Woman Sues Playtex Over Bisphenol-A

A woman in Arkansas has filed a federal lawsuit against Playtex Products over their use of BPA in plastic baby bottles, claiming that the company “failed to adequately disclose that its plastic bottle products are formulated using BPA,” according to MSNBC. The suit is seeking class action status, which would make it the second BPA-related class action lawsuit after the one in California against Nalge Nunc International (the makers of Nalgene bottles)—although the chemical is still not classified as toxic in the U.S.

The chemicals industry maintains that polycarbonate bottles contain little BPA and leach traces considered too low to harm humans. The industry cites multiple studies in the United States, Europe and Japan.

But the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in New Haven, contends that hundreds of studies and papers have repeatedly shown that BPA can be toxic even at extremely low doses.

“Lawsuit filed against plastic baby bottle maker” [MSNBC]
“U.S. lawsuit alleges plastic baby bottles contain dangerous chemical” [The Canadian Press]

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  1. ARP says:

    Lots of things are toxic, even at low doses. But if you only consume it once or twice, your body is good at recovery. Does it cause long term harm?

    The questions for me are:

    1) Under normal use, how much does BPA leach?
    2) Is that amount dangerous if ingested over a reasonable period of time?
    3) Did they know this and intentionally hide this information?

  2. @ARP: Who cares when there is a potential windfall lawsuit that can be filed, even if you can’t prove actual damages.

  3. Sarge1985 says:

    I do as it causes prices to go up on other products from those same manufacturers so they can defend themselves or pay out the millions of dollars in settlements.

  4. Czum says:

    Doesn’t the burden of proof require a demonstration that actual harm has occurred? I’m not sure how this suit could go forward without that important piece of information. Just because something might be dangerous under specific laboratory conditions (“…can be toxic…”) doesn’t mean that the consumer has suffered harm in reality.

    The fact that BPA is not yet considered toxic by the Feds complicates the matter – is each manufacturer supposed to list all components of a product that may, potentially, be found to be dangerous in future? In that case, you definitely should be worried about the components of your PC (literally thousands of compounds, some of which are known to be toxic and many that could potentially be). Should your PC come with a small booklet outlining the various compounds of which it is made? Perhaps more importantly, would you read it/understand it/alter your behavior based on it?

  5. drrictus says:

    @Czum: Why do you hate the children?

    /sarcasm

  6. ddg says:

    pbs just had a story about Bisphenol A & The Chemicals in our Food. Part of the story revolved around the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that did a lot of research & showed many studies sited are funded by companies with ties to the plastics industry. search “Chemical Fallout” or “pbs chemicals in our food”…

  7. ddg says:

    @ddg: & please excuse my poor spelling..

  8. B says:

    @Czum: Since people don’t eat off their computers, comparing the toxic chemicals in them to those in plastic bottles is disingenuous.

  9. mthrndr says:

    She does not have even the slightest case here. If the chemical is not legally considered toxic, then playtex has no need to ‘adequately disclose’ that it is used in production.

  10. ilovemom says:

    The scary part is that this woman is raising a child.

  11. Chairman-Meow says:

    Oh goodie another scare lawsuit. Of course once everyone is shaken-down for millions, we will learn that there was nothing to be afraid about in the first place. All will be quietly forgotten and all of us will be paying more for plastic drinking cups in the future.

    Of course, all of this will be justified “for the childen”
    /sarcasm

  12. Noris says:

    It’s the trashy American way: sue into wealth!

  13. FLConsumer says:

    1) they don’t know
    2) they don’t know
    3) they don’t know

    Scary, but true.

    Product safety testing is a joke. If they even bother, they’re only looking at one chemical at a time with healthy individuals.

    RF safety testing’s even scarier.

  14. @Czum: “The fact that BPA is not yet considered toxic by the Feds complicates the matter “

    Yeah, one of the reasons we GET all these cases in the U.S. is that in many countries, chemicals that will be consumed or absorbed by humans (but are not FOOD additives — things dishes are made of, teflon as a cooking surface, aerosolized asbestos, ingredients in makeup, etc.) have to be proven safe before they can be used. In the U.S., you get to use it until it’s proven toxic … which typically takes 30 years before everyone starts developing cancer, and then requires massive studies attempting to untangle cause and and correlation because now we’re not talking about risk, we’re talking about liability.

