A School of Medicine study shows the plastic found in baby bottles has negative effects on female rats, but both scientists and the plastics industry say the findings do not necessarilly imply a similar result in humans.

A team of researchers, including Obstetrics and Gynecology faculty members, recently completed an experiment linking exposure of bisphenol-A, a chemical commonly found in plastics, to impaired learning and memory in female rats.

The finding has special significance for parents, since it raises the possibility baby bottles could be detrimental to a child’s health.

Neil MacLusky, one of the scientists who conducted the experiment and a former Yale researcher, said although the biological effects of BPA have been researched, the recent study explores an untouched area.

“No previous studies have asked the question of whether a low dose of bisphenol-A affects brain structure,” MacLusky said.

Although he said he is concerned by the potential for harm, MacLusky said no scientific evidence validates the claim that BPA exposure can significantly impair humans. With the actual effects of BPA exposure unknown, MacLusky said it is better to err on the side of caution.

“Even though there is no direct evidence that bisphenol-A is harmful at the levels released from polycarbonate baby bottles, the decision comes down to a very simple and eminently reasonable principle — safety first, especially when dealing with children,” he said.

Until BPA is more thoroughly researched, MacLusky said he feels it would be prudent to limit the use of the compound as much as possible. Evaluation policies in the United States are geared towards minimizing risk, he said.

Although bottle manufacturers have not responded to the survey as of yet, the American Plastics Council, the major trade association for the U.S. Plastics Industry, plans to contact MacLusky to learn more about the findings, according to the Yale Office of Public Affairs.

According to the APC Web site, the majority of scientific evidence “overwhelmingly supports” the safety of plastic baby bottles.

“Parents have enough to worry about when it comes to rearing their children,” according to the site. “Diversions like the one that critics are creating about polycarbonate baby bottles only serve to scare parents and take the focus off real children’s health issues.”

Jane Milberg, a nurse in the Pediatrics Department at University Health Services, said the safety of plastic baby bottles is not a significant issue for the population she serves because most of the children are breast feeding.