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Some people are afraid to use plastic containers for food or drinks.  Other people use nothing but plastic due to the convenience.  Should we be concerned or not?

Some chemicals used in the lining of food cans or to make certain types of plastic containers include Bisphenol A (BPA), Perchlorate, or Phthalates.  Many of these have been absorbed by our bodies and found in our urine or  blood samples.  These chemicals can interfere with some of the hormones in our body.  The hormones affected include estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormone, insulin, along with others. These hormones not only affect reproductive health but also heart, brain, and bone health.   They can also put you at increased risk for some hormone sensitive cancers like breast or prostate.

What precautions should you take?

recycle-44097__340Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or Vinyl. This one contains phthalates.

recycle-44096__340Polystyrene Foam (One popular brand is Styrofoam.). The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers this one a possible human carcinogen.

recycle-43955__340 Contains BPA as it is mostly polycarbonate.

  • Try to limit your use of plastic containers for food and drink. Use stainless steel, glass, or ceramic containers for food or liquids.
  • Don’t microwave in plastic containers. Use glass or ceramic containers.  If you microwave in plastic, try not to use containers with the recycling number 7.  High heat can cause chemicals to leach out and to be absorbed in the food.  Don’t use cling wrap in the microwave, use a paper towel or a plate.
  • Try to keep very hot foods or liquids out of plastic containers. Cool foods and liquids before storing them in plastic containers.
  • Wash plastic containers by hand to avoid the harsh detergents and high heat in the dishwasher. If you do use the dishwasher, place them on the top rack.
  • Toss scratched plastic containers. It is possible for harmful chemicals to leach from them.
  • Reduce or limit canned foods. Most metal cans are lined with a coating that contains BPA. Eat fresh or frozen foods.
  • Avoid touching thermal paper. Paper used in thermal printers has a slick, slightly shiny coating which contains BPA.  Limit your handling of credit card and ATM receipts which are usually printed by thermal printers.
  • Use BPA free infant formula bottles and look for toys labeled BPA free. The FDA has banned the use of BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups.

In some cases, plastic containers are more convenient and safer.  Recommendations: If you need to keep food in plastic containers, try to use containers with the recycling symbol of

recycling-294385__340          recycle-44088__340          recycle-44089__340     or    recycle-44095__340.png .

Purchase stainless steel drinking bottles for your family and you.  Have some glass or ceramic containers to use for cooking and storing food.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator

Reviewer:  Misty Harmon, Ohio State University Extension, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator

References:

Dow, C. (2017). BPA: Still a Big Deal.  Available at https://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/food-safety/bpa-still-a-big-deal/

Ettman, L. (2017). Dodging Endocrine Disruptors:  Here’s What You Need to Know About Phthalates.  Available at https://www.nutritionaction.com/daily/food-safety/phthalates/

National Toxicology Program.  (2010). Bisphenol A (BPA) Available at https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/bisphenol_a_bpa_508.pdf

U. S. Food and Drug Administration.  (February 2018). Bisphenol A (BPA): Use in Food Contact Application.  Available at https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm064437.htm

 

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plastic_household_items

I’ve noticed that more people are expressing concern over the use of plastic in the kitchen. It seems like there is always some email being forwarded around the country about the hazards of cooking and/or storing food in plastic. As Jack Webb’s ‘Joe Friday’ character in Dragnet used to say; “all we want are the facts, ma’am.”

The problem with “getting the facts” is that research is still challenged to find definitive answers. The long term effects of plastic usage are not readily observable.  If you have a nut allergy and eat peanuts, you feel sick right away.  If you ingest chemicals when you eat food that was microwaved in a plastic container, you don’t immediately feel or notice anything different (if ever). But there may be epigenetic changes to your cells that eventually surface in your children or grandchildren as serious health issues.

Our ancestors used to take cloth bags and glass or metal containers to the general store to purchase food stuffs; now we go to grocery stores where everything is pre-packaged. The four types of materials currently used to package food include glass, metal, plastics and polystyrene, and paperboard/cardboard. Chemical migration from packaging into food is much more likely to come from plastic, paper, and/or cardboard.

What chemicals should I be concerned about?

BPA: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Services (NIEHS), “the primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. While air, dust, and water are other possible sources of exposure, BPA in food and beverages accounts for the majority of daily human exposure.”

NIEHS says BPA can leach into food from the epoxy resin coatings inside canned foods and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles. The amount of BPA that leaches into your food or liquid depends on (1) the temperature of the liquid, food, and/or bottle, and (2) the age of the container.

Currently the National Toxicology Program, in partnership with the FDA’s National Center for Toxicological Research is carrying out in-depth studies to clarify safety issues regarding BPA migration.

Recommendations from the NIEHS:

  • Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers. Polycarbonate is strong and durable, but over time it may break down from overuse at high temperatures.
  • Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle code numbers 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.
  • Reduce your use of canned foods.
  • When possible, opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers, particularly for hot food or liquids.
  • Use baby bottles that are BPA free.

Sources:

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/sya-bpa/

http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/publichealthfocus/ucm064437.htm

Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

 

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