Sunday, August 19, 2007

More on plastic

I've been getting a lot of questions about plastic - why exactly is it bad; are any types safe. Here's some information:

Although the FDA has approved all plastics currently being used to package food, they might not all be safe - like the softer plastics, called thermoplastics, including polyester, polystryrene (styrofoam), nylon, teflon, and PVC. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is of the greatest concern because it is used for water pipes and many types of food packaging, including plastic cling wrap.

PVC's molecules are know carcinogens that affect the liver, have been linked to birth defects, and interfere with hormonal activity. Some researchers believe they're also linked to increased incidences of breast and prostate cancers.

Now if those molecules stayed in the packaging, there would be no problem - however, they leach from some types of plastics into our food and drinks. With heat or fat, even more chemicals are released.

There are seven types of plastics used in packaging and fortunately, there is a recycling number on the bottom of containers to identify which type is being used.

PLASTICS TO AVOID:

#3 PVC or vinyl: Used in plastic wraps, food containers, soft bottles, wrappings for meat and cheese. It is made with chlorine and releases dioxins which have been linked to cancer (including breast and prostate), hormonal imbalances, high blood pressure, heart disease, autoimmune disease, weight problems, and chronic fatigue. Phthalates, which make the plastic flexible and used in products ranging from shampoo to floor coverings, have recently been cited in a study that linked their exposure to smaller genitals in infant boys and an increase in testicular cancer about adults.

#6 Polystyrene or styrofoam: Used as takeout containers, plastics cups, and cutlery. Its components leach into fatty foods and are believed to interfere with hormones.

#7 Misc. category that includes polycarbonate (PC): Used for most clear-plastic bottles, including 5-gallon water bottles and baby bottles. When heated, they release BPA, a hormone disrupter that imitates the femail hormone estradiol which may be linked to breast and ovarian cancer. The US Centers for Disesase Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of 95% of Americans tested.

PLASTICS CONSIDERED SAFE (SO FAR):

#1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
#2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
#4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
#5 Polypropylene (PP)

But to play it really safe, go for non plastic options like glass or stainless steel as much as possible.

And if anyone discovers a stainless steel water bottle that DOES NOT LEAK - please let me know.

3 comments:

Cara said...

Yikes. I knew that plastic was bad but I had been avoiding reading more about it. I'm addicted to those plastic gladware things. Baby's food goes in canning jars, though, I just need to switch over the rest of the family :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Cathe Olson said...

I know what you mean. Plastic is just everywhere and it's hard to avoid it - so in a way, it's just easier not to know.

margaretnyc said...

Cathe-
Try Kleen Kanteen for a stainless steel water bottle that doesn't leak. I have the one with a screw on cap and have never had a problem.

By the way, I am trying to convince my daughter's pre-school to stop using the ready made cake mix and frosting when they celebrate birthdays in her class. Can you recommend any easy, low or no sugar cake recipes I can ask them to use as an alternative. I already have an applesauce cake recipe from Peggy's Kitchen. Thanks so much.

-Margaret
p.s. I love your Baby recipe book and have used it extensively preparing foods for my 2 kids.