Plastics are one of the main sources of toxic chemicals in our daily lives, and even if you are doing the right thing by avoiding BPA (which mimics estrogen), the alternatives could be just as harmful.
Switching to glass containers in your home can help prevent exposure to the chemicals from plastic.
What’s In Your Plastic?
Plastics are widely used in the kitchen, from containers for leftovers to dish-ware, utensils, baby bottles, even the coating inside canned foods. But recent research has shown that the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates commonly found in many plastics, can leach into food and pose potential health risks.
In January 2010, the Food and Drug Administration announced it had some concern about the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.
Studies from the 2008 University of Cincinnati Study revealed, if the food or drink is hot, BPA migrates to the food 55 times faster than at room temperature.
Widely used phthalates, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics are used to make food containers and plastic food wrap. This shows up in perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hairspray, as well as many other products outside the kitchen and bathroom.
The health concerns from ingesting BPA and phthalates are serious. Both chemicals are known as endocrine disrupters, which are chemicals that may disrupt the body’s endocrine system by mimicking natural hormones. A number of studies show that long-term, exposure to BPA causes human health problems.
In rodents, BPA has been associated with early sexual maturation, altered behavior, effects on prostate and mammary glands. In 2010 the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology suggested BPA is associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and male sexual dysfunction in humans, with food as a major source of exposure.
Phthalates affect the size and function of male genitals in newborns and appear to be associated with early puberty in girls. The report suggests that BPA is thought to be present in 95 percent of the U.S. population, with higher levels in infants and children than in adults.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found traces of BPA and phthalates in nearly all of the urine samples it collected in 2004 as part of its National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. In 2008, Canada declared BPA “toxic” and banned imports of baby bottles containing the chemical.
Plastic Safety Tips
To reduce potential leaching of BPA and phthalates from plastic containers into your food, follow these tips: I don’t suggest using plastics at all but if you do here are some safety tips.
1. Don’t microwave
Storing and heating foods in BPA or phthalate-containing plastics cause the highest chemical leaching. Do not microwave food in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
2. Wash by hand
The high heat in dishwashers may encourage leaching; wash them by hand.
3. Watch Scratches
Recycle scratched and worn plastic containers. Scratches may lead to more leaching.
4. Switch to glass containers
Consider using microwave-grade glass containers for warming and storing food.
5. Cool foods only
Don’t place hot food or hot beverages in plastic containers. A plastic container used to hold a sandwich or room-temperature snack for a few hours poses little risk, especially if you monitor the type of plastic
Type Of Plastics
Check the label when purchasing plastic food containers or water bottles, look at plastic recycling codes.
Codes 1, 2, 4, and 5
Refer to plastics that do not usually contain BPA or phthalate plasticizers.
Code 1 PETE
Are used for one-use water bottles, do not leach but should not be refilled and reused.
Codes 3 and 6
Identify plastics that do contain BPA but can contain phthalate.
Includes polycarbonate, a BPA-containing plastic to avoid, as well as other plastics that may be safe.