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Phthalates, sippy cups, and Bisphenol-A: unhiding the hidden dangers

By Alice Bradley

Well! Hey! You sure do have some, you know, opinions about circumcision! Don’t you! Wow!
And there’s nothing wrong with that. Please don’t hurt me.
And now, let’s back away slowly from all controversial parenting topics, shall we? New topic for the week: kids! Can’t live with them, can’t sell them. You know what I’m saying? Hoo!
(Anticipated email response: I CANT BELIEVE YOU WANT TO SELL YOUR KID!! I PRAY FOR YOU!!!!)
(I have so many people praying for me, you guys. I’m totally going to heaven! The good heaven, too, where you get to watch 30 Rock and eat all the Snickers bars you want.)
Back to the topic at hand, which I see I haven’t yet mentioned: the hidden dangers. Of what, you may ask?
Of everything.
It appears that our children are surrounded by toxins. Steeped in carcinogens. Soaking in chemicals. Which I guess means that we are, too, only we don’t matter as much because our brains are already full grown, and let’s face it, we’re not getting any smarter. Let’s worry about the children, who I believe are our future.
For instance, have you heard of Bisphenol A? Here’s a chemical that’s found in water bottles, food and beverage can linings, and dental sealants—and it doesn’t stay there. No, Bisphenol A, or BPA, tends to migrate out of the bottles or cans and into the water or food contained therein. But once it’s ingested—which apparently it is, regularly—is it harmful? That’s the topic being debated. Not surprisingly, manufacturers of plastic bottles and canned foods argue that the levels of BPA that can be ingested are safe. Studies, however, show otherwise. BPA levels have been linked to ovarian dysfunction and increased miscarriage rates, as well as significant risks to infants and unborn children. More studies need to be performed; we don’t know enough, but what we do know doesn’t bode well. So in the meantime, here’s an excellent guide to BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups.
Speaking of sippy cups: they’re not just for chemical-leaching anymore! No, sippy cups also cause speech problems. Thumb sucking can cause similar problems, with the presence of either the thumb or the sippy cup spout putting the child’s tongue in an unnatural position. As a result, your child might have speech problems such as slurring or lisping. The expert’s recommendation? Encourage the use of a straw, and prevent thumb sucking by putting mittens on your infant. (Good luck on that last one.)
Okay, maybe that item wasn’t as scary, but this next one will terrify you. Your baby’s baby shampoo is DEADLY! Yes!
Let me explain. Your baby’s shampoo or lotion or powder probably contains phthalates, which are bad. More specifically, some of them, but not all, have been linked to endocrine disruption in animals. And after all, babies are small animals! So phthalates are bad bad BAD. And the fragrances in your baby products may contain phthalates, but you’ll never know because they’re not listed in the ingredients, because specific components of fragrances don’t have to be listed. Incidentally, we have no real clue if phthalates are bad for you, or not. The levels found in babies appear to be far lower than should warrant any kind of concern. But we are concerned. And you should be, too! BoooOOOOOooooo! Phthalates!
In conclusion: BPAs are bad; straws are good; mittens are silly; phthalates are something we can worry about later. I think we can all agree on these points, yes?

Published February 22, 2008. Last updated February 28, 2014.
Alice Bradley
About the Author

Alice Bradley

Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.


Alice Bradley was a regular contributor to Alpha Mom, writing about current events as they related to parenting. You can read about her daily life at her personal blog, Finslippy.

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  • Erin

    February 22, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    It’s not just the plastics and chemical companies that don’t see polycarbonate plastics as a hazard to children- The EU’s Food Safety Authority and Canadian governments, as well as the NIH, have published extensive studies that show no reason for concern over BPA. Europe and Canada generally takes a much more cautious approach when it comes to possible harm. In fact they have banned pthalates outright, however they do not see BPA as a comparable subject for concern. It’s pretty easy to claim that chemical companies are biased and would never admit their products were dangerous; However websites like the Green Guide are just as biased in their presentation, often capitalizing on the very real fear parents have for their children’s well being, as well as often being short on sound research to back up their claims.

  • SuburbanCorrespondent

    February 22, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Dental sealants? DENTAL SEALANTS?!!
    Shoot me now.
    And I thought you were sort of crazy to put up last week’s topic. How about discussing something totally innocuous next week, like…um…putting teen daughters into some sort of deep-freeze until they are 20? That might be useful. And probably everyone would agree that it was a good idea.

