Saturday, September 27, 2008

An ethical dilemma

One "nice" thing about having a husband from a quite poor country is that whenever we have gently used, or even sometimes very heavily used, items that we want to get rid of, we know a place that we can take them where they will enjoy a second lifetime of use and them some. We routinely take all of our used clothing and many other items to his parents' village, and it's like a very subdued party when we break them out (subdued because Mysterious people are not into effusive thanks, so they just accept the items silently, but then glow a little in appreciation).

The weather in Seoul has changed seemingly overnight, from so-hot-I-think-I-might-die to slightly chilly. Eggbert had mostly been going Al Fresco (except for a diaper) for months, but now I finally get to break out the fun fall clothing (yay!). So, one of yesterday's adventures for me was going through the summer stuff (such as it was) to figure out what to retire and what we will still use into the fall. That process involves an additional two steps for us--step one is deciding which of the "retired" clothes we want to keep in case we get lucky and end up with a #2, and which we want to donate, and then deciding which of the clothes should go to which village--Mystery's parents' village is always hot, and his brother's village is always cold, so we choose our donations accordingly.

When searching for an adorable shirt that I knew I'd stashed somewhere, I found myself rummaging through the drawer of abandoned bottles. We bought an array of different bottles when we were in the US last December, including Avent, Dr. Brown's, and Medela, not yet knowing which Eggbert would prefer. It turned out that she didn't care at all, so we used them indiscriminately for a while. Then came the Health Canada decision to prohibit the sale of baby bottles made using BPA (including both Avent and Dr. Brown's, but not Medela). I try not to be alarmist, but I'm quite fond of Canada, and tend to think the people of that fine nation quite reasonable when it comes to issues of safety and health. So, away went the Dr. Brown's and the Avent (I should mention that both companies have responded by creating new lines of BPA-free bottles, but the bottles that we have are the old versions).

So now here we are with a supply of perfectly good, almost-new, but possibly toxic bottles, which creates a dilemma. Some people in Mystery's village use bottles. Everyone breastfeeds from the beginning, but sometimes things go wrong and people are forced to switch to bottles. The parents can often ill-afford bottles and formula. Awareness about industrial toxins there is poor, and bottles there are certainly not deliberately made to be BPA-free, although it is possible that some local brands happen to be BPA-free for other reasons. So, it's hard to see how we would be doing any harm by giving them our Dr. Brown's and Avent bottles. However, it also feels very uncomfortable to give poor uneducated people something to use with their precious children that I don't think is good enough for Eggbert, even though it would save them some money, and is likely to be equivalent to the product that they would otherwise buy. It just FEELS wrong, even though I can't come up with a logical argument against it.

If you're reading this, what would you do?


Sue said...

I think you should throw the bottles away. It seems like it would weigh on your conscience to donate the bottles to the village (even though they are already using bottles with BPA), and that's not worth it.

Stephanie said...

THat is a hard one. I guess I would have to ask myself that if someone needed a bottle and didn't have a way of getting one would they rather have a bottle with BPA or no bottle at all. I would think they would want the bottle (although since I am not in their shoes, I can't say for sure)

Another way to look at it is...if I were hungery and the choice is food grown conventional (with pesticides and other chemicals) or no food...I would eat the food even though I would rather have organically grown food.

I would donate the bottles that is unless like Sue said you would feel guilty or that you are harming them then don't do it. The guilt wouldn't be worth it. Then again...what about the guilt of a woman not being able to breast feed and not having a bottle to feed her child?

As you can see, I have a hard time making up my mind on issues! Argg.. :)

Rachel Inbar said...

I would donate them. The things I've read talk about such a small risk that I don't see it as endangering my kids' health at all & I would use them (since I already own them) if Yirmi would drink from a bottle (no luck so far).

Samantha said...

Tough choice. If bottles really are hard to come by in the village, I would probably donate them, as I think the risk with BPA is not so great. At the same I can understand your concern about it. It sort of feels like donating a crib that didn't pass safety standards. Maybe you could ask yourself, would the village be better or worse off with the bottles? and decide based on that.

Marie-Baguette said...

It is not like you are giving cigarettes away... Canada is the only country banning BPA. Even the EU -- which is quite conservative, did not ban them. I would give them to the village. If they are good enough for all countries except Canada, they should be good enough for the villagers. Especially if the villages need them for babies!

JENN said...

1st thing that comes to my mind is, how is their waste management? Personally, I feel guilty bringing and/or disposing non-degradable items in a developing country.
2nd, I bet the mothers' that can't breast feeding already have a solution, maybe not a "western" solution, but a more economical and human friendly solution.
3rd, why give something to someone else that you wouldn't give your own baby. In the long run, it is causing more damage than good.

On the other hand, I do see your dilemma and how this could benefit a poverty stricken family.

Anonymous said...

As a Canadian, I have to say, we do go a little overboard when it comes to health & safety and all things hygiene. I would donate them, they are not "dangerous" by any means.

WaterBishop said...

Hmmm, that's a tough one. I guess I would donate them, unless you will feel too guilty about it.
I really doubt it would cause much harm, if any.
I think we have to try and not think too much about those things sometimes when it comes to this sort of situation. Like,I personally try not to eat GMO foods, but it would be silly to deny starving people GMO foods if the alternative is no food.
It's a moral dilemma only those with a choice worry about.

hadjare said...

I thought the bpa thing was only a concern if you super heated them by using dishwashers or microwaves. How many folks in the a poor village use those items?

I didn't bother changing my bottles because the only dishwasher I have is my hands.