Are you trying to make sense of whether baby products made of plastic are bad for your baby’s health? The truth is, plastic can be toxic if you don’t know what type you are using.
Here are five tips to help you make the smartest decisions with items you own or plan to purchase.
- Know your plastic recycling codes.
The Society of the Plastics Industry assigns recycling codes to the varying types of plastics available in the marketplace. You can find them by looking for a triangle at the bottom of your bottle or container. Look for plastic numbered with a 1, 2, 4, or 5. These types are regarded as safe to eat, drink and play with. Avoid plastics labeled with a 3 or 6 and in some cases 7. Plastics labeled with a number 7 can be tricky because it is a catch all category for new and unknown plastics. Many number 7 plastics are safe, so it’s best to contact a manufacturer and ask questions. Also note that plastics are not required to be labeled – again ask questions if in doubt.
- Become familiar with user-friendly plastics.
Polypropylene (PP) and Polyethersulfone (PES) are examples of plastics regarded to be suitable for baby bottles. Polycarbonate (PC) baby feeding products should be avoided. National Geographic provides a chart linking recycling codes and various types of plastics with common consumer items.
- Buy plastic baby products labeled “BPA-free”, “PVC-free” and “Phthalate-free”.
These are chemicals involved in the manufacturing of certain plastics that you want to avoid. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a chemical that mimics estrogen that can disrupt the function of your baby’s developing hormones. BPA can be found in baby bottles, pacifiers, high chairs and other items. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) has many industrial uses. However, it can cause serious health problems in infants who unknowingly chew on toys and teethers with PVC in them. Phthalates are used to make plastic products soft. Studies have found this chemical to be carcinogenic.
- Never Heat Plastic.
Running plastics through the dishwasher or heating them in the microwave causes chemicals to transfer from the containers to their contents. Avoid heating even the “safest” plastics as few studies have been done proving there are no harmful effects.
- Make the time to call the manufacturer.
If you’re in doubt about the safety of a product you already own, call the manufacturer. Ideally, the customer service representative will be forthright. However, if you feel you’re getting the run around from the company, ask about the simplest way to return the product.
- When possible make substitutions.
Most plastic baby products also come in alternative materials such as glass, wood, rubber and even bamboo. As your baby grows and needs new items, compare the benefits of a plastic model to its alternative. For example, a plastic high chair may be less expensive, but one made out of wood may last for many generations.
For peace of mind, you may throw out a few or all of the plastic items in your home. However, be sure to check the guidelines in your community, because not all plastic is recyclable.
Feeding, play and rest time were designed to be good for your baby’s health. Changing a few habits and making informed purchases can help you avoid many of the chemicals that make up plastic baby products.