Thursday, January 3, 2013

Please Don't Eat the Plastic!

Are you putting your healthy food in unhealthy containers? (Image via Align Life)

You've probably heard that plastic food and drink containers might not be that safe, but do you know which containers and why? Some common plastics are known to release harmful chemicals into our air, foods, and drinks.

BPA (bisphenol-A) is a chemical that's been getting a lot of media attention over the last few years. It is found in PC (Polycarbonate) plastic #7 which was used for baby bottles until the FDA banned it last July. It's still found in other food packaging, including metal can linings and clear, hard plastic containers (like 5 gallon water jugs) and eating utensils.

Phthalates are found in PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) plastic #1 which is commonly used for soda, water, and cooking oil bottles. You're probably okay using soda and water bottles once, but repeated handling, exposure to sunlight, and other heat exposure (like hot water washing or being left in a hot car) breaks down the plastic and encouraged the release of chemicals. As for the safety cooking oil, plastic is a made of oil (petroleum) and oil absorbs oil, so there is probably plasticy chemical goodness in any oil that came out of a plastic container.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl) plastic #3, which is commonly used for condiment bottles, cling wrap, as well as teething rings and toys (*ftw?!!!!*), can leach phthalates too. PVC also leaches lead and off-gases toxic chemicals. Bonus!

BPA and phthalates are both potent hormone disruptors that are increasingly linked to health effects like brain and behavior changes, cancer, and reproductive system damages.

PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam) plastic #6 is commonly used for meat trays, as well as hot food and drink containers. It can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols. Yummers!

Our plastic in a dead seagulls belly.

All plastics are forever, like diamonds, except in a much more despicable way. So even the safer ones like #2, #4, and #5 are piling up in landfills and mucking up our oceans. Wildlife, who now have a hard time distinguishing between plastic and food, are eating it. This is obviously unnatural and unhealthy for them and for any carnivorous creatures who end up feasting on them.

Learn more about the connection between plastic and health:
Healthy Child, Healthy World: Be Wise with Plastics
Environmental Working Group: Pick Plastics Carefully

Sorry this post is such a downer! Of course, I would never just leave you guys with bad news without also offering steps you can take to help improve things. I'll be sharing alternatives to plastic food containers tomorrow and will continue to offer tips for reducing plastic use at home on this blog, so please stay tuned! In the meantime, please visit My Plastic-free Life, which is super encouraging and has lots of resources.

Olivia Lane is a Blogger, Green Living Educator, and Health Coach trained at The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She's also author of Baking Soda & Bliss: The Healthy & Happy Guide to Green Cleaning 

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  1. Fun site! What are your credentials as an educator?

  2. Thanks Amy! I'm self certified! I don't think green living educator is a regulated field. :-) I research green living and enjoy sharing what I learn with people. It's not rocket science but I enjoy being able to learn from others (esp environmental science geeks & grandmas) and pass it on in a fun, digestible way that most people will understand and feel empowered to take action. I'm also currently studying nutrition & coaching at Institute of Integrative Nutrition. I'll be certified as a health coach through IIN in July 2014. If you have questions about the school, lemme know.



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