A while back I determined to stop putting any of my leftovers in hard plastic containers. I had a lot of tupperware-like containers. I had some snap-lock plastic containers–lots of different sizes and shapes. If you looked in my refrigerator about five years ago you would see a plastic pitcher of tea, maybe a plastic bottle of cold water, maybe a dozen plastic containers with leftovers of different ages and mold content. My staple foods were in plastic canisters, my cooking oils were in plastic bottles, my beer might be in aluminum cans lined with plastic.
I learned from somewhere about a chemical referred to as BPA that had been banned in Europe that was an ingredient in hard plastics. The Europeans banned it from use in baby bottles and sippy cups there because it leached into the contents it came in contact with, and if ingested by babies it caused problems, even if it were ingested in very low doses. Your body thinks BPA is a hormone. This is what Wikipedia says about BPA.
BPA exhibits hormone-like properties that raise concern about its suitability in some consumer products and food containers. Since 2008, several governments have investigated its safety, which prompted some retailers to withdraw polycarbonate products. The FDA has ended its authorization of the use of BPA in baby bottles and infant formula packaging, based on market abandonment, not safety. The European Union and Canada have banned BPA use in baby bottles.
This product began being used in commercial products in 1957.
In 1997, adverse effects of low-dose BPA exposure in laboratory animals were first proposed. Modern studies began finding possible connections to health issues caused by exposure to BPA during pregnancy and during development. See US public health regulatory history and Chemical manufacturers reactions to bans. As of 2014, research and debates are ongoing as to whether BPA should be banned or not.
Forty years is how long it took after the public started becoming exposed to this chemical before science noted disturbing lab results. This chemical acts like estrogen. Estrogen is a chemical commonly associated in the public mind with women, since it is the female equivalent hormone to the male testosterone. Estrogen is a hormone that affects the development of the fetus, and being exposed to BPA for children was alarming enough to get the US government to review it, even though the eventually decided to let the market sort it out. No need for an outright ban if everyone ‘voluntarily’ quits using it out of fear of litigation down the road.
So now we are almost twenty years from the first hints of trouble from BPA, and 60 years from it’s commercial introduction. The loss of BPA has forced the chemicals and plastics industry to cast about looking for a substitute that is not BPA. The found BPS and BPF. Totally different plastic ingredients. See, when you change the A to an F or a S you can put this chemical into plastics that come into contact with baby food and pregnant mothers’ foods and not worry about the estrogen-like effects of BPA. Turns out that both BPS and BPF cause estrogen-like effects, too, but they are new. The science is just beginning on them. THEY HAVE 60 YEARS TO GO. Here is a Mother Jones article on them from this morning..
And now a new paper, published on the peer-reviewed Environmental Health Perspectives, examines the science around two common chemicals used in “BPA-Free” packaging: BPS and BPF. The authors looked at 32 studies and concluded that “based on the current literature, BPS and BPF are as hormonally active as BPA, and have endocrine-disrupting effects.” In other words, the cure may be just as bad as the disease.
Yes. Hard clear plastics and thermal receipt paper may contain a chemical that causes hormonal dysfunctions in women and children. It may cause cancer, brain deformities, and birth defects in low doses. It might cause lots of people to blame necessary vaccines on autism. Who knows? Nobody is checking.
Funny thing is that these chemicals need never enter your life. You can use glass. Turns out that using Mason or Ball jars for leftovers is way more economical in the refrigerator. They cost way less to use, they are all tall instead of wide so you can get more of them in the fridge. You can make and store iced tea in glass pitchers, like this one.
Drink your morning coffee in a ceramic or glass cup. Don’t eat food that comes in plastic bottles. Don’t eat food that comes in plastic bags. Don’t eat food that comes in contact with plastic. Don’t wait for the science and the government to protect you from something that is totally unnecessary in your life. You just don’t need plastic. I grew up before the sippy cup. It is possible to give a baby a bottle (a glass one) until they are old enough to figure out drinking out of a glass. They will spill it all over themselves the first time. Thats how long it takes to learn that you don’t just throw back a glass of milk, one time.
I learned this morning that I shouldn’t get paper receipts. Fortunately lots of receipts are now available in an electronic version, I will ask for more of those. Women that work at stores that use thermal receipts should be asking the boss about these issues. It’s a big deal for them, as it is an occupational hazard.
So, in conclusion, there is nothing more fake than plastic. Even though plastic looks permanent, some of it comes loose and gets into your foods when you put them in plastic, especially when the contents are hot. Microwaving food in plastic is guaranteeing contamination. Plastic, it turns out, is an artificial ingredient that YOU add to your foods. If you are trying to avoid artificial ingredients, then stop using plastic containers to store or cook in immediately. Invest in permanent. Invest in glass and ceramic.
Awesome article Dan. really good reminder to skip the plastic. I am waiting for the day when grocery plastic bags are banned in the USA
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