Many clueless about baby bottle dangers
Updated Thu. Nov. 22 2007 8:56 AM ET
The Canadian Press
TORONTO -- When her son was born 21 months ago, Jennifer Whigmore didn't stop to think whether the plastic bottles and baby toys she was buying contained a potentially harmful chemical.
Now, however, Whigmore is among those Canadian parents willing to pay a premium for products free of the controversial chemical bisphenol A, which studies have linked to hyperactivity, infertility and cancer. "It's kind of horrifying, really," Whigmore said Wednesday as she carefully checked labels at a baby store in central Toronto."It disturbs me because I wasn't given the information to make a better choice for my child."
On Tuesday, concerned Ontario residents, parents and activists descended on the provincial legislature to press the government to impose its own ban on the controversial chemical.
Even though Health Canada is currently reviewing bisphenol A, Premier Dalton McGuinty said his government would appoint an expert panel to look at the possibility of a provincial ban. "I feel guilty about it," Whigmore said. "I'm just glad that the issue is front and centre and I hope that the government acts on it."
Parents like Whigmore, however, are in the minority, according to consumer experts and retailers, who say most people either aren't aware of the controversy or simply aren't worried.
Manny Krybus, owner of the store Marlene's Just Babies in Toronto, recently started importing a brand of baby bottle that's free of bisphenol A. Most customers, however, "aren't aware and don't care," he said.
Krybus sells pairs of Israel-made BornFree bottles, which don't contain the chemical, for $28, compared with $16 for a comparable pair of regular baby bottles.
Krybus prominently displays his bisphenol-free products at the front of his store in a "green zone," but at least 60 per cent of his customers still go for the cheaper products, he said.
Part of the problem is a dearth of information, said Krybus, because manufactures aren't required to list bisphenol A on their packages.
"None of them do that. The less they tell you, the better it is for them. They're not going to tell you all the components that go into making a bottle."
Dan Carter, a father of two from Edmonton, agreed. "It's pretty scary," he said in a telephone interview. "The baby bottle we use, it has a plastic liner but I don't know if it has bisphenol in it. You just don't know. I don't even think it's on a label."
"I'd pay more if I knew something was completely safe," Carter added. "I really wouldn't care if a bottle was $3 instead of $1."
Manufacturers of baby bottles, such as England-based Philips Avent, are standing by those products that contain bisphenol A, arguing that tests demonstrate small amounts of the chemical are not harmful.
On its website, Philips Avent points to several studies, including a November 2005 report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which "re-confirmed the safety of the use of polycarbonate for food contact including baby feeding bottles." Avent notes that it uses the chemical "because it prevents cracking, shattering and other hazards that can lead to injuries."
If a product is available on shelves, many consumers take it for granted that it's safe, said Bruce Cran, President of the Consumers Association of Canada. "We're a very trusting people in Canada and we think that these things are being taken care of, but in many respects, they're not," he said.
"I think it's something we've got to shine a lot more light on."
Health Canada expects to deliver a verdict on bisphenol A by May of next year.