Environmental News Archive

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Jan 10, 2009 (Straits Times Forum)
Letter from Sai Siew Min (Ms)

I REFER to the stance taken by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) reflected in its replies in the past two years on the safety of milk bottles and other polycarbonate plastic products used by infants, babies and children.

At issue here is the presence of Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical widely used in polycarbonate products that poses substantial health risks to foetuses, babies and children.

I am concerned that AVA's replies, as well as its official website, do not provide updated and sufficient information to Singapore parents on the gravity and complexity of this issue.

Last year, the Canadian government banned the use of BPA in baby milk bottles.

Only recently, an advisory board set up by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) itself took the agency to task for ignoring a significant body of scientific literature on the negative health effects of BPA, in particular low-dosage exposure.

According to a New York Times article on Dec 24, the FDA's current position on the safety levels of BPA exposure in food-packaging materials is based on research funded by the American Plastics Council.

The AVA letters cite reports from 2006, whereas the health risks of BPA to children are an evolving issue and the subject of much public debate, especially in North America.

As a young mother-to-be, I am naturally surprised that this issue has not been highlighted to the public.

The AVA website does not offer useful and updated information. An advisory on BPA posted on the website contains a short and vague four-point statement cautioning parents not to subject plastic milk bottles to high heat because high heat is known to cause BPA to leach from the bottles.

If the AVA is concerned about BPA leaching under high heat, does that mean it agrees that the chemical is harmful to babies?

The advisory also notes that 'baby bottles can be sterilised according to instructions on infant formula label and should be allowed to cool before placing infant formula into them'.

One of the most popular methods of sterilising milk bottles is by boiling them. In parentcraft classes conducted by experienced nurses in local hospitals, new parents are told to boil the bottles for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

What will this do to the stability of the chemical BPA in the bottles? Are the bottles safe for use at room temperature after intense and daily boiling for a long period? Is there a proven and scientific basis for AVA's advisory?

Can the AVA provide further clarification?

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