Sunday, November 7, 2010

What?? A sippy cup made from PVC!

I really can't believe I missed this, but I just realized recently that the sippy cup I was giving to my toddler to drink water out of... is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Who makes sippy cups out of PVC?! Apparently, Arrow Plastic Manufacturing Company does. How could I have been fooled? The top of the sippy cup is made from polypropylene. OK. The bottom part was clear and hard -- I just assumed it was polystyrene...but if you look closely at the plastic number logo at the bottom, it says "3" which is... PVC. Not OK. The main concern with PVC is the phthalate plasticizers that are used to make PVC more flexible, since it's a brittle polymer in its unmodified form. Phthalates, which are considered to be estrogen mimics, can leach out of PVC products. Bad. According to Arrow, there are no phthalates in the hard PVC plastic used to make the sippy cups, so they are safe. And oh yeah, the sippy cups don't contain BPA either! Of course they don't. BPA isn't used to make PVC... And apparently, lots of other additives are also generally added during PVC processing, like heat stabilizers, UV stabilizers, lubricants, processing aids, impact modifiers, etc.

I'm not sure how reassured I am by that. I did some Googling, and the only thing I could find about PVC sippy cups is this article from Green & Clean MOM who seems to have gone through a similar experience of "Are you kidding me?"

I do wonder about all the PVC water pipes out there though... If those are considered safe to transport drinking water, then technically, these sippy cups should be "safe" too, right?

Friday, November 5, 2010

It gets worse -- BPA in cash register receipts is absorbed through the skin...

Apparently, three recent studies have shown that Bisphenol A -- the chemical that has everyone freaked out about baby bottles, canned foods/drinks, and cash register receipts -- is absorbed through the skin. This doesn't surprise me, since skin absorption is a common pathway for chemicals to enter our bodies. The studies found that cashiers tend to have higher levels of BPA in their bodies, since there are significant amounts of BPA on thermal paper used in cash register receipts.

Two separate studies found that pregnant women who worked as cashiers had the highest levels of BPA in their bodies. In a third study, researchers exposed sections of fresh ear skin from pigs (often used as a model for human skin) to BPA, and found that after three days, 65% of the BPA was absorbed. They repeated the experiment with small samples of excised living human skin, and found that 46% of the BPA was absorbed. These numbers may seem scary, but seriously, they exposed the skin samples to BPA for THREE days. That's not really representative of what happens in the real world.

Sure, BPA is absorbed through the skin, so take precautions when handling thermal paper. It might be a good idea for cashiers to wear gloves when working... or better yet, maybe stores should stop using BPA-containing thermal paper. According to the EPA, Japan phased out the use of BPA in thermal printing applications in 2004. That's six years ago!! There are obviously alternatives out there, so why are we still using BPA-laden receipts?

(To be fair, the EPA did note that the health and environmental effects of BPA alternatives have yet to be assessed. And that is definitely a concern. Sometimes alternatives aren't necessarily better.)