A couple years ago I started to come across information that concerned me about my use of plastic. Most of it based on the fact that it doesn’t decompose and sticks around forever. I began to worry about what I was storing my food in. I worried about the plastic water bottle I had at work. The one I refused to toss out because I was too cheap to buy a new one every day or a reusable one.
And then as someone who suffers from ‘lack of fertility’, the following information was what I needed for a complete 180 turn.
Bisphenol A (a xeno-estrogen) has been suspected of being hazardous to humans since about 1930 and luckily companies are starting to hear the outcry from the public and are taking it out of products. Studies have shown it affects the reproductive systems in both men and women as it acts as an endocrine disruptor and mimics estrogen in the body. We are regularly exposed to BPA as it is found in the lining of aluminum cans, water bottles, plastics, food storage containers, and even dental sealants.
A study was done by the CDC even showed that 93% of the children and 95% of the adults tested had levels of BPA in their urine and the National Toxicology Program came out with a report in September of 2008 saying they found “some concern” with BPA and that infants were most at risk.
“Phthalates are industrial chemicals that are added to plastics to impart flexibility and resilience and are often referred to as plasticizers. Phthalates also are used as solubilizing or stabilizing agents in other applications. There are numerous products that may contain phthalates: adhesives; automotive plastics; detergents; lubricating oils; some medical devices and pharmaceuticals; plastic raincoats; solvents; vinyl tiles and flooring; and personal-care products, such as soap, shampoo, deodorants, lotions, fragrances, hair spray, and nail polish. Phthalates are often used in polyvinyl chloride type plastics, such as plastic bags, garden hoses, inflatable recreational toys, blood product storage bags, intravenous medical tubing, and toys (ATSDR, 2001, 2002). Because they are not chemically bound to the plastics to which they are added, phthalates can be released into the environment during use or disposal of the product. Various phthalate esters have been measured in specific foods, indoor and ambient air, indoor dust, water sources, and sediments (Clark et al., 2003).”
While phthalates (also a xenoestrogen/endocrine disruptor) are supposedly metabolized and quickly excreted from the body, there have also been studies that suggest that exposure to this class of chemicals may contribute to endocrine disruption, metabolic interference, and affect reproductive health. The other issue that needs to be looked at is the fact that we may be constantly ingesting them. It’s not like we’re exposed once and that’s it. We may excrete this particular toxin, just to ingest it again. In 2002 the EWG published a paper with a full list of the toxic repercussions (http://www.safecosmetics.org) including birth defects and damage to the male reproductive organs.
What You Can Do
When I first found out about the actual dangers of plastics, I was upset. I wanted to toss everything I owned made of plastic and buy new, but my wallet said different! So to minimize your exposure, there are a few things you can do.
- Do not place hot foods into plastic or heat foods in plastic. As an unstable compound, when heated it leaches toxins into your food. Ever notice how a clear plastic container turns orange when you heat a tomato sauce in it? Well, if the food can leach into plastic, the toxins can leach out.
- Use plastic for only non fatty foods as the higher the fat content, the more it leaches.
- Don’t place in the dishwasher as the high heat can damage the already unstable plastic and cause it to leach more.
- Buy glass storage containers when you’re able to and an insulated stainless steel container is great for leftovers at work.
So, how much plastic is in your house? Do you use it on a regular basis?
What one thing do you want to replace now?
This post is linked to: Spring Cleaning – Get the Plastics Out over at Fake Plastic Fish check out her post for more information on how to live plastic free!
thanks for such a great article… It’s scary how so many things we use on a daily basis actually negatively affect us, and how unaware we are of the majority. From microwave-heating our foods at work to drinking water from plastic bottles, our use of plastic has gotten a little ridiculous. And that’s not even getting started on the plastic used to wrap up hams and cheeses and other supermarket foods.
Where I live in Spain, despite the abundance of lovely little fruit and veg shops, it’s obligatory to use plastic gloves and bags to pick your fruit. I put up with the regular tellings off for using my hands and taking cotton bags, and finally have the acceptance of a few of the ‘fruterías’.
Thanks for this post–and great timing. I’m going to link to this post in my April Kitchen Goals post where I talk about plastics–thanks for the great info, Donielle!
I decided just today that for April I’m trying to re-think our use of plastic, find alternatives, and at the very least stop microwaving my leftovers in plastic. Endocrine disruptors really freak me out, and as someone suffering from endometriosis, probable PCOS, and hypothyroidism, I am trying to get my fragile hormones back in working order. This is one area I really need to work on.
As for what I’m doing about it…We currently use a lot of those gladware/ziploc containers for leftover storage, and use plastic bags and saran wrap pretty regularly for food storage. I’d love to buy some glass containers with those lockable lids for storing leftovers, but we don’t have the money for that right now. I’ve been saving glass jars for awhile now, and I’m thinking that I might check out garage sales and flea markets as the warm weather picks up to see if I can find more for cheap.
I’m really stumped by the ziploc bag issue. Those suckers are so convenient, and I have NO idea how to replace them!
@Rachel, I struggled with using plastic bags until I found Abeego, which are made from hemp and treated with beeswax so they can wrap around a bowl or over a glass plate to keep food fresh, they also do great little snack packs and sandwich bags. They have saved us from using plastic bags for over a year now!
hey…great timing! I am working on tossing the plastics, too…but I can’t help but wonder, what do I replace it with? I mean, plastic wrap and aluminum foil are soooo great for covering leftovers! This may be harder than getting rid of the microwave for me!!
what about BPA free plastics?? Are they safe??
I’ve thought about glass containers but I’m a very clumsy person. 🙂 although like Rachel said above, glass jars are great and inexpensive. I have a whole bunch of mason jars I use for my homemade salad dressings, yogurts and sauces but when I drop them (when, not if) I don’t feel bad about the expense.
I do have a stainless steel container from the tickle trunk that I love but I need to get more. If you compared the price to the plastic stuff from Wal-mart them seem expensive but for what you get, it’s a good deal. I especially like the locking lids. I’m planning on getting a few whenever I can afford it to keep building up my collection. For now, I just put a lot of leftovers it in my normal serving/cereal bowls with a plate on top. I have fiesta ware and the bowl and plates form a good seal but really any type will work.
The only thing I’m stumped over is freezing meals. I love to freeze casseroles but normally I do it by lining the dish with aluminum foil then freezing. Once frozen, I place it in a ziploc bag. The food doesn’t ever touch the bag so I don’t mind that but I would rather not have my food sitting in aluminum. But I don’t have the money (or freezer space) for enough glass 9×13 pans for all the meals I want to have in the freezer at one time.
What a wonderful article, I really am trying to stop using plastics in our home, baby steps!!!
For those looking for glass things, try local thrift shops or DAV’s. They always seem to have glassware–even baking dishes. Garage sales are another great place.
I have already switched to glass storage containers for taking my lunch to work (I figure better glass and microwave then plastic and microwave both!) I struggle finding glass storage containers that do not have plastic lids. I have several Food Network glass storage containers with snapping plastic lids which I LOVE. Ziploc bags are my downfall. Even though I hate using them I dont tend to have enough containers for leftovers so I use Ziploc when i run out of containers. Joanna, thanks for the link to Abeego. I want to try those!!
The tickle trunk now has glass with a stainless stel lid. No more plastic.