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.
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.
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.
One study oun an association etween ovarian ysunction anhigher levels of BPA in urine.
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.
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.
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:
ary onset o puerty, an stimuation o mammary gland 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
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.
can leach from
.Styrene is toxic to the brain and nervous system,among workers with longer-term exposures,
but alsohas been found to adversely affect red blood cells, liver, kid-neys an stomac in anima stuies.
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 children’s health.