I receive regular updates from The Environmental Working Group Below is an excerpt from a recent email about plastics.
The toxicity of plastics is not fully understood or adequately tested. What we do know is that most plastics contain chemical additives to change the quality of the plastic for its intended use (examples are to make it softer or resistant to UV light). Some of these ingredients or additives we know are harmful, like the plastics chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) and the plastic softeners called phthalates. Others, we just don’t know enough about.
We also know that plastics chemicals routinely migrate, or leach, into the food and water they contain. While the amount may be small, it has not been proven safe. As EWG senior scientist Dr. Anila Jacob told Web MD recently,
Although most of the chemicals making the culinary crossing are considered “safe,” Jacob tells WebMD that’s generally not because they’ve been proved safe, but rather they haven’t been proven to be unsafe.
“There is very little published research on the potential adverse health effects of chemicals that leach from plastic food containers, so it’s difficult to say they’re safe with any degree of certainty, especially with long-term use,” says Jacob.
BPA and phthalates, however, are better understood. They are both potent hormone disruptors that are increasingly linked to health effects like brain and behavior changes, cancer, and reproductive system damages.
Plastics are continually changing and there are unknowns. Use them with caution, especially those that are commonly found in our households and have contact with our food and our bodies.
Because plastics are ubiquitous today, choose them carefully to minimize your exposures. Avoiding them altogether isn’t practical, so we suggest you focus on those that are likely to come into contact with your mouth — the most common way chemicals in plastic consumer products enter the body. Plastic chemicals touch your mouth in a number of ways: from your hands and your food and drink. This is especially important for young children, who frequently put hands and objects in their mouths.
Plastics to avoid:
- Stay away from toys marked with a “3″ or “PVC” (PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, commonly called vinyl). PVC is often mixed with phthalates, a toxic additive that makes plastic more flexible. While phthalates were recently banned in new children’s toys, they may be in toys made before February 2009 when the ban went into effect, as well as in shower curtains, inflatable beach toys, raincoats and toys for children older than 12.
Avoid polycarbonate containers (sometimes marked with a #7 or “PC”), especially for children’s food and drinks. These plastics are rigid and transparent, like plastic food storage containers and water bottles, among other things. Trace amounts of BPA can migrate from these containers, particularly if used for hot food or liquids. Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA.
A recent study from Harvard University found that college students drinking their cold drinks from polycarbonate bottles had 93% more BPA in their bodies than during the weeks that they drank liquids from other containers.
We recommend the use of glass over plastics. When you have no choice, plastics marked with a #1, 2, 4, or 5 don’t contain BPA and may be better choices. (I save glass jars and use them more than plastic for leftovers and soup stock. ES)
P.S. I recommend you put your name on their mailing list, because they have great information on environmental issues. When I first started menupause, I posted their Dirty Dozen, the top 12 foods with the most pesticides. Here is a repeat & an update from their website: www.foodnews.org/EWG.
Foods Highest in Pesticides (The Dirty Dozen)
Peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, pears.
15 Foods Lowest in Pesticides
Onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwis, cabbage, eggplant, papayas, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes.