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The Dirty Truth About BPA: What Moms Need to Know

Moms want the best of the best when it comes to products for their kiddos — especially when health and safety is involved. Which brings us to one of this year's most controversial topics in Baby Land: BPA (a.k.a. bisphenol A). What is this mysterious substance and why is everyone making such a fuss about it?

BPA is a plastic used in baby and toddler bottles, and in the lining of children's food cans (think liquid formula and mushed peas). It's been around since the 1960s, but up until recently the general consensus has been that BPA is safe. However, now we know that trace amounts can leach into food, causing BPA to show up in urine, breast milk and even blood. But is it safe? That's the million dollar question, ladies!

BPA mimics estrogen and has been linked to negative effects on the brain and prostate glands of fetuses, infants, and children, which caused the FDA to launch a full-fledged investigation. Yikes! In 2008, toxicology reports found BPA safe for food and beverage consumption, but further findings in 2012 caused the FDA to ban BPA from all baby bottles and cups. This means you don't have to worry about the bottles you buy your tiny tots — they are guaranteed to be BPA-free. But what about cans, food packaging, and other plastics your child might put in his or her mouth? Not so much.

Credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock    

Though the FDA has banned BPA in bottles, they still haven't taken steps to ban the product in other consumer goods. But all hope isn't lost: You can easily find BPA-free items on the market –– especially in health food stores. Most companies smack a giant "BPA-free" label on the front of their goods, and you can always purchase porcelain or stainless steel containers that don't have BPA-filled lining.

If you already own products that contain BPA and want to continue using them, the FDA has some tips for limiting your risk. You’ll want to cool foods down before adding them to the container, at least as long as you or your family plan to eat or drink the stuff. The FDA advises against adding very hot or boiling liquids to containers with BPA, since the chemical’s levels have been shown to climb when heated. And if your containers have scratches, throw those babies out.

The Mayo Clinic notes that you should also choose a non-abrasive detergent when washing items containing BPA, and that you should limit microwave use. (The jury is still out on whether microwaving these items is safe: The American Chemistry Council says it is, while the National Toxicology Program says it’s a no-no).

Want to know if your child's bottle has BPA in it? Check the recycling mark on the bottom — plastics marked 3 or 7 may have BPA.

Source: FDA, Mayo Clinic

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05.8.2013 / 05:55 AM EDT by Mehera Bonner
Related: Moms, Health

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