How drastic is plastic?
You may have heard scare reports of plastic bottles being bad for your health but is it really true? I made a few phone calls to the experts to find out.
Theory 1: Using and re-using plastic baby bottles and containers leach dangerous chemicals.
Some baby bottles and plastic containers are made of a certain plastic called polycarbonate, which contains a chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA). Some studies in laboratory animals suggests BPA may have an effect on the reproductive system, and some have even linked it to birth defects, cancer and diabetes.
However national regulatory body Food Standard Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) say the research isn’t conclusive enough to declare BPA a hazardous substance that it should be avoided.
According to research reviews, the amount absorbed by the body is so small that it is rapidly inactivated and excreted in the urine.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recently completed a research review and determined a maximum daily ‘safe limit’ for BPA.
They concluded that a bottle-fed baby consumes less than 10 per cent of this safe level on a daily basis, and that adults would consume only 5 per cent from canned foods and beverages.
Verdict: “The danger is real but small,” says chemistry expert, Professor Ian Rae. “I don’t think the evidence is strong at all that plastics effect the reproductive sytem.”
Do plastic water bottles and containers contain BPA?
Most don’t, according to a spokesperson for FSANZ. She said that a small amount of chemicals can be absorbed by the body from plastic water bottles but these too are within safe levels.
Theory 2: Heating plastic containers/bottles releases chemicals that cause cancer.
When food is wrapped in plastic or placed in a plastic container and microwaved, chemicals in the plastic may leach into the food.
Evidence from this comes from a recent study from the University of Cincinnati
Researchers filled polycarbonate plastic bottles with boiling water and found the level of bisphenol A to increase by 55 times!
The levels remained elevated when the bottles were filled again with water at room temperature.
However another study at the University of Athens repeated a similar experiment and found that the high levels of bisphenol A quickly decreased with continued use of the bottle.
A spokesperson for Food Standards Australia New Zealand said that microwaving softer plastics may cause chemicals to leach into the food but that they are not necessarily unsafe.
To be on the safe side, only ever heat food with microwave safe containers.
Ensure cling wrap doesn’t touch food when microwaving to avoid it melting into the food.
Other plastics to out for:
PVC: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is used frequently in cling wraps for meat, and other clear food packaging. However, PVC contains softeners called phthalates that may interfere with hormonal development.
- Plastic bottles/containers can be identified by their recycling code at the bottom. PVC is labelled #3, and Polycarbonate (BPA) is #7.
- If you want to avoid using baby bottles and sippers with BPA, some of the Tommee Tippee range, Heinz range, Adiri Bottles, Avent infant feeding range, and Happy Baby glass bottles are BPA free, so there is plenty of choice.
- Gladwrap is a safe clingwrap alternative as it is made from microwave safe polyethylene
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