Are Polycarbonate Bottles
Safe for Use?
New Information on an Old Scare Story
May 5, 2006
For many years, polycarbonate plastic has been the
material of choice for baby bottles and many reusable
water bottles. In spite of years of scientific research
that support their safe use, and multiple reviews of
that research by government and scientific bodies worldwide,
scare stories persist claiming that polycarbonate bottles
are not safe. Recent research and up-to-date assessments
once again confirm that polycarbonate bottles
The Old Scare Story
Polycarbonate plastic has been safely used for many
years in an increasingly wide range of products that
take advantage of polycarbonate's unique set of attributes.
Along with being lightweight, polycarbonate is highly
shatter-resistant and as clear as glass. These features
have made it the material of choice for baby bottles
for more than 25 years. More recently, reusable polycarbonate
water bottles that are available in a range of colors
and styles have become quite popular.
In spite of many years of scientific research that
support their safety, and multiple reviews of that research
by government and scientific bodies worldwide, scare
stories persist claiming that polycarbonate bottles
are not safe. While most commonly focused on baby bottles,
the scare stories were revitalized in late 2003 in a
Sierra Magazine article that suggested reusable
polycarbonate water bottles might be harmful.(1)
That story has continued to spread with a steady stream
of articles in college newspapers and other publications
on the alleged hazards of these bottles.
But not every publication has uncritically fallen for
the scare story without checking the facts first. For
example, in regard to the Sierra Magazine article,
The Minnesota Daily recently noted "while
this research should be reason to investigate the material
further, it is no reason to recall the bottles and start
a national scare." (2)
In fact, research has continued and, more importantly,
government and scientific bodies worldwide have continued
to carefully review the scientific evidence.
New Information and What It Means
A common claim is that high levels of bisphenol A migrate
from polycarbonate bottles, in particular from old bottles
that have been used repeatedly. In 2005, this claim
was examined by the Dutch Food and Consumer Product
Safety Authority in a study that measured migration
from 22 new baby bottles (representing 14 brands) and
20 old baby bottles (representing 11 brands).(3)
The old bottles had been used for up to three years
in households under typical conditions including microwave
heating, boiling before use and dishwashing. Consistent
with many other studies, no migration of bisphenol A
was detected from the new bottles. Significantly, trace
migration levels were detected in only three of the
old bottles. Contrary to what is commonly claimed, these
results indicate that typical use of polycarbonate bottles
does not lead to extensive migration.
These new migration results, along with the results
of numerous health effect studies, have been recently
reviewed by government bodies worldwide that have responsibility
for assessing the safety of chemicals and consumer products.
Three recent examples are particularly noteworthy in
regard to the safety of polycarbonate bottles.
- In January 2006, the German Federal Institute for
Risk Assessment (BfR, Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung),
which is the German expert body responsible for opinions
on food safety and consumer health protection, released
a statement with their views on the safety of polycarbonate
baby bottles. Overall, they noted "The BfR does
not recognize any health risk for babies that are
fed from baby bottles made of polycarbonate."
- A November 2005 statement from the US Food and Drug
Administration on the safety of food contact products
made from polycarbonate concluded "based on all
the evidence available at this time, FDA sees no reason
to change its long-held position that current uses
with food are safe." (5)
- The overall conclusion from a comprehensive risk
assessment on bisphenol A stated "current exposure
levels of BPA will not pose any unacceptable risk
to human health." The assessment, published in
November 2005, was conducted by scientists at the
Japanese National Institute of Advanced Industrial
Science and Technology, which is a public research
organization affiliated with the Japanese Ministry
of Economy, Trade and Industry.(6)
Taking into consideration recent research on bisphenol
A and polycarbonate plastic, these assessments again
confirm that polycarbonate bottles
are safe for use.
The weight of scientific evidence, as reviewed by scientific
and regulatory bodies worldwide, supports the conclusion
that bisphenol A is not a risk to human health.
1.Hazards of hydration. Sierra Magazine.
November/December 2003. http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200311/lol5.asp.
2. Nalgene scare isn't pure science.
The Minnesota Daily. April 10, 2006. http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2006/04/10/67942.
Migration of bisphenol A and plasticizers from plastic
feeding utensils for babies. Food and Consumer Protection
Safety Authority. June 2005. http://www.bisphenol-a.org/pdf/...
4. Selected questions and answers relating
to bisphenol A in baby bottles. Bundesinstitut für
Risikobewertung. January 18, 2006. http://www.bfr.bund.de/cd/7294
5. Letter from Dr. George H. Pauli of
the Food and Drug Administration to Greg Aghazarian,
State Assemblymember, November 28, 2005.
6. An abstract and detailed summary
of the bisphenol A risk assessment are available at
further discussion on the assessment, see http://www.bisphenol-a.org/whatsNew/20060320.html.