One of the ways babies start to explore their world is by mouthing. This desire to stick their hands or objects in their mouth typically increases during teething as they respond to the new sensations of protruding little teeth!

Whether you are encouraging your baby’s curiosity or soothing teething discomfort, there is no lack of options when it comes to finding teethers. That is, if you are not discerning regarding what is really inside them.

Choose wisely when it comes to the objects you purposely choose to offer your little one.

EU Court Lists BPA as a Substance of High Concern

Plastic products can contain chemicals that disrupt the proper functioning of the endocrine system. The most-well known of these is bisphenol A (BPA) which is known for mimicking the hormone estrogen and impacting the hormonal and reproductive systems.

In mid July, 2019, the General Court of the European Union “confirmed that bisphenol A (BPA) – a chemical additive in plastics and thermal paper receipts – must be listed as a substance of  ‘very high concern’ given its toxicity for human reproduction.”

In 2011, the European Commission had restricted the use of BPA in baby bottles. A year later, the United States followed and also banned BPA from baby bottles and children’s drinking cups (but not teethers). Some companies are using other plastics and marketing them as BPA-free.

“BPA-Free” Offers a False Sense of Security

Although many products claim to be BPA-free, different studies (see here and here) have proven that toxic chemicals may leach out anyway. In addition, what is being used to take BPA’s place, which is not listed by manufacturers, may be just as harmful. Recent studies on BPA substitutes, BPS and fluorene-9-bisphenol (BHPF), are concerning.

BPA Substitutes are Not Harmless

A 2016 study published in the February 1, 2016 edition of the journal Endocrinology exposed zebrafish to low levels of BPA and BPS. Researchers described their findings as “frightening.” Dr. Nancy Wayne explained,

Exposure to low levels of BPA had a significant impact on the embryos’ development of brain cells that control reproduction and the genes that control reproduction later in life. We saw many of these same effects with BPS found in BPA-free products. BPS is not harmless. (as quoted in UCLA Newsroom)

In yet another 2016 study, researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst gave pregnant and lactating mice low doses of BPS. They found that BPS impaired the mothers’ ability to care for their pups including an increase in infanticide. As for the BPS-exposed daughters, they spent “significantly less time on the nest compared to unexposed controls … [as well as] increased time spent nest building on one of the observation days, which “may indicate a repetitive or OCD-like behavior.””

BPA-substitute BHPF is also becoming a cause for great concern. Published in March of this 2017, a study in Nature Communications found that BHPF could cause adverse pregnancy outcomes, even at doses lower than those of BPA for which no observed adverse effect have been reported [emphasis ours].”

Why Low Doses During Critical Windows Have Massive Impact

Most of the issues surrounding BPA have centered around its estrogenic effects, but Dr. Wayne and her team found that BPA and BPS may also mimic thyroid hormone.

What other hormones might BPA and its alphabet soup of relatives be disrupting? And how?

The endocrine system consists of the body’s glands: the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries and testes. These glands produce chemical messengers called hormones that are responsible for regulating processes such as growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood. For infants, the concern is great.

Kristi Pullen Fedinick staff scientist at the National Resources Defense Council explains: “… we’re especially vulnerable to [chemicals] during phases of accelerated development – in utero and throughout childhood. … When a hormone-disrupting chemical gets in the way during these windows, it can change the ways these processes happen. The change is often irreversible.” (as quoted in “9 Ways to Avoid Hormone Disrupting Chemicals”).

The takeaway is: low doses at critical windows of development can have a massive impact.

This video entitled “Little Things Matter” goes into greater detail on this reality.

Is Silicone Safe?

More and more teethers are now made from medical-grade silicone. The current mainstream understanding is that this material is safe. However, there are studies that have given us pause. Our post “Is Silicone in Baby Products and Bakeware Really Safe?” provides an often-unheard perspective on silicone. For now, Safe Baby Healthy Child’s position is to apply the precautionary principle and choose products that are not made of silicone, whether medical-grade or not.

A Beyond Organic Teether Through and Through

We’ve all seen it – babies gnawing on carrier straps. They love to chew on fabric!

One of our favorite fabric teethers is the Scraptopus by Under the Nile. And we carry it in The Safe Baby Healthy Child Shop! It’s a colorful and soft toy and teether with all sorts of parts to gnaw on: eight colorful legs and one big octopus head. It’s made of organic cotton, of course, but Under the Nile goes above and beyond.

Safe Baby Healthy Child Shop Under the Nile GOTS Certified Organic Cotton

Many organic cotton teethers and stuffed animals that babies may mouth are only organic with respect to what’s on the outside.

But your baby is sucking on that product and may be ingesting whatever is on the inside.

The Scraptopus is different.

Not only is the fabric 100% certified organic cotton, it’s completely stuffed with 100% certified organic cotton, a rare feature among stuffed toys and teethers.

But how can you be sure it’s so pure? Because it has the GOTS label.

Here’s Under the Nile’s GOTS label.

It lists the name of the certifying body, in this case OneCert, and the manufacturer’s license number.

All of Under the Nile’s products are GOTS-certified. And it means that each product has met the rigorous manufacturing criteria of the Global Organic Textile Standard which ensures that the final product does not contain toxic residues.

While many teethers claim to be made from 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, don’t be fooled! This does not mean that the final product is GOTS-certified.

Unless the product carries a GOTS label, a claim that a product is made from GOTS-certified organic cotton only refers to the cotton (likely fabric) and such a claim cannot be made per the GOTS Licensing and Labelling Guide.

Manufacturers may only make a reference to GOTS if the product has a GOTS label because GOTS is meant to certify the entire manufacturing process, from seed to consumer. Otherwise, a company can take a GOTS-certified fabric and continue to process it with toxic inputs such as azo dyes or finishers that make it stain-resistant or snaps that contain toxic heavy metals.

What’s inside and how it’s made matters! Especially during this precious time in your baby’s life.