    With the number of chemicals introduced into our daily lives since 1970, this is about to become a massively unwieldy and expensive way to manage chemical approvals. I honestly think it’ll be asbestos-style lawsuit after lawsuit on chemical after chemical as literally thousands of consumer products are reformulated after long and expensive court battles attempting to decide if the correlation of X with cancer is strong enough to apply liability.

    I think we’re at the point (I think we were at the point in 1980 if we didn’t want it to cost billions of dollars down the line, but hindsight’s 20/20) where we should switch to a prove-safe-before-use regime, where chemicals with some level of risk are restricted to applications where the benefits justify the risks. (Like if some plastic additive that may be correlated with cancer makes the best IV tubes by a large margin? BRING. IT. ON. But keep it out of children’s toys, where the risks clearly outweigh the benefits.)

  15. @mthrndr: “She does not have even the slightest case here. If the chemical is not legally considered toxic, then playtex has no need to ‘adequately disclose’ that it is used in production.”

    This is actually EXACTLY how we manage non-food-additive consumer chemical toxicity in the United States — use it until someone sues, and let lawsuits decide if the correlation between the state risk (cancer) is strong enough to require the chemical be disclosed to consumers or removed from products.

  16. revmatty says:

    There’s a really nice commentary over on scienceblogs on this Neurotopia

    Also, The Angry Toxicologist does a nice critique of a (possibly industry funded) response to the Salon article.

  17. FLConsumer says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Don’t forget that just about every American, even very young children (<3 years old) have measurable amounts of Teflon precursors in their blood now. NO studies have been done (to the best of my knowledge) as to how this interacts with the biochemistry of the body.

  18. Czum says:

    @B: Sorry, but I have to disagree. Your computer continuously vents the more volatile compounds into the air, and the constant heat of the CPU combines with your case fan(s) to ensure that everything is circulated throughout the room. Ingestion by breathing in pollutants can be just as serious as ingestion by eating/drinking.

    @drrictus: LOL

    @Eyebrows McGee: You make some great points. One of the underlying problems is that it is far easier and faster to synthesize new and exotic compounds than it is to test them for biological impact. Plastics alone are nearly infinitely variable. And new compounds are introduced all the time – the only things they are typically tested for relate to usefulness, e.g. ease of construction, strength, malleability, resistance to fading/cracking/mold growth/etc. Biological safety is often not high on the list.

    That being said, I still have a problem with a lawsuit about failure to disclose the presence of a compound that was NOT LEGALLY TOXIC at the time of manufacture and purchase. You are right that in some cases the problems surface years later – all the more reason to instigate tougher rules and testing now for the introduction of new compounds which humans will have significant exposure to, and this should be done in order to move forward. But this lawsuit still should not stand since legal toxicity had/has not yet been demonstrated.

    On a related issue, it would be great for countries worldwide to agree to standardized testing so that the burden of biological testing can be shared, and so that the wheel doesn’t have to be re-invented in each country. The possibility of actually testing all new compounds then becomes a little bit more realistic.

  19. coolkiwilivin says:

    Hey this is how John Edwards joined the other America. Making baseless suits and pullng the wool over a jury. What a crock. It’s needless lawsuits like this that are ruining our country. Hey if a Dem is elected everyone just open up your wallets b/c all your money is going to get sucked up for nationalized healthcare. But that would solve the lawsuits b/c you can’t sue the government.

  20. UnicornMaster says:

    I hope this woman goes bankrupt in legal fees.

  21. Sanveann says:

    I think the lawsuit is silly — clearly she doesn’t have a leg to stand on — but BPA is very concerning to me.

    We’ve recently switched to glass and BPA-free plastic bottles for my son. Because I exclusively pumped for about 10 months for him (long story), his milk — well, my milk — was stored in and served in bottles containing BPA. I have no way of knowing how much of it may have leached into his food. I’m not freaking out about it, but I am definitely concerned.

  22. emington says:

    hey everyone, this is my first comment, so I’m sorry if it’s a little weird.

    I’m a research assisstant at a university and currently I’m aggregating information on bisphenol A for a teleconference later this year. I’ve looked at maybe 100+ studies and I must say that I would not want to touch bisphenol A with a ten metre pole!

