Study Finds Baby Teethers Could Contain Harmful Chemicals, & Parents Are Worried

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Teething babies are adorable, said no one ever. I mean, sure, we still love them and everything. But they're tough to take. They're angry and sore and frustrated. They want you to hold them, put them down, comfort them, leave them alone. They don't know what they want except that they want to feel better. Which is where baby teethers have traditionally entered into the equation. Unfortunately, a recent study found baby teethers could contain harmful chemicals. Which is all kinds of bad news... especially if you're caring for a teething baby. Or are a teething baby.

For the uninitiated of you out there, baby teethers are meant to do double duty; babies should be able to gnaw on them safely to soothe their aching gums as their teeth push through and also be distracted by the bright colors. While many of these baby teethers are labeled non-toxic, and claim to be free of the harmful chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA), a new study published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science and Technology found that there could still be trace amounts of the chemicals. Kurunthachalam Kannan, the lead study author, and his colleagues tested 59 teethers in three separate categories (solid, gel-filled, and water-filled) for 26 potential chemicals. They were looking specifically for chemicals that could disrupt endocrines (or hormones) like BPA.

These endocrine-disrupting chemicals can potentially cause developmental disorders, affect the immune system, or inhibit the reproductive process. Kannan, who is a research scientist at New York State Department of Health, told CTV News:

The parents look at the ‘BPA free’ label and then they think that the product doesn’t have that chemical. But unfortunately, the chemicals are there – although in lower levels, they are there.

The study authors simulated the way a baby would naturally use a teether (by chewing on a teether or holding it in their mouth) by placing the gel-based teethers in water for an hour. They found that BPA and other parabens leached out into the water; even the brands labeled "BPA-free," according to CBS News:

Almost 90 percent of the teethers we bought were labeled as BPA-free, but we found BPA in almost every product and most were labeled as non-toxic. We were finding more than 15 to 20 toxic chemicals in all of the them.

Kannan hopes the study will encourage stricter regulations to protect babies from harmful chemicals in baby products, according to CBS News:

As a consumer myself with babies, I would love to buy products that are considered safe, without toxic chemicals.

For now, he recommends using natural products to soothe teething babies like frozen washcloths, frozen bananas, or teethers made of natural wood or organic cotton.