The Problem with Plastics

Over 10,000 chemicals are added to food and food packaging materials in the United States.

Many of these chemicals are known carcinogens and have been found to result in adverse health effects.  Multiple negative effects of these chemicals appear by disrupting hormonal signals.  The scientific term for this is ‘endocrine disrupters’ and these types of chemicals could interfere with the body’s hormonal systems and produce developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune dysfunction.  Some products that endocrine disruptors are found in are plastic bottles, the linings of metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, thermal receipts, and pesticides.  Ideally, it’s best to avoid drinking from plastic water bottles and cups, both disposable and reusable.

Some chemicals that are in plastics that should be avoided are

  • Phthalates: found in household items, children’s toys, oral medications, food wrapper linings, and personal care products.
  • Bisphenols: can spread into food and water, particularly if exposed to heat. Bisphenols can also cross the placenta, affecting unborn infants.
  • Perfluoroalkyl chemicals: used in grease-proof paper and packing which can be found in sandwich and pastry wrapper, French fry bags, pizza boxes, candy wrappers, and other packaging and paperboard.
  • Perchlorate: used for plastic packaging that is in contact with dry foods.
  • Polyvinyl Chloride: are in most commercial cling wrap, bottles that are used for cooking oils, and some water bottles.
  • Polystyrene: found in disposable plastic cups, bowls, and most colored plastic utensils.

Some safer choices on how you can reduce exposures to plastics are to explore the alternatives, read the label, to use paper instead of cling wrap, to throw out anything you are unsure of, limit your exposure, wash plastics by hand, to buy in bulk and to also buy glass or stainless steel bottles.  Instead of plastic bottles or food storage containers, try investing in glass, ceramics, or stainless-steel products.  Read the label and look for brands that say “PVC free” on them and avoid microwaving in plastic.  Use waxed paper to store foods, especially with foods that contain more fat to them.  If there is discoloration, cracks, or other signs of wear then the plastic is most likely degrading and could be leaching chemicals into the food.  Really limit the amount of time that the food sits in the plastic container.

Content Sourced from the Institute of Functional Medicine

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