    To answer the questions of ARP:
    1) Normally it doesn’t leach a lot on NEW products, but if the products are heavily used in the dishwasher, or heated up, or having acidic or basic compounds put in them, it exacerbates the leaching. Also BPA is not just found in baby bottles and polycarbonate plastic but also commonly used resins on the inside of canned goods (you know that coating?), also on some water supply pipes, and on the inside of packages of infant formula. Also it’s used as a paper developer and can be found in paper towels and such (especially those made from recycled paper).
    2) It is neurotoxic, genotoxic, and carcinogenic. It has been found to make breast cancer cells more aggressive, for example. Also much of its effects are generational, meaning that it transfers from mother to child, to the detriment of the foetus, causing developmental damages.
    3) Yes, they did. If you look at this study here: [www.ehponline.org] It describes the differences between government funded (which find BPA harmful) and industry funded (which do not) studies.

    BPA isn’t considered toxic in America by the Feds due to industry influence, and this isn’t paranoia. Also, BPA is being considered for a ban in Canada, and I believe it’s already banned in children’s products.

    Front_Towards_Enemy: It is a dangerous chemical. It has been proven in scientific literature ^^

    FLConsumer: They do know. They do know. They do know. Please see my other response. Also, BPA is present in around 94% of American adults’ urine samples. It’s there. You should try searching PubMed or the journal Environmental Health Perspectives for papers on Teflon, I’m sorry I don’t have the time to find one for you right now because I have to finish my report on BPA ^^

    Sanveann: I’m sorry to say but I have found that BPA, according to scientific study, is found in five samples of purchased commercial milk. But there was none in the soy milk. ^^

    The suit is a little silly, I’d agree, but it brings awareness to a dangerous chemical, but the problem is that it is rather ubiquitous.

    I hope this comment has clarified the concerns. ^^

    We’re killing ourselves, but it doesn’t matter as long as we’re making money ;)

  23. Sanveann says:

    @emington: Thanks for the interesting post!

    To clarify, my concern wasn’t about the milk itself …it was MY milk (aka breastmilk). My concern was about the fact that I stored it in polycarbonate bottles after pumping. I worry that my son has had more exposure to BPA than a child whose parents may have just dumped breastmilk or formula in a bottle for a feeding.

  24. Chairman-Meow says:

    “It is a dangerous chemical. It has been proven in scientific literature ^^”

    So is water. No one is disagreeing that it is dangerous but in what quantities vs what quantities are present on today’s plastics ? Are those levels enough to cause harm ?

    Oh wait….suit first ask questions later. That’s the American way.

    Want a real scare ? Take a walk downtown of any large old city with a Geiger Counter. Point it at a few building made of Granite. You’ll get some interesting results.

  25. emington says:

    Front_Towards_Enemy: It’s dangerous in incredibly small quantities, compared to water (whose main danger is overconsumption leading to death or contamination).

    I thought I was clear enough that these levels, over time, because they are observed as being absorbed from many common sources (not only plastics but canned goods, water pipes, dental sealantsm and more (basically it is a component in epoxy resins, polysulfone resins and polyacrylate resins, flame retardants, paper developers and of course the famous polycarbonate plastic). not a single use chemical).

    I’m not American so I don’t know your way so well ^^
    The problem is that I think the public doesn’t read nor pay enough attention to the scientific literature available.

    I am not afraid of background radiation because it’s harmless to me. I am radiating right now. I absorb radiation when I fly in aeroplanes. Radiation is natural. BPA is not.

    It’s somewhat sad when someone doubts me when I am basically writing a very, very long review of literature for both academic and governmental agencies ^^

    Believe me, I’ve spent some time asking questions, and getting answers. I’ve read 100+ papers on this topic. I think that’s sufficient to get a reasonable answer.

  26. Chairman-Meow says:

    @emington: Actually, I do not doubt you in the least.

    Is it harmful ? Maybe. But let a unbiased peer-reviewed scientific study tell us this; not some Lawyer with dollar signs in their eyes..

    Do you honestly believe that this lawyer and its client are looking out for all our interests and concerns ? Nope. they are looking for a big payday check over what might turn out to be a small issue.

  27. Mr. Gunn says:

    OMG!! Think of the children! Never mind that this is a question that can be answered by science, everyone should freak out!

  28. emington says:

    Many unbiased peer-reviewed scientific studies have proven it.

    Like I said, the lawsuit is stupid to me…

    But it shouldn’t make us think any less of the dangers of such a chemical.