refund…..

  5. duckduckem says:

    I have replaced my 4-month-old son’s Avent bottles with BPA-free BornFree bottles because of my concern.

    However, I didn’t expect Avent to refund me because they made and sold bottles that used a chemical that, only recently, has become cause for concern.

    Buy your kid BPA-free bottles if you are uncomfortable with the potential risks, but don’t expect the manufacturer to refund you for your purchase four months ago (before BPA had gotten anywhere near the press it’s getting today.)

    Still, it is worthwhile to let companies know that we won’t be buying any bottles containing BPA, so if they want our business, they should invest in a new product line.

    (And, if you want to at least get something for the bottles you already bought, list them on eBay or Craigslist.)

  6. hubris says:

    @duckduckem: lol, make some blood money by selling someone else harmful plastics! Will they be able to demand a refund in four months, too? (even if she doesn’t give it)

  7. Veeber says:

    we ended up just going with glass bottles. They’re a bit heavier but we haven’t broken a single one.

  8. ironchef says:

    is there research that the BPA free replacement is safe too?

  9. Not Alvis says:

    This is getting REALLY out of hand. I see scare article after scare article, but never any sound discussion of the chemistry.

    PC is little more than a long chain of BPA monomers. Once polymerized, they’re all bonded together. They’re not going to just fall apart.

    Would you treat water as an explosion hazard, because the molecules might break down, all on their own, into hydrogen and oxygen gasses?

  10. spinachdip says:

    @SonicMan: Are you feeding a baby with the lead paint? I mean, I’m not advocating manufactures replace their non-BPA-free products, but the lead paint comparison is just dumbfuckery.

  11. Concerned_Citizen says:

    BPA or not, you used the bottles. Therefore, no refund. Just buy new ones.

  12. Islandkiwi says:

    @Clold:

    This wasn’t just scare tactics, it had been shown that heating the bottles caused the chemicals to leach out at a highly increased pace.

    Ultimately, consumers will be shifting away from BPA products and menrchants will voluntarily follow because that’s where the business is going.

  13. ChuckECheese says:

    @suburbancowboy: In other words, you’re saying refund justified if your boy becomes a girl?

    Cyberpunk bisphenol-a tranny! (I couldn’t help myself–sorry)

  14. mistress scorpio says:

    Walmart has gone public saying that they will have all plastic products containing BPA off their shelves by 2009, so has Babies R’ Us. Nothing from Target yet…

  15. juri squared says:

    I just weaned my child off Avent bottles, which contain BPA. I admit that if I were just buying bottles today I would probably find ones without BPA… but I’m not going to lose sleep over a definite maybe, you know?

  16. SonicMan says:

    @spinachdip:Why was it banned again? Oh ya, kids were eating the paint chips…

  17. juri squared says:

    @jurijuri: Er, I should mention the weaning had nothing to do with the bottles but with transferring her to sippy cups.

  18. DeliBoy says:

    I don’t think I necessarily need to be compensated, but it would be nice if Avent returned my email asking about BPA in their products. Wouldn’t turn down a coupon for BPA-free bottles, either.

  19. ConsumerAdvocacy1010 says:

    I think the manufacturers should, at the very least, offer discounts (at least 40%) on BPA free products to those who trade in.

    And what’s in BPA free? Is it just plain glass? I’d hate to see everyone switch to another compound that ends up being worse than BPA (30 years downn the road).

  20. spinachdip says:

    @SonicMan: I’ll take back the “dumbfuckery” comment, but the comparison still fails.

    The very function of sippy cups and baby bottles require that small children come into contact with them and, in the case of bottles, used in such a way that toxins are released. Paint chips, on the other hand, are a result of neglect and they were never deisgned to be eaten.

  21. UnicornMaster says:

    Yeah, what’s the replacement cost on a water or baby bottle? $8? I think them taking back all unused inventory and reformulating their plastic is punishment enough, not recalling 10 million Nalgene bottles. I’m just going to recycle mine and hope they get it right next time.

    Everyone in this society wants something for nothing and expects everything to be perfect. If that’s what you’re hoping for, don’t buy anything because everything will kill you. It’s not like they were pushing DDT.

  22. cookmefud says:

    they need to replace them. I paid a fortune for some of these bottles and we went out of our way to find some of these brands in certain cases, thinking that we were getting the best for our baby…turns out we should have just gone with the old glass bottles instead.

    at the very least they need to make some gesture to reimburse or recall these items since they’re known now to be toxic. a simple “oops, our bad.” and a shrug just doesn’t cut it.

