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 of the chemicals used to make some plastic containers or be a lining in the cans for food include Bisphenol A (BPA), Perchlorate, or Phthalates. Many of these have been found in our urine or blood samples. These can interfere with some of the hormones in our body. The hormones affected include estrogen, testosterone, thyroid hormone, insulin, besides others. These hormones not only affect reproductive health but also heart, brain and bone health. They can also put us at increased risk for some hormone sensitive cancers like breast or prostate.
What precautions should you take?
· Try to avoid using plastic containers and bottles with these recycling numbers on them:
# 3 – Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) or Vinyl. This one contains phthalates.
# 6 – Polystyrene Foam (One popular brand is Styrofoam.). The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers this one a possible human carcinogen.
# 7 – Other. 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 them to leach out and 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 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. If you do need to keep food in plastic containers try to use containers with the recycling symbol of #1, #2, #4 or #5.
# 2 Recommendations: Purchase stainless steel drinking bottles for your family and you. Have some glass or ceramic containers to use for cooking and storing food.
Pat Brinkman is the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator with Ohio State University Extension Fayette County.