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Could Plastic Coated Board Books Contain BPA?

Photo:  AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by ilyaDo board books contain BPA?

Do board books contain BPA?

Don’t run to your bookshelves and start throwing out board books just yet.  I don’t have answers, but I want to share a concern that recently popped into my head while cleaning out my son’s bookcase.

Could plastic-coated board books contain BPA?

Board books are a staple of early literacy.  The National Institute of Health suggests these are “Good books for infants and toddlers”:

Board books are made from heavy cardboard with a plastic coating. The pages are easy for very young children to turn. Board books are sturdy and can stand hard wear by babies, who tend to throw them, crawl over them, and chew them. Board books can be wiped clean.

As I sorted through our collection of books, many of the favorite board books had teeth marks and corners chewed off from our teething days.  I thought nothing as a new mom to pass my child a board book in the car and let him/her gnaw away at it.  Now I wonder, what exactly is in that plastic coating?

I have Googled every combination of words to try to find some information. I have checked my favorite sites on BPA, like Healthy Child Healthy World, SafeMama, and Z Recommends to no avail. In fact, I can find little information about the plastic coated pages of board books, other than how great they are for babies and toddlers.  I found this information on a site about self-publishing under the heading “What are board books made of”:

What I discovered is that different materials are used for board books. The highest quality, and most expensive, is “white board,” or “white art board,” which essentially is pressed cardboard, with a white laminated surface, and white fibers all the way through. “Gray board” is similar, but contains gray fibers in the middle of it. You can probably find samples of both in the board book section of a large bookstore–look at the edges of the board books and you’ll see the difference. Sometimes, card stock, which is not as thick and feels very much like the material from which playing cards are made, is used to make board books, but this is not really “board.”

Board is specified by thickness and weight. “Gsm” (Grams/square meter) indicates weight, and “pt” (point) indicates thickness. Typical weights are in the 300 to 400 gsm range, with a 18 to 25 pt thickness. The material in white board may be referred to as “SBS” for solid bleached sulfate.

The site continues to explain how board books are more expensive to manufacture but sell for less than a picture book, which only furthers my suspicions. Harmful chemicals often occur in cost-cutting situations.

Given the discovery this summer of BPA in cash register receipts, I would not doubt that what makes boardbooks so indestructible is BPA.  I just don’t know.  Wikipedia reports,

Polycarbonate plastic, which is clear and nearly shatter-proof, is used to make a variety of common products including baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics.

Is it so farfetched that board books could be added to the list?

In retrospect, all those chewed up board books in my children’s bookshelves were not a good idea. Even if board books do not contain BPA, and I would love some independent testing to verify, the plastic coating could not be good for young ones to ingest.

I don’t have the answers, but I now worry that board books might contain BPA.  I could be wrong. The Japanese have switched to PET film lamination in canned drinks, so perhaps a safe lamination is used in board books, or perhaps not.  Apparently, WiseGeek shares my concerns:

Since many young children enjoy tasting books as well as looking at them, the cardboard also helps the book stand up to biting, drool, and associated problems. The pages in a board book are usually coated with glossy material; parents who are concerned about toxicity may want to choose an environmentally friendly publisher.


  1. Good question, Jennifer! The plastic coating could be concerning, the pressed paper could pose a risk, and if they chew through, the inks could pose an additional risk. Oy! Cardboard books are great for looking at and sturdy enough to handle tossing and gripping by little ones, but they are not intended to be used as teething toys (or necessarily mouthed at all). I’ve never looked into the specific chemical risks, but I’m sure if we start digging, we’ll find some.

    • Jennifer Lance says:

      I never intended to use board books as a teething toy, but it sort of happened at times. As you know, kids at the oral stage explore everything in their world through their mouths. In retrospect, I would have kept the board books out of reach without out close supervision or only used ones that I knew were safe.

      Janelle, have you heard of board books from environmentally friendly publishers as mentioned in the Wisegeek quote? I haven’t looked around.

  2. I worry more about the heavy metals in the inks than I do about possible BPA. That and the fact that most cardboard is recycled and contains by products from previous use. Plus the chemicals to bleach it into whiteness.

  3. Hi Jennifer,

    I was Googling for more information on BPA in board books because my 20 month old daughter loves leafing through them every day and found this study done in Japan:


    Their worrying findings:

    RESULTS: BPA was leached from all books when pieces of them were dipped both into saliva and water for 20 hrs. The highest concentration of BPA leaching from one out of 10 books was 43.4 ng/ml (for 2 hrs) in saliva, which was estimated to be approximately 0.052 mg/kg body weight/day for infants aged 6-10 months.

    CONCLUSION: As BPA has endocrine-disrupting effects and poses higher risks in infants than in adults, it is desired to reduce BPA use in the printing of infant books from the viewpoint of child health.

  4. Never mind board books.

    Suddenly, we have children’s books (and maybe other books soon) with pages that resemble vinyl or plastic much more than paper. Every book like this that I’ve seen, so far, comes from China. Print ink and media seems to be a totally unregulated market and there is no information about it in the books themselves. Also, in general, I also worry that “recycled paper” is slowly becoming a potpurri of recycled plastics of unknown origin. We are starting to learn that breathing vapors or ingesting small amounts of BPA can be harmful. I am not aware of any regulation that requires book or magazine publishers to know or reveal what their “paper” contains or what its content is.


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