Harmful plastics

Plastics are made from certain chemicals. Two of those chemicals are phthalates (THA-laytz) and bisphenol A (BIZ-fee-nawl ay).

  • Phthalates make plastic soft and flexible. They are used in toys, rattles, teethers, and medical devices such as tubing.
  • Bisphenol A makes plastics clear, strong, and hard to break. It is used in baby bottles, food containers and water bottles.

Scientists are debating whether these chemicals pose a risk to children’s health. For instance, some research has found that bisphenol A can affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in fetuses, infants and children.

Various scientific groups have reviewed the research and have come to different conclusions about these chemicals. The research is unclear. More studies are needed to find answers. The American Academy of Pediatrics has encouraged further research.

What some parents are doing

Since research is still being done on phthalates and bisphenol A, some parents have chosen to be cautious. Here are some of the things they are doing:

  • Breastfeeding their babies so they don’t have to use baby bottles
  • Giving their babies toys made of fabric or unpainted wood
  • Using baby bottles made of glass, polypropylene, or polyethylene
  • Using baby products with labels that say they don’t contain BPA or phthalates
  • Avoiding plastics numbered 3 or 7 (look for the number in a triangle typically found on the bottom of containers).
  • Choosing plastics numbered 1, 2 and 4.

January 2010

Most common questions

Are plastic baby bottles that use BPA & phthalates safe?

Scientists are debating whether BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates pose a risk to children's health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concerns about chemicals used in plastics. BPA is used to make plastics clear, strong and hard to break. Some baby bottles, dishes and toys contain this chemical. Some research has found that bisphenol A can affect the brain, behavior and prostate gland in infants and children.

If you're concerned, buy BPA-free plastic baby products. You can also use baby bottles made of glass, polypropylene or polyethylene. If you use plastics, avoid plastics numbered 3 or 7 (look for the number in a triangle typically found on the bottom of containers). Use plastics numbered 1, 2 and 4. If plastic baby bottles and infant cups contain BPA, discard them if they have scratches. Don't put boiling or very hot liquids, such as formula, into plastic bottles or containers that contain BPA.

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