Why Most Plastic–Even BPA Free–Isn’t Safe. Especially For Kids

It’s amazing I don’t have 3 arms and 4 eyeballs. While I was growing up, we regularly microwaved food in Tupperware containers. Sometimes we even covered it with Saran Wrap before putting it in, just to give us an extra boost of toxicity.

Nowadays, unless you live under a bridge (in which case you won’t likely have a microwave), we know better. Now we buy our kids expensive Sippy cups and plates with two important words that allow us to sleep at night: BPA-Free. But before you really go into your dream cycle, I have news that may keep you up, rethinking what you’re using.

According to a recent article in Mother Jones, the hoopla about BPA-free is only the beginning. Most plastics are apparently toxic, some even worse than BPA. And most contain synthetic estrogens–which you don’t want kids ingesting. But chances are, they are.

In case you have been living under that bridge and you don’t know: BPA is common plastic additive (bisphenol A), which mimics the hormone estrogen. It’s been linked to a long list of serious health problems.  We touch it every day. It’s on our ATM receipts, in most food packaging and it’s probably in the computer keys I’m typing on right now. You can’t really avoid it. That’s why I was so relieved to at least have BPA-free dishware for my kids. Until Mother Jones shattered my safety bubble.

Now granted, I go back to my childhood and know I am healthy, despite all the plastic and crap we ate. My parents wouldn’t let us eat sweet cereal, but plenty of my friends’ parents did. I would scurry over to their house after school and inhale a bowl of Frankenberry. In the 1970′s that same cereal caused a fecal frenzy when terrified parents saw their kids’ poop turn pink. No sh-t.

There is no end to the madness that products, consumerism and corporate greed can inflict upon you if you let it. I would have to build a yurt in my backyard and eat out of a glass jar, not made in China, to even begin to feel safe.

After reading the article in Mother Jones, I ordered glass mason jars with straws for my kids to drink out of. But I didn’t realize until they arrived that the straws are plastic. So there went that. I sent them back. Then I ordered a stainless steel plate, bowl and cup, only to realize Emmett will dump the cup over if it’s not contained. I could envision blueberry smoothie all over our new couch. And for $24 a set, I could go broke ordering multiple ones–not to mention the aggravation I’d face in explaining to Phil why I was once again changing all the kid dishware in our house.

“No more plastic!!!!!” I now scream at the dinner table as he puts down the noxious orange cup in front of Fia. It’s the equivalent to Mommy Dearest: “NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!!” Only I’m saying it because I want to protect my kids, not beat or poison them.

But at the end of the day I realize that there is only so much I can do. Rather than drive myself completely crazy and leave my kids motherless because I’ve been committed to the psych ward, I decided to compromise: I went back to my good old plastic stuff, BPA-free, with my mind rationalizing that if I don’t put the products in the microwave (which I never did anyway) and don’t put hot liquids in them, my kids will hopefully be safe. At the very least, they (hopefully) won’t sprout a third eye or an extra bellybutton.

You have to draw some sort of line in the world of parental obsessing, right?

I also decided to teach Fia to drink out of our glasses and eat off our ceramic plates. She’s old enough to not break them. And I double-checked on the ceramic plates; they are not painted in China. Of course the one ceramic bowl Emmett loves, with a giraffe at the bottom, is painted in the land of toxic dumping. He already broke the zebra one, so I’m betting this one isn’t long for this world either. Soon I will get him to eat and drink from glass. It’s a higher priority right now than potty-training.

At the same time my obsession was in full force, I got an email from a company that makes stainless steel keys for kids to play with. Granted my kids are past that stage and never really played with keys–probably because I never gave them mine. But I know kids do love playing with keys. And after doing some research, I now know house and car keys contain high levels of lead and kids who put them in their mouth can end up with high lead levels in their bloodstream. So I thought this was a cool invention: Kleynimals. The key ring has 3 different keys in the shapes of animals. It’s made in the USA, non-toxic stainless steel and lead-free. I think I know what I’m getting for the next baby shower I’m invited to.

So my crusade to provide a safe environment for my kids goes in ebbs and flows. I get obsessive, then I calm down, and then something will ramp me up again. But I do think it’s important to know not just what is in your food, but also what’s in the serving ware.  From there you can make your own decision as a parent where to draw the line and how close you want to come to being put in a mental institution.

 How much do you know about toddler nutrition?

The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years
The Lasting Impact of the Early Childhood Years

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  1. [...] days ago I wrote about my latest obsession with the toxicity of plastic. My plan today was to channel some Zen and write about my new garden. Clearly I threw that idea out [...]

  2. [...] since I’ve been grinding on the Mother Jones article about BPA–and how all plastic is basically toxic–Fia’s lunchbox has been haunting me. I pack all of her food in BPA-free plastic [...]