January 29, 2009

At the top of the "don't worry about it" list

Thanks to Wake county's wonderful library request system, I was able to pick up a whole stack of books about babies, baby gear and many other pertinent topics.

The most useful so far has been The Girlfriend's Guide to Baby Gear: What to Buy, What to Borrow and What to Blow Off. This book is written by a group of Moms who have tried all of these products and are now sharing their wealth of knowledge with the rest of us. My shopping list is definitely shorter than it would have been if I listened to some of the other books.

The least useful by far has been the Somethingorother Guide to Natural Baby Care. I'm mad at it, so I don't even care what the actual title is. I was hoping for maybe info about cloth diapering or how to produce less waste with a baby in the house. You know, normal human-type stuff. Instead, within the first few pages, I realize that this is more like The Psycho Alarmist's Guide to Raising Your Baby to be a Weirdo.

These people would have you tearing out the carpet in your nursery and installing hardwoods to avoid the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) that are emitted by the carpet. This also means no plastic in the nursery and a huge list of extremely common things to avoid. Now, I agree that you should avoid secondhand smoke and creepy chemicals like formaldehyde and tolulene. But there has to be a limit.

I spent about 30 minutes Googling VOCs and all I could find were similar pages of people freaking out about VOCs. I found no real information about anything. No amounts of VOCs emitted by the plastics and no limits of safe or unsafe exposure. We are surrounded by plastics and other apparently evil materials and have been for years. You can't just run around spouting the horrors of something you don't define. It just creates panic and fear of the unknown. I mean, trees emit VOCs. How is that wood floor now? And by the way, what kind of finish is on that?

Bottom line: not going to worry about it.

This lead me to another topic that bothers me: BPA. There are plenty of BPA-free products available now, so by all means use them, but I was curious as to how much BPA you are actually exposed to from a water bottle. Happily, I could actually find numbers for this one.

Just some quick background:
  • BPA = bisphenol A
  • it is bad because it has estrogen-like effects while in the body
  • BPA does not accumulate in the body, it is processed and excreted in urine
  • We are exposed to tons of hormone and hormone-like substances every day, BPA was just one that made it into the spotlight

The facts:

  • The EPA has set the TDI (Tolerable Daily Intake) of BPA at 0.05 mg per kg of body weight per day.
  • The TDI is 100 times less than the "no observable adverse effect level" (NOAEL) established in testing of lab rats
  • The EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) published data that all tested cases were less than 30% of the TDI.
  • The CDC (Center for Disease Control) tested 2000 people from age 6 to 85 and the average BPA amount was 0.0000027 mg per mL of urine. This is equivalent to 0.00005 mg BPA per kg body weight, 1000 times less than the TDI.
  • In testing of baby bottles, the maximum amount of BPA leached from any bottle was 0.000008 mg per mL of liquid in the bottle. If a 5 kg baby drinks a liter of liquid from this bottle in a day, they will ingest 0.0016 mg of BPA per kg body weight, about 3% of the TDI.

Bottom line: buy BPA-free bottles because they are now widely available, don't put boiling water in plastic that isn't BPA-free (it increases the rate of leaching), and don't microwave food in plastic containers. But overall, don't worry about it.

Remember folks, we had lead paint, asbestos, and toys with strings and small parts. We played with the mercury from broken thermometers and rode our bikes without helmets for years. EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY!

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