Tests Show Most Baby Teethers Contain BPA And Toxic Chemicals, Even Those Labeled BPA-Free And Non-Toxic

Scientists found that almost all of the baby teethers they tested contained harmful toxins such as Bisphenol-A (BPA), parabens and antimicrobials such as triclosan and triclocarban, with most pacifiers containing 15 to 20 different potentially harmful chemicals, CBS News reports.

American Chemical Society researchers analyzed 59 different types of baby teethers — including solid, gel-filled and water-filled models — for a study which was published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The scientists tested the baby teethers for 26 potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals in total.

They found that all of the teethers contained BPA, even the ones that were labeled BPA-free or non-toxic. They also detected a range of different parabens, the antimicrobials triclosan and triclocarban, and other worrisome endocrine disrupting chemicals in almost all of the teethers.

Lead researcher Kurunthachalam Kannan of New York State Department of Health and the School of Public Health at the State University of New York at Albany said that the researchers found the chemicals even in baby teethers that were labeled BPA-free and “non-toxic.”

Almost 90 percent of the teethers we bought were labeled as BPA-free, but we found BPA in almost every product and most were labeled as non-toxic. We were finding more than 15 to 20 toxic chemicals in all of the them.

Kannan said that he was concerned by the test results, not just as a scientist but also as a parent of babies himself. He pointed out that baby teethers don’t just expose babies’ skin to harmful chemicals but go directly in the mouth of babies, and that’s why exposure “is a matter of serious concern.”

The levels of the potentially harmful chemicals in the teethers were lower than current regulatory limits for other products, Kannan said, but he noted that federal limits are not set for babies, and they don’t take into account the accumulation of chemicals that babies are exposed to over time and from multiple products. Also, some of the chemicals found do not currently have limits in the United States and studies have not been done to see how multiple endocrine-disrupting chemicals combine to affect children’s health.

The United States has banned or restricted the use of BPA, parabens and antimicrobial chemicals in baby products such as bottles and cups since it is believed that these endocrine disruptors can cause hormonal changes that can have negative developmental, reproductive and neurological effects. They are also believed to have harmful effects on the immune system and have been linked to a host of other health issues.

Studies have found evidence of many possible negative health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as BPA in humans and animals over the past few decades. They have been linked with developmental problems, reproductive problems, increased cancer risk and disturbances in the immune and nervous system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Early life stage exposure is serious,” Kannan said. “Exposure to toxic chemicals during infancy can have detrimental effects and alter stages in life. That’s the theory that’s out there.”

Possible health risks of early childhood exposure to endocrine disruptors like those found in the baby teethers could include asthma, diabetes, neurodevelopment disorders, obesity and reproductive abnormalities, CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula said.

Despite these concerns, baby teethers are not currently included in the restrictions of these chemicals in the United States.

In light of the study, Kannan recommends using safer products for babies to use as teethers. There are baby teethers available that are made of wood or organic cotton but be sure to buy products that are not treated with other potentially harmful chemicals. Some other options for baby teethers include frozen bagels, a frozen washcloth or a frozen carrot for babies to teethe on, doctors say.

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