  23. cookmefud says:

    @DeanOfAllTrades: are you sure?

    do you know that this will not be as bad as ddt 30 years from now?

    because most of the world thought ddt was safe and here we know now that it wasn’t.

    so if my baby has been sipping from a known toxic agent laced bottle all during his formulative months and that might be leaching into his system and causing all kind of side effects way down the road, $8 doesn’t sound like too much to ask at all.

  24. ohgoodness says:

    I have about 30 Avent bottles with BPA in them in my house. Sent an e-mail to Avent requesting a refund….waiting for a reply. Should they not replace them, Operation Bat Shit Crazy Mothers will commence.

  25. ohgoodness says:

    …but I should mention obviously we’ve gone out and bought all new BPA-free bottles since.

  26. Leah says:

    @cookmefud: the bottles aren’t acutely toxic. And, really, there are plenty of bad things in our environment. If you’re going to worry about every little chemical, then you probably should be:

    1. breastfeeding your baby
    2. eating/serving only organic food
    3. painting your house with low/no VOC paint, not using carpeting, not using many adhesives, and make sure you have an organic, non-gas-emitting mattress for your baby’s crib.

    My point is that there are plenty of areas where any one of us can be exposed to chemicals. It’s part of the industrialized society. Yes, we should work to reduce chemical exposure. But you don’t need to flip out immediately and start blaming a company for making products that are durable and popular.

  27. ninjatales says:

    So where do you buy glass water bottles?

  28. UnicornMaster says:

    @cookmefud: Again, yeah maybe you shouldn’t buy anything. Your cellphone, computer screens and TVs emit enough radiation to cause brain cancer. All these wireless signals can’t be good for us. Oh, and there’s the whole driving thing. They shouldn’t sell people cars.

    Look, I’m all for corporate responsibility and holding companies accountable, but the risk is speculative. In the real world you don’t actually eat the plastic.

    DDT was known to be dangerous. It’s an insecticide. It’s the widespread use that was killing the environment and getting into the water.

    Oh, and they say canned foods and some food packaging has BPA, so you should take all your used cans back.

    Finally, how do you know the BPA-free copolyester bottles aren’t bad for you either? Maybe you should stick with glass.

  29. Maurs says:

    Yeah, it would probably be a smooth PR move to jump in heroically and offer BPA free replacements, but do they have to? No, not at this juncture. They didn’t know BPA was harmful, the government hasn’t deemed it harmful, and hey, it may in fact not be. I still wouldn’t use BPA-laden products with infants to be on the safe side, but it’s not like these companies have irresponsibly endangered children.

  30. joemono says:

    All you Avent bottle users should have switched months ago. Not only do they leak like a sonofabitch (unless you screw the cap on just right, but this BPA-might-cause-issues info has been available since last at least last year.

  31. Optimistic Prime says:

    We wouldn’t be having this discussion if our society didn’t have a big hang-up about boobies. When was the last time you saw a country like Chad or Congo have a recall over plastic bottles? You don’t because they breast feed. It’s natural. The companies that made the bottles shouldn’t be forced to make reparations because they were filling a market need. Then again, I’m surprised it’s hard to find glass bottles, they used to be so commonplace, and pretty durable too…

  32. SonicMan says:

    @spinachdip:Ok, I will feed you troll.. Look, These things are banned. But Why should they get a refund. Just like Lead in paint. Try thinking.

  33. Caroofikus says:

    I remember being young and drinking out of BPA bottles. Made the formula taste better.

  34. yetiwisdom says:

    Big win for whatever company sets up a bottle swap first – “send us your BPA bottles from other brands and we’ll send you back our bottles!

  35. llcooljabe says:

    We’re getting a little pushy as consumers when we demand refunds for stupid things. Sure this may be toxic. But how long has stuff like this been on the market? 10 years? 20? Should automakers refund car owners for cars without airbags? When does this nonsense stop.

    Throw out the offending bottles. Buy new ones. I have an infant. We tossed out all the BPA bottles, bought 12 new ones for $17!! Are we going to quibble over some small amounts.

    Come on.

  36. RedRyder says:

    Interesting that some stores are announcing they’ll “phase out” BPA-containing bottles. So they’re saying “it’s not dangerous, but we’re getting rid of it anyway, but just keep using it in the meantime.”

  37. chicagocooper says:

    I work in the plastics industry, not polycarbonate specifically, but this is getting out of control. Just because one “scientist” injects 10,000 times the amount of PBA that is in a bottle directly into a rat and the rat dies it is all the sudden poison and dangerous for consumers. This, just like the PVC and plastic bag ban arguments are bad science and even worse journalism for reporting it.

