Plastic has been one of the most time, safety and lifesaving inventions of all times. We can find it everywhere today. In fact, I guarantee you, you’re probably using plastic right now (most computers use plastic to keep the weight down).
I’m more concerned with the kitchen plastics, especially the food there. In a hospital, in a car, the plastic you use may save your life, but in the kitchen, it can take your life. How many containers in your kitchen are made of plastic? A few, most, all? If you are like most of us, you’re likely to find plastic in just about every place you look.
Studies have confirmed that the chemicals in plastic can leach into our foods. Ingesting these chemicals is harmful to our bodies. Nowhere is that risk more direct than when the food we eat comes into direct contact with plastic.
It’s not all bad news, however. You don’t need to throw out all the plastic in your kitchen to be safe. Just a few types are bad and replacing them with healthier, safer plastics and glass can help your health.
There are several plastic types. It’s easy to determine the type, since manufacturers need to print the information on the bottom for recycling. Just look for the little triangle with a number inside. This number is the type of the plastic. The plastics with the greatest potential for leaching toxins are #3, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and #7, polycarbonate (PC) or “other.” If you have read more by me, you’ll know I advise people to avoid eating things they can’t identify. Plastic #1, polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) is not as bad, but it leaches toxic materials under higher heat and light conditions.
Plastic #3 is known for leaching phthalates. These have become known in the news lately because of their disastrous effects on men. This chemical group lowers testosterone and decreases sperm counts. It’s also known for damaging the liver and reducing brain function.
Estrogen mimics are known for increasing cancers, obesity and behavioral disorders. It’s found mostly in BPA, or plastic #7. Recently, the FDA finally banned the use of this toxic chemical for children’s cups. A good move, since children are more susceptible to damage than healthy adults. However, if you continue to use this, your risk is still there. Toxins are toxins, regardless of age.
Plastic #1 is intended for short use, an environmentally un-friendly practice. While reusing a thin, plastic water bottle is good for the environment, it just may cause the plastic to break down faster and leach plastic by-products into the water. It also is a good medium for bacteria growth, which happens most often in the hard to clean caps and threads. I recommend opting for safer plastics you can reuse.
Plastic #6 is generally safe; it’s known as Styrofoam. It’s not often used with foods, since it breaks into little pieces easily. But that’s it’s problem. Those small pieces can be inhaled or accidentally swallowed, allowing plastic into your system where it should never be. It’s also a big environmental contaminant, poisoning fish that we then eat.
The majority of plastics used in food prep are safer than these. They include plastics #2, #4 and #5. If you are choosing to use plastic, use these. Just remember to check the bottom of the container to make sure you are getting the right plastic.
It’s actually safer and more environmentally friendly to choose to not use plastics at all. Glass and metal containers have been used for centuries and are very stable. They are very reusable and sustainable. It only takes a few easy changes to remove plastic from your life and improve your health:
· Never heat food in plastic containers. High heat releases chemicals from plastics into your food. This includes using the microwave!
· Always avoid the most hazardous plastics-those marked #3 and #7.
· Choose reusable glass or stainless steel food-storage containers.
While eliminating the most harmful plastics from your life will go a long way toward reducing your chemical intake, recent studies support the case for avoiding plastic altogether whenever possible. Several studies show that the chemicals from all plastics can encourage cancer, obesity, reproductive damage and behavioral problems. Just as we should go back to the way our ancestors ate, we should store our foods like they did, glass and metal or just eat it fresh.