Can we believe it that cling film actually make us sterile, or cause cancer?
Since decades, holistic health gurus have warned about the toxic impact of plastic. But they have been dubbed quacks, and their opinion dismissed. Nonetheless, now it looks like their paranoia might have been justified.
According to latest evidence heat makes chemicals in plastic storage boxes and bottles leach into food and drink: two vital reports last year linked 175 compounds to health problems associated with cancers, fertility and foetal development.
Even Cancer Research UK, which has until now been sceptical, is now advising that cling film should not be allowed to touch the food it’s covering in the time of microwaving.
Doctors are now alerting that cling film should not be allowed to touch the food it’s covering in the time of microwaving
The biggest concern is regarding the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which is widely used in plastics manufacture. After entering the body, it mimics the effects of female sex hormone oestrogen.
Furthermore, laboratory studies have associated BPA with breast and prostate cancer and early sexual development in women.
Andrea Gore, professor of pharmacology at the University of Austin in the US, who has studied the effects of chemicals on reproductive function, says: ‘I heat food only in glass or ceramic, and although I use cling film in my fridge to cover cooked food, I remove it before reheating that food in the microwave.’
Here’s the advice of experts about when is plastic OK to use – and when we should avoid it…..
DON’T REUSE PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES
You may think it’s thrifty to refill an old Evian or Volvic bottle from the tap.
Nonetheless, according to new research this should be avoided, says Prof Gore. ‘They are likely to be made using BPA, or bisphenol-A, which is a known endocrine disruptor.
When brand new, this will hardly cause problems; however, as the plastic decays, particles of the BPA can be released into drink or food that touches it.
‘Many baby bottles now make a selling point of being BPA-free, but we don’t know what chemicals are replacing BPA and the manufacturers don’t have to tell us.’
Consumer tests have revealed BPA is still present in almost all plastic bottles and other plastic food utensils sold in the UK.
Breast Cancer UK is asking for a British ban, bringing us in line with European nations.
A number of scientists opine bottles known to be free of BPA are safe to drink from and then throw away.
‘If you drink bottled water and then refill the bottle, it’s best to use for a short period rather than weeks, and then discard,’ says Ashley Grossman, professor of endocrinology at the Oxford Centre for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism. Switching to glass or lightweight metal sports bottles is an alternative.
DITCH THE LUNCH BOX
A lot of reusable plastic food containers – which includes Tupperware – are also made with BPA. Old containers that are displaying signs of wear are especially suspect.
Dr Thomas Zoeller, professor of biology at University of Massachusetts, advises: ‘Replace all those which have been used and washed harshly, as these are most likely to be unstable and prone to releasing BPA into the food.’
KEEP PLASTIC OUT OF THE DISHWASHER
Whether it’s cutlery, storage containers or bottles, heating, even in a dishwasher, causes the compounds to turn less stable making particles more prone to leech into food, says Prof Gore.
A study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that 95% of plastic products put through a dishwasher proved positive for leaching chemicals that had an oestrogen-like effect on the body.
BEWARE THE CLING FILM
‘Do not allow cling wrap to come into direct contact with food when heating it,’ advises Cancer Research UK.
Experts at Johns Hopkins University in the US have warned that heating food covered with plastic can melt the plastic on to the food.
The biggest concern is cling film made from PVC, which carries hormone-disrupting phthalates, a chemical that keeps plastic soft. IN America there’s a ban on PVC, but it’s use in Europe has not stopped.
‘If you’re heating a plate in the microwave, just cover it with another plate or a chemical-free paper towel,’ adds Prof Gore.
Styrene, a component of polystrene cups and some egg cartons, has been labeled as a potential carcinogen by the US’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, and benzene, also used in production, is another suspected carcinogen. Keep away from these, say the experts.
A lot of takeaway chains now offer wooden disposable cutlery, and in case your children use straws, switch from plastic to paper ones.
GO FOR POP IN CANS
Fizzy drinks are often packaged in bottles that contain formaldehyde, a known toxicant, so some experts suggest choosing cans.
Worries over its legal use in packaging were raised in last year’s report in the Journal Of Epidemiology And Community Health, as it is potentially a carcinogen.
But, a few scientists point out that formaldehyde is also present in a few foods, which includes apples.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THOSE ANCIENT ICE-CUBE TRAYS
Reusable ice-cube trays can get heavy use in a kitchen – and over the years will exhibit signs of decay.
But consider it a myth that freezing water in plastic ice-cube trays releases dioxins, another dangerous chemical.
This scare was triggered off by an internet hoax — and scientific studies have proved that the freezing process in fact prevents chemicals leaching out of plastic.
THE SAFE OPTIONS – INCLUDING FOR A BABY
1 Chilly’s Chilly Bottle Blue 500ml
It’s an ultra-light substitute of that plastic gym bottle, is reusable as well as keeps drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 18, and is BPA-free.
Chilly’s Chilly Bottle Blue 500ml
2 Lifefactory 2-Cup 475ml Container
Is a bit heavier than Tupperware – but is a safer option than reusing an old ice-cream tub for your packed lunch. The silicone outer ‘shell’ protects this BPA-free glass storage box from breaking and doubles up as a lid.
Lifefactory 2-Cup 475ml Container
3 If You Love Paper Sandwich and Snack Bags
Unbleached pulp of Scandinavian spruce trees is used to make these greaseproof bags. They are not chemically treated and bread kept in these bags remains soft for up to six hours.
£3.90 for pack of 48, goodnessdirect.co.uk
If You Love Paper Sandwich and Snack Bags
4 Avent Natural Glass Bottle 120ml
Instead of using plastic baby bottles – which are heated on a regular basis – choose this stylish glass version, which comes with a BPA-free silicone teat.
Avent Natural Glass Bottle 120ml
5 Stainless Steel Ice Cubes
These reusable, ageing ice-cube trays are safe to keep in the freezer. They chill drinks but don’t melt means there’s no risk of BPA contamination (or diluting the taste of your tipple!).
£9.48 for six, lightinthebox.com
Stainless Steel Ice Cubes