Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Do You Still Use Plastic Containers?

Most of you reading this will have a hard time remembering back to a time where we didn't use plastic in food storage; whether it's plastic storage bags, food containers or plastic wrap.  So, when we look at being healthy, we don't just look at what we are putting into our bodies, but we need to also look at how our food is stored.  Starting in the late 1800's, scientists had started trying to chemically produce what we now know as plastic.  The problem with this, obviously, is that it is chemically produced and chemicals can leach into the food that you put into the plastic containers.  Interestingly, back in 1957, at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA, Monsanto made the first ever all plastic house in Tomorrowland, showcasing the products of the future.  Many of you will recognize  Monsanto as one of the leading producers of GMOs-genetically modified organisms, which we know to be very dangerous when consumed by humans or animals.  If you would like more info on GMOs, I wrote a blog post in July of 2012. 

What exactly is the danger is plastic?  Phthalates and BPA.  First, phthalates are chemicals used in plastics to make them soft and pliable- also known as plasticizers.  Besides being used in plastic products they are also widely used in beauty products, insect repellants, lubricants, pesticides, wood finishes, and solvents.  Studies have linked phthalates to abnormal male sexual development, male infertility, premature breast development, miscarriage, asthma, premature birth and cancer.  Since phthalates are not chemically bound to the polymer they can easily leach or migrate out.  There are many different phthalates:

Common phthalates:
Di-2-ethylhxyl phthalates (DEHP)
Benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP)
Di-isononyl phthalate (DINP)
Dicylohexyl phthalate (DCHP)
Diethyl phthalate (DEP)
Di-n-octyl phthalate (DOP)
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)

BPA, bisphenol-A, is the chemical name for a building block of "polycarbonate" plastics.  It has been in commercial use since 1957 and is used because it makes certain plastics "tough", such as baby bottles, sports water bottles, the 5 gallon water bottles, sports equipment, DVDs and CDs.  BPA can also be used to line the inside of canned goods, which is especially dangerous in canned tomatoes since the acid from the tomatoes can cause the BPA to leach even more into the food.  BPA is a xenoestrogen- it mimics the effects of estrogen in the human body, which can lead to many damaging side effects.  The use of BPA has been linked to:  obesity, many types of cancers, reproductive problems, and early puberty in girls. 

Whew!!  Don't be overwhelmed!!  There are things we can do.  If you do need to use plastic, such as for baby bottles or water bottles, look for ones that say BPA free.  Now, I wouldn't heat in those plastic items, because research is still out on the substitutes for BPA and what happens when hot items are in them.  The best thing you could do is to start slowly replacing your cabinet filled with plastic food storage containers with glass ones.  Keep a few of the BPA free ones if you are going to put cold items in them, but for leftovers, you need to use glass.  I rarely use a plastic container, except for a couple of times when I've made cookies for my sons to take to school for a class- didn't want the possible danger of breaking glass!!  Plastic containers have numbers on the bottom.  If you have any with a number 7, throw them out!!  Those definitely contain BPA.  I still caution the use any plastic though because of the phthalates in them, also.  Numbers 3 and 6 are undetermined as far as danger- they contain a chemical similar to BPA.  I say better safe than sorry!!!  Number 1 is for most disposable water bottles- never refill them!  If you have an Earthfare or Whole foods near you, you can buy plastic sandwich bags, quart size and gallon size that are BPA and phthalate free- and they cost about the same as regular.  If you don't have one of those stores near you, order from  Very reasonably priced!  Remember:  never heat food in plastic, such as in the microwave, or put hot leftovers in any plastic containers. 

As I said before, try not to be overwhelmed, but take this information and google it to get even more informed about how you can make your home healthier for your family.