By Monica Amarelo, Director of Communications, and Sonya Lunder, Senior Analyst
A new study suggests that bisphenol-A and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals at low levels leach from plastic teethers that many babies gnaw throughout the day.
The researchers, whose report was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, analyzed 59 baby teethers commonly sold in the United States, and found that all of them contained BPA, or its replacement chemicals, bisphenol-S or bisephenol-F. The teethers – which were manufactured by 23 brands and included solid, gel-filled and water-filled models – also contained various parabens, as well as antimicrobials like triclosan and triclocarban.
Each teether was immersed in 200 milliliters of water for an hour to mimic a child’s saliva and daily use. And although almost 90 percent of the teethers were labeled as BPA-free or nontoxic, the researchers found more than 15 to 20 toxic chemicals in all of them.
Parents often turn to the colorful baby teethers to soothe infants’ gums when their teeth start coming in between 3 and 7 months of age. Unlike plastic toys, this product is made for babies to continually suck.
Based on estimates of the body weight of a 12-month-old baby, the levels of BPA and other endocrine disruptors measured were lower than current regulatory limits set for other products. But those limits don’t take into account the accumulation of chemicals to which a baby might be exposed over time.
The presence of potentially harmful chemicals in teethers is of great concern. Exposure to endocrine disruptors during infancy could have detrimental health effects that include asthma, diabetes, obesity and reproductive disorders.
Studies have shown that in animals, endocrine-disrupting compounds like BPA, parabens and antimicrobials can interfere with hormones, and cause harmful developmental and neurological harm. As a result, in 2012 the Food and Drug Administration announced that BPA could no longer be used in baby bottles and sippy cups.
More research is needed to better understand the impact of these chemicals on children. The researchers hope their findings will help regulators develop stricter regulatory guidelines to protect babies from exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in teethers and other baby products.
In the meantime, here are some options for concerned parents with teething babies:
- If your baby is old enough for solid food, try a frozen bagel, waffle, or frozen firm fruit or vegetable.
- If your baby is not yet eating solid foods, put frozen fruit pieces inside a mesh feeder.
- You can also use teethers made of unpainted wood or from organic cotton.