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Glass Baby Bottles Return Amid Chemical Concerns

Relatively small but growing number of parents are turning to glass bottles amid concerns over a chemical used to make plastic bottles, bisphenol A.

NEW YORK (AP) — Meg Robustelli had heard reports that a chemical in most plastic baby bottles could be dangerous, but she had not done anything about it. That's when her mother stepped in and bought her glass bottles.
''She's an alarmist, but I'm grateful,'' said Robustelli, whose daughter, Mia, is 14 months old. ''I switched because of all the concerns about the plastic.''
She made the change about six months ago, becoming one of a relatively small but growing number of parents turning to glass bottles amid concerns over a chemical used to make plastic bottles, bisphenol A.
''I wish I was using glass from the beginning, so I could have avoided any exposure,'' said Robustelli, of Stamford, Conn.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a manmade chemical used in polycarbonate plastic, the material used to make most baby bottles and other shatterproof plastic food containers. Americans are widely exposed to BPA, but opinions on its safety are mixed.
The Food and Drug Administration says current uses with food are safe. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says animal testing has shown that BPA has hormone-like effects on the reproductive system. The CDC says more study is needed to see if it could be harming people.
Some pediatricians advise families to use alternatives to polycarbonate bottles to be on the safe side.
''I can't assure parents that it's safe, and I would not use that for my own babies,'' said Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and author of ''Raising Baby Green.'' ''There are a number of BPA-free bottles, and I also love glass bottles.''
As parents turn to glass, manufacturers are responding with new versions of the old-fashioned favorite.
Babies ''R'' Us had a dramatic increase in glass bottle sales in the spring of 2007 and current sales are more than five times what they were a year ago, the company said, without releasing figures.
Dr. Brown's, which has been making a polycarbonate bottle for about a decade, introduced a glass version in early January because of customer demand, said Carolyn Hentschell, president of Handi-Craft Co./Dr. Brown's Natural Flow.
''If you're a mom and you have concerns (about BPA), here's an obvious choice,'' she said. ''We don't want them to feel like they have to go to another baby bottle.''
Evenflo, which has made glass bottles for the last 70 years, said its glass bottle sales are up 10 percent already this year, after jumping more than 100 percent from 2006 to 2007. In the previous year, the increase was 7 percent.
Evenflo and Dr. Brown's, who say glass bottles still make up less than 10 percent of bottle sales, give parents a choice of bottles. A few other companies are staying away from BPA altogether.
BornFree, a Florida company that started a few years ago with BPA-free bottles and cups, added glass bottles about a year ago. ''From day one, we were free of polycarbonate products,'' said company President Ron Vigdor. ''We saw a need for that.''
Glass generally costs more. A three-pack of 8 oz. Dr. Brown's polycarbonate bottles has a suggested price of $12.99, the same price recommended for a two-pack of the company's glass bottles.
Glass, of course, can break, and parents need to be careful.
Once babies can hold their own bottles or walk, they should not be given a glass bottle to drink on their own, experts say.
Greene said the bottles are a great choice for parents with the youngest babies, still being safely held while they are fed. ''By the time the child is big enough to be walking around, I prefer it'd be a sippy cup,'' he said. (Several BPA-free plastic cups are being made.)
Robustelli, the Connecticut mom, said Mia broke one bottle, which shattered when it hit the ceramic tile floor at a restaurant.
''She throws them here on the regular linoleum tile in our kitchen and on the wood floor and carpet and they are always fine,'' Robustelli said. ''They don't break at home.''
As far as cleaning, the bottles can be boiled, go in the dishwasher or a sterilizer, just like plastic.
''A lot of people think it's going to be a hassle, but they really are treated the same,'' said Evenflo's Frost.
As for maintaining the bottles, they should be checked regularly for nicks or cracks, and replaced if any are found, manufacturers say.
Some bottle makers are also making new versions.
In November, two California companies introduced a glass bottle sheathed in a protective silicone sleeve.
''The sleeve helps protect the bottle from breakage and bumping into articles in your purse or diaper bag,'' said Pam Marcus, co-founder of Babylife, which makes the WeeGo bottle. ''The silicone is a good insulator and provides a great tactile surface for babies' hands.''
The other is the Siliskin bottle, made by Silikids.
While the research into BPA continues, the move toward glass bottles has taken hold, at least among some parents. ''If I have more children, from the get-go I'll start with the glass,'' Robustelli said. ''It seems like a no-brainer to me now.''
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