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Safe Plastics

Safe Plastics

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Published by Tri Nguyen

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Published by: Tri Nguyen on Sep 17, 2012
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08/01/2013

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INSTITUTE FOR AGRICULTURE AND TRADE POLICY
 
FOOD AND HEALTH PROGRAM
2105 FIRST AVENUE SOUTH
MINNEAPOLIS MINNESOTA 55404 USA
(612) 870-0453
IATP.ORG
Plastics are widely used to store and packageods and beverages. Uses include disposablend reusable containers, plastic wraps, cut-ry, water bottles and baby bottles. Plastic isconvenient, lightweight, unbreakable andrelatively inexpensive. However, there areot environmenta an eat riss romte wiesprea use o pastics.
Environmental problems:
ost pastics areae rom petroeum, a non-renewae anmostly imported resource. Plastic packaging alsocreates unnecessary waste. Although plastic is lightweight,it is bulky, so it takes up a large volume of landfill space.
Health risks:
Use of plastics in cooking and food storagecan carry health risks, especially when hormone-disruptingchemicals from some plastics leach into foods and bever-ages. Plastic manufacturing and incineration creates air and water pollution and exposes workers to toxic chemicals.
What plastic labels mean
Not all containers are labeled and a recycling symbol on aproduct doesn’t mean it’s recyclable. Commonly, only #1and #2 with narrow necks are recyclable, but some com-munities recycle other plastics with narrow necks. Check  with your local municipality or waste disposal company.
PETE:
Polyethylene terephthalate ethylene,sed for soft drink, juice, water, detergent,cleaner and peanut butter containers.
HDPE:
High density polyethylene, used in opaquelastic milk and water jugs, bleach, detergent andshampoo bottles and some plastic bags.
PVC or V:
Polyvinyl chloride, used for cling wrap,some plastic squeeze bottles, cooking oil and peanutbutter jars, detergent and window cleaner bottles.
LDPE:
Low density polyethylene, used in gro-cery store bags, most plastic wraps and someottes.
PP:
oypropyene, use in most uermai,ei soup, syrup an yogurt containers, strawsan oter coue pastic containers, incuingbaby bottles.
PS:
Polystyrene, used in Styrofoam food trays,egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, carry-out containers and opaque plastic cutlery.
Other:
Usually polycarbonate, used in mostplastic baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles,sport” water bottles, metal food can liners,clear plastic “sippy” cups and some clear plasticcutlery. New bio-based plastics may also be labeled #7.
Smart Plastics GuideHealthier Food Uses of Plastics
For Parents and Children
Choose less polluting productsto reduce exposure to chemcials from plastics.
PVC: The toxic plastic
Polyvinyl chloride, also known as vinyl or PVC, poses risks to both the environment and human health. PVC is also the least recyclableplastic.
Vinyl chloride workers face elevated risk of liver cancer.
1
Vinyl chloride manufacturing creates air and water pollution near the factories, often located in low-income neighborhoods.
PVC needs additives and stabilizers to make it useable. For example, lead is often added for strength, while plasticizers are added forflexibility. These toxic additives contribute to further pollution and human exposure.
Dioxin in air emissions from PVC manufacturing and disposal or from incineration of PVC products settles on grasslands andaccumulates in meat and dairy products and ultimately in human tissue. Dioxin is a known carcinogen. Low-level exposures areassociated with decreased birth weight, learning and behavioral problems in children, suppressed immune function and disruption ofhormones in the body.
2
 
Health concerns with food use of plastics
 A myriad of petroleum-based chemicals go into the manu-acture o pastics. ome can eac into oo an rins anpossiy impact uman eat. eacing increases wenplastic comes in contact with oily or fatty foods, duringheating and from old or scratched plastic. Types of plasticsshown to leach toxic chemicals are polycarbonate, PVC andstyrene. This does not imply that other plastics are entirely safe. These plastics have just been studied more.
Bisphenol A (BPA)
, a chemical that mimics theaction of the human hormone estrogen, can leachfrom polycarbonate plastic.
3
Human exposure to BPAis widespread. A Centers for Disease Control study de-tected BPA in the urine of 95 percent of adults sampled.Scientists have measured BPA in the blood of pregnant women, in umiica cor oo an in te pacenta, a atlevels demonstrated in animals to alter development.
5,
Hormones stimulate certain cancers.
Bisphenol A haseen oun to stimuate prostate cancer ces an causesbreast tissue changes in mice that resemble early stagesof breast cancer in both mice and humans.
8,9
One study oun an association etween ovarian ysunction anhigher levels of BPA in urine.
0
arly-life exposure to BPA can also cause genetic damage.Researchers found that BPA causes chromosomal errors atlow levels of exposure in mice, which can lead to spontane-ous miscarriages and birth defects.
11
As for human data, onestudy found that women with a history of recurrent miscar-riages had over threefold higher levels of BPA in their bloodcompare to women witout a miscarriage istory.
12
11 puise anima stuies, 81 percent oun sig-nificant effects from even low-level exposure to BPA.ie none o te 11 inustry-une stuies oun sig-nificant effects, over 90 percent of government-fundedstudies did so. Adverse effects include:
13
 
ary onset o puerty, an stimuation o mammargland development in females
Changes in gender-specific behavior
Changes in hormones, including decreased testosterone
 