  • makakona

    February 22, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    20 is too early to thaw. my baby sister is 21 and could use a good five more years in deep freeze. as mom of three girls (who span 3.5 years from oldest to youngest), i’m all about locking them away.
    so, klean kanteen sippy cups ROCK. indestructible and not bad for baby. and we swear by california baby shampoos, baby washes, lotions, and so on. you can even find it at target!

  • Rachel

    February 22, 2008 at 5:44 pm

    Thank you Alice! This was exactly what I needed to read! I am so sick of reading alarmist news stories and thinking, “Am I a horrible mother? Should I be more worried? Should I throw out every last scrap of plastic in my house?” There is just no way.
    Because we can try to find the healthiest things possible for our families, only to turn around and hear that they’re dangerous.
    I know that some of the dangers may be real, but worrying myself sleepless about my children’s future reproductive success is just not going to help.
    So thanks, for the reminder not to take things too seriously…

  • Frankie

    February 22, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Hey, throw the teen boys in the deep freeze, too… Hell, after tonights dinner, I ready to say start the freeze at 6!!!
    I can’t even get shoes on my dog, much less mittens on an infant.
    As for chemicals and toxins, I just give them to my kid in pill form… that way I don’t have to worry about what plastic has what and whose shampoo will poison who…

  • amanda

    February 23, 2008 at 12:01 am

    God I love the way you write.
    I said God. I wonder if that means I just prayed for you.
    Did it again!
    Also. Did you listen to last week’s episode of This American Life? I don’t even know you, but the whole program made me think of you… behind-the-scenes at The Onion… how the news MAKES STUFF UP… you should definitely have a listen if you haven’t already.

  • caramama

    February 25, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    Finally a reason to tell people why we use straw cups instead of sippy cups! Because I’m a good mother and worry about her future speech!
    You know, instead of the fact that I was to lazy to try and force her when she couldn’t figure out how to use a sippy cup. People keep telling me I should just keep trying and eventually she’ll learn. Or, I can stick a straw in her mouth, sit back, relax and wait for her perfect speech to begin! 😉

  • Mallory

    February 27, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    I switched to glass baby bottles (Babies R Us sells them)and fragrance free skin products for my 4 mo. old because of phthalates.
    I don’t consider myself an alarmist, but making the switch was simple, so why risk it?

  • Ajlouny

    February 25, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    It’s crazy to think that all this time we have been exposed to Bisphenol-A but until this recent spur in interest over it, it was brushed under the rug. Our lives are consumed by BPA. It is in fillings in our teeth, it lines the metal in our canned foods, and in our plastic food containers. It is scary to know that BPA is found in most baby bottles and sippy cups. There are many new companies coming out with BPA free bottles though. As far as plastic drinking bottles for adults go, Camelbak has always been BPA free and Nalgene and REI are coming out with a BPA-free lines, too.

  • Charlotte

    March 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    No, it’s not that hard to find healthier options for our kids… It’s certainly easier to complain that this is just “too hard” and we just “can’t throw our sippy cups and shampoo away and listen to all that doom and gloom”…
    Bear with me for a second here… The doom and gloom isn’t the information we’ve just read here. It’s what happens when we’re misinformed or plain refuse to change our views because it’s more comfortable to stick to our favourite brands; It’s the misacarriages, sterility, desease, etc… whatever may or may not happen 10, 30 or 40 years from now to our kids.
    It’s really not that hard to find healthier options, in fact it’s unbelievable easy… As mentioned earlier, Target carries California Baby and Burts Bees (pretty cheap, smells fabulous, and to my knowledge, free of parabens and phtalates… and if I’m told it’s not, I’ll switch that too!)
    Bed Bath and Beyond has all the actual Organic stuff for cheap too. Finding a phtalate free sippy cup is a matter of looking through the Internet and doesn’t seem like that much of a challenge compared to.. say… potty training?
    OK, so we do what we can, I must say I’m clueless about thumb weaning, but I don’t feel the need to give a major guilt trip to someone if they tell me I should try…
    I some places, finding food to feed your kids for the day is a challenge, and we whine because we have to “struggle” (!!!) to find less toxic versions of our ever-abundand food-shampoos-etc? Please! No, it’s not SOOOOOOoooo hard. It’s just a bit of work, it’s worth it if something’s remotely harmful for our loved ones. Kudoz to Alice for informing us in such a humorous way.