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.