Increased prostate size
 
ecreased sperm production
 
 Altered immune function
 
eaviora eects incuing yperactivity, increaseaggressiveness, impaired learning and other changes inbehavior
DEHA (di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate)
is one o severalasticizers (softeners) to which people have daily exposure through food, water, air and consumer products.VC cling wrap contains DEHA, which can leach intooily foods on contact and when heated. DEHA exposureis linked to negative effects on the liver, kidney, spleen,bone formation and body weight. It is also a possible hu-man carcinogen, affecting the liver.
14
Styrene
can leach from
polystyrene plastic
.Styrene is toxic to the brain and nervous system,among workers with longer-term exposures,
15,16
but alsohas been found to adversely affect red blood cells, liver, kid-neys an stomac in anima stuies.
17
Aside from exposurerom oo containers, ciren can e expose to styrenefrom secondhand cigarette smoke, off-gassing of buildingmaterials, auto exhaust fumes and drinking water.
Tips for safer, moresustainable food use of plastics
1. Avoid using plastic containers in the microwave.
Since chemicals are released from plastic when heated,its saest not to microwave oo an rins in pasticcontainers. Instead use glass or ceramic containers freeof metallic paint. If you do microwave in plastic, use only lastic labeled “microwave safe.” Note that “microwavesafe” does not mean that there is no leaching of chemi-cals. Avoid using for fatty foods, as there is greater leach-ing of chemicals into fatty foods.
2. Beware of cling wraps especially for microwaveuse.
Instead use waxed paper or paper towel for coveringfoods. If you do use plastic, don’t let the plastic touch theoo. or pastic-wrappe ei oos, sice o a tin ayer where the food came in contact with the plastic and re- wrap in non-PVC plastic wrap or place in a container.
3. Use alternatives to plastic packaging wheneverpossible.
Use refillable containers at your local food co-operative. ring you own tae-ome containers to res-taurants. Bring reusable bags or cardboard boxes to therocery store.
Fetuses and young childrenat greatest risk
Young children’s immature immunesystems, rapid development and differenteating patterns make them more vulnerableto toxic exposures. Long term exposures tothese chemicals or a few large exposuresat a critical time in development couldadversely impact childrens health.
 
Safer choices for foods and beverages 
4. Avoid plastic bottled water
uness youre traveing orive in an area were te quaity o water is questionae.Bottled water, because it is less regulated, has less-cer-tain purity and safety than tap water, and is much moreexpensive. If you’re worried about tap water quality, con-sider installing a home water filter or use an inexpensivefilter pitcher. Reduce or eliminate use of plastic bottles toavoid landfill waste and exposure to chemicals that leachrom te pastic. ou can aso oo or new ioegraaeio-ase pastic water ottes.
5. If you do use plastic waterbottles, take precautions.
  you use a polycarbonate waterbottle, to reduce leaching of PA, do not use for warm orhot liquids and discard old orscratched bottles. Water bottlesfrom #1 or #2 plastics are rec-ommended for single use only.or a types o pastic, you canreuce acteria contamination y torougy wasingaiy. owever, avoi using ars etergents tat canbreak down the plastic and increase chemical leaching.
Baby bottles
Use alternatives to poly-carbonate plastic babybottles and “sippy” cups.
Knowing what we doabout BPA leaching andthe real risks to children’shealth, you might be sur-prised to learn that mostplastic baby bottles and many “training” or “sippy” cupsare mae o poycaronate. ortunatey tere are aterna-tives, including baby bottles made of glass, polyethyleneor polypropylene. Those made of pliable, milky-coloredpastic contain no poycaronates. suay ay ottesare not labeled, so if you have questions about the typeof plastic used, call the company’s toll-free number listedon te pacage.
Minimize leaching of BPA from polycarbonate babybottles.
you cant avoi use o poycaronatesorexample, if it’s the only bottle your baby will take—then just follow these tips:iscard old, scratched polycarbonate baby bottlesand “sippy” cups. Plastic that shows signs of wear—suc as scratces or a couy, crace appearancemore readily leaches chemicals.
0
Scratches can alsoharbor bacteria.
 
eat foods and drinks outside of the plastic andthen transfer into the plastic only after they are coolenoug to eat or rin.
2
With your food, use 4, 5, 1 and 2.All the rest aren’t good for you.
Green chemistry: Bio-based plastics
The emergence of the bio-based plastic industry holdsgreat potential to eliminate many of the current concernsabout petroleum-based plastic production, use and disposal.Although bio-plastics may not meet all product specifications,they are now used in food and beverage containers. Forexample, Natureworks manufactures polylactic acid, or PLA, acorn-based plastic used in a variety of products from containersto bottles to cutlery.
18
EarthShell produces foam laminatemade from potatoes, corn, rice or tapioca, which is used forfood wraps, plates, bowls and takeout containers.
19
Theseproducts are biodegradable in municipal composting facilities.
More on baby bottles and “sippy” cups
Avoid:
Polycarbonate product examples
 
Bottles: 
Avent; Dr. Brown’s; Evenflo (clear); First Years; Gerber(clear); Playtex Vent Aire; Sassy; TupperCare
Sippy” cups: 
Gerber Suzy’s Zoo & Sippy Snacker, PlaytexFirst Sipster & Sparkling Sipster
Safer alternatives:
Non- polycarbonate product examples
 
Bottles: 
Evenflo glass or pastel polyethylene plastic; Gerberpolypropylene opaque plastic; Medela breastmilk polypropylenestorage bottles and polyethylene milk storage bags; disposablebottle systems with polyethylene plastic inserts (e.g., PlaytexNurser, Playtex Drop-Ins)
Sippy” cups made of polypropylene or polyethylene: 
AventMagic Cup; Evenflo cups (inner lining); First Years Take & Toss;Gerber Color Change, Sport Fun Grip and Soft Starter; PlaytexSipster, Big Sipster & Quick Straw
Baby bottle nipples
are usually made of silicone or latexrubber. Silicone nipples are lighter in color and are safer, as latexrubber nipples may leach carcinogenic nitrosamines.
22
Avoid 
*Except new bio-based plastics labeled as such.

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