Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian
How safe are the plastics you use to store your food and beverages? What about the plastics your children play with day to day? Recent research is bringing to light some not so pretty results. And, although some groups, including the Food and Drug Administration (www.fda.gov) feel that most plastics release such small amounts of chemicals that the human effect would be negligible, other groups are a great deal more wary.
On the whole, plastics have been getting bad publicity lately. Much of the bad press, however, is related to research – including that done by the Environmental Protection Agency (www.epa.gov) and other health groups. While personally, I believe there are certain types of plastics we should try to avoid to protect our health and the health of the planet, it is also important to know that plastics are a huge part of where we are today – making up a large percentage of medical devices, appliances, automotives, industry materials and electrics (including your cell phone that some say may raise the risk of cancer, autism or other conditions…of course, that is a whole other issue). It may be a “catch 22”, though, since we benefit from them but also may be harmed by them. You see, plastics can release chemicals into the environment during their production and also often their use and degradation (i.e. in landfills or in the repeated re-use of water bottles). The implications on human health, including whether these chemicals increase the risk for cancer or childhood illnesses, however, are not fully known.
Take some calm in the fact that we can take many steps when it comes to the foods and beverages we consume and how to store them safely. Listed below are some steps you can take to better the earth and your health. If you choose to use plastics safely, you can lower your exposure to harmful chemicals such as BPA (Bisphenol A) and phthalate – both of which may disrupt human hormones when they leach out of plastics and into foods and beverages. Even though a June 2008 European report is now revising their stance on BPA and feels it may not be a risk to human health, other reports point otherwise. The conservative approach is to avoid it. Additionally, recent research suggests fetal phthalate exposure may disrupt male genital formation and reduce sperm counts (see USA Today link below). More research is needed but, again, the conservative approach is to avoid pthalates, too.
While we can worry that all the materials around us may harm our health in some way (especially if taken in high doses), it is important to take small steps. Do the things realistic for your lifestyle to reduce your risks for exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. And, remember, it is likely that small amounts of these chemicals may indeed have no effect on human health. High exposure in adults or any exposure to fetuses, infants and children may be the biggest health threat.
See the post below, written in August 2007, and added to the site today to give you further information.
Here are some more links you may find helpful: