Many of us have heard about the concerns over BPA (bisphenol A), a chemical used to manufacture certain types of plastic. Health Canada recently declared it a toxic chemical, and this should limit its use in the marketplace.
But, a recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives raises concerns about all plastics used, stating that most plastics, when exposed to everyday conditions such as dishwashing, leach components with estrogenic activity.
The convenience of plastic is undeniable, especially when it comes to children’s toys, sippy cups and bottles. There is growing concern that the plastics we use everyday for drinking cups and food preparation contain chemicals that act as “endocrine disruptors”. This is especially concerning as certain chemicals in plastics appear to mimic estrogen, increasing the risk for estrogen sensitive conditions such as breast cancer and endometriosis. Some researchers have also expressed concern that the widespread use of plastics may play a role in the earlier onset of puberty seen in girls, and the delayed onset seen in boys.
The concern comes from the fact that several petroleum based products are used in the manufacture of plastics. When plastics products are heated, scratched, damaged or come into contact with oily or fatty food, there is a tendency for these products to leach into foods. Polycarbonate, PVC and Styrene are the types of plastics of most concern. You can identify these plastics if they have the numbers 3, 6 or 7 imprinted on them within the recycling symbol.
While this information is alarming, there are choices that can be made to balance risk with convenience. Here are a few “tips” to make plastic use safer:
- Avoid using plastic containers in the microwave.
- Don’t use “cling wrap”, especially in the microwave.
- Use alternatives to plastic packaging whenever possible.
- Use Pyrex or ceramic dishes to store foods, especially those with higher-fat content.
- Don’t use Teflon.
- Avoid plastic bottled water. Remember that bottles from #1 and #2 plastics are for single use only.
If you do re-use a plastic water bottle, watch for signs that the plastic is degrading: scratches, cloudiness, etc.
But what about baby bottles and sippy cups? Avoid bottles and sippy cups made with polycarbate (clear or coloured clear plastic). Examples include: Dr. Browns, Evenflo (clear), First Years, Gerber (clear), and Platex Vent Aire and First Sipster.
You can avoid plastic all together by choosing glass bottles and stainless steel sippy cups. While some parents are concerned about glass bottles breaking, they are usually made with shatter proof glass which increases their safety. If you are looking for a local source for these products, Nurtured on Robie Street is a good place to start. And, limiting the use of plastics also benefits the environment, something we all need to think about.