Rethinking Plastic

The ban on BPA-laden baby bottles has many parents moving to safer products.

Rethinking Plastic


With the imminent ban by Health Canada of plastic baby bottles containing Bisphenol A (BPA), many parents are scrambling for alternatives. They also want some answers. What other products containing BPA do I need to be concerned about? Are there any safe plastics? How can I minimize the use of plastic?

BPAs abound

BPA is a manmade chemical used extensively in the manufacture of plastic products, including baby bottles, sippy cups, plastic toys, plastic teethers, plastic drinking cups, hard plastic water bottles, clear plastic cutlery, the liners of metal cans and plastic storage containers, including the large water coolers used in many offices and homes. BPA leaches from plastic containers when the contents are at room temperature; acidic foods and extreme temperatures increase the rate of leaching.

Studies have linked BPA to neural and behavioural effects in fetuses, infants and children as well as increased risk of early-onset puberty and prostate and breast cancer. Hence, the coming ban of baby bottles containing BPA by Health Canada. In light of this, what action should parents take?

Which plastics are safer?

The best rule of thumb for parents is to avoid all plastics with the #7 recycling symbol because they may contain BPAs. Parents should also avoid plastic products displaying the #3 and #6 recycling symbol.

Plastics with the recycling symbol #3 usually contain phthalates, which are suspected carcinogens. This group of chemicals helps to make plastic toys and teethers more pliable and soft. Most rubber ducks contain high amounts of phthalates. Europe, China, Romania, Mexico (and soon the state of California) have banned phthalates from use in children’s toys, clothing, and related products.

Plastics labeled with the #6 recycling symbol contain styrene, another possible carcinogen. This plastic is used to make some types of disposable forks, spoons and knives and also “foam” cups such as those sold under the name styrofoam. Hot liquids, fatty oils, and alcohol can cause the styrene to leach out of these products. Styrene is banned in many locations, and is often non recyclable.

Safer plastic choices (but not proven 100% safe) carry the #1 (one-time use only), #2, #4  or #5 recycling symbol.

Going plastic-free

Many parents are choosing to replace many or all plastic kids’ products, bottles, food containers and food wraps with safer or  natural alternatives. Here are some ways to do that.

  • Identify all plastic products in your home that have a #7, #3 and #6 recycling label. Recycle or reuse.
  • Use glass baby bottles or switch to non-clear polypropylene bottles that are labeled #5. Don’t buy canned infant formula.
  • Limit your purchases of goods that come in plastic packaging or containers. Buy glass whenever possible and reuse those glass jars and bottles for food storage instead of plastic containers and cling-wrap (which may contain phthalates).
  • Use water bottles that are made of glass or high quality stainless steel, ie, non-leaching, toxic-free, and no plastic lining (see Resources).
  • Instead of using a water cooler, drink filtered tap water.
  • Limit your use of canned goods, such as veggies and prepared foods. Instead, buy fresh and learn how to prepare your own foods that you typically buy in cans – like beans, fruits, or chickpeas.
  • Choose soups, juice, milk and soy milk packaged in cardboard “brick” cartons.
  • Stop using plastic wrap and plastic containers to heat food in microwaves. Use ceramic or glass.
  • Instead of plastic toys, purchase wooden toys for your children to play with.
  • Replace plastic teethers with non-toxic wooden spoons, wooden toys and natural rubber teethers.
  • Use wooden, ceramic, glass, stainless steel or pewter cups, plates and cutlery in place of plastic forks or spoons, or styrofoam cups and plates.



Here are some resources to help you identify safe plastic toys, bottles, and other alternative products for you and your family.
Melissa & Doug Toys:
Plan Toys:
Waldorf Inspired Toys:
EvenFlo Glass Bottles:
Kleen Kanteen Water Bottles and Sippy Cups:
Parenting by Nature:

Author: Colleen O’Malley Weber

Colleen O’Malley Weber and her husband Jeff live in Harwood with their daughter. To sign up for her Natural Living newsletter, email her or visit

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