The Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) has appealed to the government to ban certain man-made chemicals from toys and baby bottles.
In a statement the association said it had noted that babies and young children were being exposed to man-made chemicals, some of which disrupted their hormones.
"What is of particular concern is the finding that babies have the highest concentration of some of these man-made molecules," it said.
Some countries identified these molecules and had taken steps to ban
the chemicals in items used for babies.
Cansa hopes the government will follow the example of Canadian authorities concerning the banning of polycarbonate baby bottles containing Bisphenol A, and the United States government and the European Parliament for banning a specified list of phthalates found in children's toys.
Bisphenol A and plastic bottles
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a man-made chemical used in the manufacture of certain plastic products. It’s ubiquitous in the modern world, cropping up in everything from credit cards to car interiors to… baby bottles.
But if BPA enters the human body this otherwise useful chemical has hormonal activity similar to the female hormone oestrogen, and can disturb biological processes at very low concentrations. Exposure to BPA is thought to increase the risk for breast cancer.
How are you exposed to it?
If BPA-containing plastics are heated, the BPA can be released. For example, if you pour hot milk into a BPA-containing baby bottle, the BPA can enter the hot milk – and the baby who drinks it.
It’s been found that 55 times more BPA is released from bottles filled with hot water compared to those with cold water.
How to avoid it
There’s little to fear from plastic bottles – as long as you don’t heat them.
"It’s the very hard plastic ones you need to beware of – they will say ‘PC’ for ‘polycarbonate’," says Dr Carl Albrecht, Head of Research of Cansa. "The softer plastic ones, like those for bottled water, have not been shown to be harmful. The only possible problem if you re-use them a lot – taking them repeatedly in and out of the fridge – is bacterial contamination.”
As a general rule, however, rather than worrying about whether a bottle contains BPA or not, Albrecht agrees that it’s best to simply avoid heating any plastic bottle. Use glass instead. You can also boil water or milk in another container and then allow it to cool before pouring it into a plastic bottle.
(Sapa, October 2008)
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