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The Cancer Association of South Africa has issued a public health warning about millions of potentially cancer-inducing baby bottles in circulation.

A new government ban, announced two weeks ago, has halted the importation, distribution and sale of polycarbonate (PC) baby bottles.

The bottles contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic hormone which can affect the development of infants, and potentially lead to them developing cancer later on in their lives.

Cansa chief executive

Sue Janse van Rensburg said that while leading retailers had aided in the removal of PC baby bottles from their stores, supplies still remained a major concern, with millions of the bottles still in circulation.

“Although we are pleased with the passing of the new law, and the efforts of some retailers, we remain concerned about the bulk of the unsafe baby bottles in use,” she said.

The bottles can be identified by “7” or “PC”, usually printed on the underside or near the measurement labelling.

BPA is found in many household items, including credit cards, CDs and certain canned foods.

Its effect on adults is minimal, but studies suggest it can have serious negative health implications in babies, as it migrates from the bottles into the milk.

Children are most vulnerable because they consume 10 times more BPA than adults for each kilogram of body weight.

Babies younger than one year are at particular risk, because they lack the enzymes to process man-made chemicals, such as BPA.

Some of the potential consequences include hormonal disorders, premature puberty and childhood obesity.

Most symptoms become visible at a much later stage in life, according to various studies.

Dr Carl Albrecht, head of research at Cansa, said heating of milk in these bottles further exacerbated the effects of BPA.

While it had not been conclusively proven, he said BPA had been linked to an increased risk of developing breast and prostate cancer in adults exposed during infancy.

“It’s extremely difficult to prove a definitive link to cancer, but the research done so far has led Canada, the EU and even China to ban the bottles because of the risk,” Albrecht added.

But he pointed out that while the ban was a welcome move, million of bottles with BPA were still in circulation, and being used.

Albrecht warned parents who suspected their baby’s bottles might contain BPA to stop using them immediately.

To help ensure BPA baby bottles were removed from circulation, Cansa has launched the “Smart Choice” campaign, which will collect these bottles and recycle them.

They are appealing to all concerned members of the public to collect the hazardous baby bottles and drop them at Cansa care centres across the country.

“Help us withdraw as many harmful BPA-containing bottles as possible. Or spread the message to as many friends and family via Facebook and Twitter,” Janse van Rensburg said.

“Let’s reduce BPA-related health risks, including breast cancer, by joining this lifesaving project.” - Weekend Argus