  38. thebaron says:

    Too many environmental nutjobs don’t care about the science, but that some hard to pronounce and little understood chemicals are in our products! Their fight against chlorine which removed the great majority of water-born dangers from our drinking supply shows what blind faith against industry chemicals and push for Bio-fuels (which are more dangerous than regular fuels) have destroyed food supply chains via more junk science!

  39. B1663R says:

    the recall in Canada was awesome!! in Ontario, (well Newmarket, Ontario) i brought back all my bottles to the local Zellers (kinda like target) and they gave me a gift card for $68.00cdn ($78.00US, ok i’m kidding!)

    anyway the only criteria they had was that it had to have the recycling triangle around it with the #7 inside.

    no arguments or nothing! take the trip up north to get some cash back!

  40. Claystil says:

    @chicagocooper: That’s not quite how it is. The BPA research showing negative effects on adult health is strong, the research on infants and children is almost irrefutable. The problrem, however, is the question of how much BPA leeches from plastic and how much we get from other sources. I’ve read a number of studies that show citizens of developed nations get the majority of the BPA in their body from DRINKING WATER. Anyway, when infants are concerned, it’s best to be safe and use products without BPA. As an adult, just take care of your plastic, realize it doesn’t last forever and don’t heat it up.

  41. NotATool says:

    @joemono: This BPA-might-cause-issues has been around at least since we had our first child — 7 years ago. Even back then, parenting magazines advised avoiding polycarbonate bottles due to BPA leaching.

  42. Claystil says:

    @llcooljabe: It’s been around since the 1930′s which is why plastic containers are not the main source of BPA in most adults. It’s a very common product.

  43. zrecs says:

    @chicagocooper: You work in the plastics industry but call it “PBA”? Me like. Me like very much!

  44. zentex says:

    @pine22: exactly!

  45. ChuckECheese says:

    @joemono: The BPA issue has been around the US since about 1999, if you were the sort of enviro-paranoid to care about these things. The eyetalianz did an epidemiological study of the plasticizer issue in the mid-90′s, determining that these chemicals had estrogenic effects and were possible teratogens. The CDC did a copycat study in the US about 1999, with alarming results that were quickly censored (I used to have a copy of the CDC report), showing that children in particular were walking around with large amounts of plastics-related chemicals in their blood. At that time, people began arguing whether polycarbonates were problematic since they weren’t soft plastics. But the true plastic haters switched to glass and stainless steel in the early 00s.

  46. plumpkin says:

    For the breast feeding challenged, glass baby bottles (EvenFlo)are readily available & cheap from nearly all baby gear vendors.
    The glass doesn’t break. Well, my only tests have been some 6 foot drops and a few good hard wall bangs.
    As a bonus, they don’t discolor. Also, if you forget and leave milk in them for 3 days the smell goes away, unlike wplastic.

  47. Mynuette says:

    @yetiwisdom: Playtex is almost doing that. You can sign up for free samples of their Drop-Ins system at [www.playtexbaby.com]

  48. TheSmartMama says:

    It is a little ironic that some are accusing others of not looking at the science. That BPA mimics estrogen is not some startling new revelation. BPA was invented in 1891 and its estrogenic effects were discovered in 1936. BPA, along with diethylstilbestrol (“DES”) and other chemicals, was investigated for use as synthetic estrogen in the 1930s. BPA wasn’t used, but DES was. DES was first prescribed in 1938 to women who experienced miscarriages or premature deliveries. It was considered safe and effective for a pregnant woman and her developing baby. But we were wrong about the safety of DES. DES tragically illustrates the risks of exposing a fetus to a synthetic chemical that mimics estrogen. It was only after DES was given to millions of women that it was found that DES causes reproductive defects and increased the risk for rare cancers in the daughters of the women who had taken DES during their pregnancies.

    In the 1950′s, researchers discovered that BPA could be polymerized and used to make polycarbonate plastic. It is now widely used for a number of consumer products. It is also common in an epoxy resin used to line metal food and drink cans. – the most likely source of BPA for most of us.

    BPA does leach out of the polycarbonate plastic and into whatever is in the container. Today, it is fairly well accepted that BPA does leach from polycarbonate plastic into foodstuffs. In fact, the Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food assumes migration of BPA. The Panel’s assumes a typical migration of BPA from polycarbonate plastic baby bottles and infant formula cans to derive estimates of BPA daily intake. For 3 month old infants fed infant formula with a polycarbonate plastic bottle, the estimated daily exposure is 11 micrograms per kilogram bodyweight per day. Compare this with the animal studies that show an adverse health effect at exposures of only 0.025 micrograms per kilogram body weight per day.

