Your Baby's 'BPA-Free' Teething Ring Might Not Be Safe After All


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If you're a mom, chances are you go out of your way to purchase baby bottles and other items labeled "BPA-free," as it was discovered years ago that bisphenol-A (which is found in many plastics) can disrupt hormones and the endocrine system, causing everything from asthma and cancer to heart disease, liver problems, and ADHD. Unfortunately, while the US has banned or restricted the use of BPA in products like bottles and sippy cups, baby teethers are NOT subject to the same regulations -- and according to a new study, even teethers labeled "non-toxic" may be full of harmful chemicals.

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Published in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study found that nearly 90 percent of "BPA-free" teethers purchased did indeed contain BPA -- in fact, researchers found over 15 to 20 toxic chemicals in all of them.

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In what is believed to be the first study to examine the "occurrence and migration" of endocrine disruptors from the surface of baby teethers, scientists placed them in water for an hour. What happened next was incredibly disturbing: BPA, along with a variety of other parabens and antimicrobials, such as triclosan and triclocarban, leaked out into the water from almost all of the teethers.

According to study author Kurunthachalam Kannan, a research scientist at New York State Department of Health and the School of Public Health at the State University of New York at Albany, these findings are particularly alarming because exposure to such chemicals early in life can cause harmful consequences for years to come.

Also alarming, on a different level, is that these findings were apparently very unexpected.

"Our original intent was to analyze only parabens," Kannan told CafeMom. "But the analytical method was the same for bisphenols and benzophenones and we thought that we could just run and see if we find anything."

Though Kannan says BPA was not expected to be there because most of the teethers were labeled BPA-free and non-toxic, they "were surprised to find BPA in all teethers!" 

"These products are expected to [be] regulated as they come in contact with infants," Kannan adds. "However, as we learn more, the regulations are not stringent."

More from CafeMom: 15 Natural Ways to Soothe Your Baby's Teething Pain

In other words, all of us -- even the experts -- have been fooled by "BPA free" labels. And why wouldn't we be? Of course manufacturers exaggerating the benefits or virtues or their products is nothing new, but when it comes to the safety of our children, we expect a little more.

And why aren't the regulations more stringent?! It's worth noting that the levels of chemicals measured in the teethers are lower than "current regulatory limits" for other products, but current regulations don't take the accumulation of multiple endocrine-disrupting compounds (BPA, parabens, microbials) into account. Also, those limits aren't set specifically for babies.

Kannan hopes that this study's findings will result in the development of stricter regulations. But in the meantime, what are parents of fussy, teething infants to do?

"Use frozen waffles and carrots in place of plastics," suggests Kannan. 

He acknowledges, however, that these all-natural alternatives aren't perfect either, as they can't be reused and are potential choking hazards. If plastic products absolutely must be used, he recommends soaking them well in water for several hours before giving them to your baby.

Here's hoping better, safer options are on the way!

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