1. Beal, Judy A. DNSc, RN, FNAP, FAAN

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Debate over glass versus plastic bottles still exists in 2018 based on review of popular parent Web sites. A major concern is possible exposure of babies and children to harmful chemicals potentially found in plastic bottles. There is understandable confusion among parents. Bisphenol A or BPA is a common chemical found in plastic food and liquid containers that is used to harden polycarbonate and keep bacteria from contaminating food (American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], 2012). In 2008, in response to concerns raised by parents on safety of BPA in plastic baby bottles, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) affirmed that BPA was safe for humans. In 2010, the FDA reaffirmed the safety of BPA confirming that there were no studies that have documented toxicity to humans, but expressed some concerns based on animal studies only (FDA, 2014). In 2012, the FDA issued an advisory that manufacturers could no longer use BPA in plastic baby bottles and sippy cups (FDA, 2014). Although not based on any research, these recommendations were made in response to a request from The American Chemical Council in an attempt to allay consumer fears (FDA, 2014). Since then, the majority of manufacturers in the United States have stopped using BPA in products for babies and children.


Although there are no definitive studies on the toxicity of BPA to humans, there are several areas of concern from animal research including disruption in normal hormone levels and development of fetuses, babies, and children, possible links to behavioral issues such as attention deficient hyperactivity disorder in infants and young children, higher incidence of heart-related disease in adults, obesity, and diabetes. There may be additional risk to infants and children whose developing systems might be less able to detoxify BPA. All of the animal studies are significantly limited in design and none have definitely linked toxic effects of BPA to humans (FDA, 2014). Research on effects of BPA on humans is underway; however, the FDA has not yet posed any restrictions on the use of BPA in food-contact related products due to lack of conclusive evidence of harm in humans.


Several current parenting Web sites continue to discuss this controversial topic by comparing the pros and cons of glass versus plastic bottles. Plastic bottles are lighter, more readily available, easier to use, less expensive, and will not break if dropped (AAP, 2012). However, plastic bottles do contain more chemicals even if not BPA, are more difficult to clean, more likely to absorb odors, and less durable than glass bottles (Momlovesbest, 2018). Until there is definitive research documenting toxic effects of BPA on humans, pediatric nurses can assist parents in making the best decision for their current situation and lifestyle. Nurses can interpret the research to date and clarify with parents that available data are not definitive.


If parents choose plastic bottles, there are several recommendations that can ensure greater safety from any potential toxic effects. Purchasing newer BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups is the easiest and clearest approach, including avoiding plastics with a recycle code of 3 or 7 or with PC imprinted on them (AAP, 2012). The AAP also recommends using baby bottles made of opaque plastic, using certified or identified BPA-free plastic bottles, avoiding heating polycarbonate plastic bottles in the microwaves, and not putting polycarbonate bottles in the dishwasher. WebMD (2017) and AAP have helpful sites for consumers that offer detailed information of interest to parents who may be concerned about BPA exposure to their babies and children.




American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Baby bottles and Bisphenol A (BPA). Retrieved from Accessed June 18, 2018. [Context Link]


Food and Drug Administration. (2008). A scientific peer-review of the draft assessment of bisphenol A for use in food contact application. Silver Spring, MD: Author.


Food and Drug Administration. (2014). Final report for the review of the literature and data on BPA. Silver Spring, MD: Author. [Context Link]


Momlovesbest. (2018). Glass bottles vs plastic bottles: Which are better for your baby? Retrieved from Accessed June 18, 2018. [Context Link]


WebMD. (2017). The facts about Bisphenol A. Retrieved from Accessed June 18, 2018. [Context Link]