    The precise conditions that lead to leaching of BPA are not fully understood. It appears that leaching can occur in common, everyday situations. What this means is that BPA can leach from a polycarbonate plastic baby bottle into the breast milk or formula contained in the bottle. When the breast milk or formula is consumed by your baby, BPA enters her body through her digestive track.

    Are we really exposed to BPA? Yes. In a study of BPA exposure in the United States population, of the over 2,500 samples, 93% of the people had BPA present in their urine. This means that we are continuously exposed, since BPA only spends about 10 hours in the adult body. The results were troubling, however, because they showed that children had “significantly higher” levels of BPA than adolescents, who in turn had higher levels than adults. Unfortunately, none of the samples came from children under the age of 6 years so the results do not provide any answers on the amount of exposure to BPA for infants and toddlers using polycarbonate baby bottles. Their exposure may be even higher. The study concluded that many Americans are exposed to BPA levels above the current safety threshold set by the EPA, a threshold level that is believed to be too high as discussed below. Smaller studies have confirmed that fetuses and babies are exposed to BPA.

    Low level exposure to BPA in laboratory animals has caused adverse health effects. Should we skip BPA? I believe it is prudent for pregnant women and infants to avoid BPA exposure.

  49. nardo218 says:

    No, that’s absurd. They didn’t know the chemicals would become a fad or that the evidence would become conclusive. Advances are made and society has to keep up. You can’t blame corporations for everything.

  50. nardo218 says:

    @chicagocooper: Why is the plastic bag ban dumb? I hate those stupid disposable shopping bags, they’re an environmental blight.

  51. Claystil says:

    @nardo218: there’s conclusive evidence, but it has nothing to do with “BPA is terrible.” If anything, I’d say those falling onto the slippery slope of paranoia are to blame for slowly forcing an excellent plastic out of the market when most of its applications are completely harmless.

  52. chicagocooper says:

    @nardo218: If you are concerned about the environmental blight from bag fight for stronger anti-littering legislation. Plastic bags use less energy to transport to stores and manufacture than paper, therefore paper is actually more harmful to the environment from a “carbon” output stance. Additionally the reuse rate of plastic t-shirt bags is quite high, whereas paper is low. I reuse all of my bags as wastebasked liners, as do a lot of people. Additionally cutting all the plastic bags out of the economy would devastate paper bag supply chains and eventually lead to increasing deforestation. Fight the one throwing the bag in the street, not the bag.

  53. Claystil says:

    @chicagocooper: i have 3 nylon bags. i’ve had them for a year and don’t plan on throwing them away any time soon.

  54. chicagocooper says:

    @Claystil: /hands Claystil a cookie… j/k. That’s good but society isn’t going to run out and buy reusable bags if plastic ones are banned, they will just switch to paper.

  55. cjdmi says:

    Am I the only one who sees this as baseless scaremongering from the media? I did a quick pubmed search, found the original paper and looked at the next few papers that cited that one.

    From the papers I’ve skimmed, researchers have determined that under typical use polycarb will leach miniscule amounts of BPA, a chemical which weakly mimics the hormone estrogen. The effect is so small that researchers only noticed it when they were doing sensitive experiments in combination with old (1) cages that had been regularly sterilized with high temperature (2) and harsh chemicals (3). The researchers concluded that there was ***no statistically significant difference*** between the mice kept in polycarb cages versus the mice kept in polypropylene cages. To quote the paper:

    Finally, BPA exposure as a result of being housed in used polycarbonate cages produced a 16% increase in uterine weight in prepubertal female mice relative to females housed in used polypropylene cages, although the difference was not statistically significant.

    If you have one especially fat mouse in the polycarb cage, it’ll skew the average. However, unless there’s a trend, the difference won’t be *** statistically significant***. The media looks only at the 16% and ignores that fact that if you’ve got 5 mice, odds are one of them is going to be ‘that fat one’

  56. cjdmi says:

    My bad. I didn’t follow the citation train long enough. There’s seems to be strong evidence for in vitro effects, but the in vivo effects aren’t as convincing. Especailly when authors try to extrapolate invivo effects from cell studies.

  57. Claystil says:

    @chicagocooper: A lot of people would switch to paper, I’m sure, but it’s clear that a lot more people are using reusable bags now than a few years ago. A simple way to encourage their use further would be to charge a small price for disposable bags. Pretty simple, really.