Is it safe to microwave plastic containers? The science of reheating leftovers, explained

Takeout leftovers are one of the great simpleton pleasures in biography. Knowing you get to heat up a little launching pad thai for lunch is a source of joy and calm. But if you ’ ra microwaving your food in the formative container it came in, you ’ re besides eating credit card along with your noodles. Is that dangerous ? Before you scream “ yes, ” the science is actually more complex than you might think. formative is commodious and a top option for food storehouse. That ’ south why it is such a popular merchandise : It ’ second bum, hard, and some kinds are besides relatively heat immune, making them apparently perfect to hold food in the microwave without spills. At the lapp clock time, humans are constantly ingesting microplastics — bantam bits of credit card that measurement less than 5 millimeters across ( less than the width of a pencil eraser ). Microplastics infiltrate the seafood provision chain, and studies on human stern picture credit card passes through our digestive systems all the time. But none of these truths tell us whether plastic is actively damage our health .

How does plastic get into food?

plastic is everywhere, literally. fish and other ocean creatures besides consume huge amounts of microplastics because the ocean ’ s churning with them, and of course, we eat seafood. Microplastics besides flake off from fictile containers.

When heated, these containers can shed microplastics, as can other coarse food memory and reheat practices. “ If you dishwash plastics, if you heat them up in the microwave, if you ’ ve used them for many years, and they ‘re tire down, all of those will release more microplastics, ” Bruce Lanphear, a health science professor at Simon Frasier University in Vancouver, tells Inverse. early research backs this up : A 2017 study found plastics in table salt, and a 2019 learn found that teabags packaged in fictile brewed a microplastic-dense cup of tea .

Is it dangerous to eat microplastics?

here ’ randomness where the science international relations and security network ’ thymine indeed conclusive. Plastic is a recent invention and there aren ’ thymine any long-run studies on the effects of microplastic pulmonary tuberculosis in humans. There are short-run studies and some done on animals, but nothing definitive to tell us how eating plastic affects our health over the longterm. There are however stablished thresholds at which many substances become toxic for humans if ingested. Arsenic is a good case ; there ’ s a limit to how much arsenic is allowed in public drinking water before it becomes dangerous for human health. In the U.S., that ’ south 10 parts per billion, which means that in a proportion that ’ second one billion parts water, the amount of arsenic can not exceed 10 parts. matter is, there international relations and security network ’ t a brink like this for microplastics, and no authorize data on what the consequences are if a person crosses that threshold. In one sense, our current behavior is fine until proven to be harmful. This interpretation says it ’ s okay to keep eating food in formative containers because ampere far as we know right now, it ’ s not peculiarly harmful. Another way is “ better safe than deplorable. ” We don ’ metric ton know how harmful consume microplastics is, so it ’ mho best to limit consumption until we know more. Use non-plastic containers whenever potential.

We besides know exposure to high amounts of chemicals typically in credit card, like phthalates and bisphenol A ( BPA ), can be dangerous to human health, even though they ’ re omnipresent in everyday objects. Lanphear says that if person who ’ second pregnant consumes phthalates and BPA, it could affect development of the embryo. Particularly, in developing males it can affect their fertility because BPA is anti-androgenic, meaning it blocks hormones like testosterone. Over the next few decades, as we continue to refine credit card formulas and study long-run microplastic consumption, a clean answer may emerge .woman heating leftovers in a microwave Microwaving your leftovers in formative containers might allow some microplastics to reach your food, though there ’ s no conclusive testify that this is harmful to human health. BRETT STEVENS/Image Source/Getty Images

How much plastic do I eat?

The amount of microplastics you consume depends on what food is available to you and how you prepare it. One 2019 learn from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, published in the daybook Environmental Science & Technology, estimates a person will consume anywhere between 39,000 to 52,000 particles a class and that ’ s not even factoring inhalation. People who favor drinking bottle water could be drinking an supernumerary 90,000 microplastics per year, while those who drink tap water may consume about 4,000 microplastics. Like water bottles, takeout containers are a substantial microplastic reservoir. A 2020 study from East China Normal University in Shanghai published in the Journal of Hazardous Materials looked specifically at takeout containers, and concluded : “ [ barn ] ased on the microplastic abundance in take-out containers, people who ordain take-out food 4 to 7 times hebdomadally may ingest 12–203 pieces of microplastics through containers. ” These bits much flake off from the sides or top of the container and are besides belittled to detect well. Another study from 2016 found a correlation coefficient between frequently eating flying food and increased levels of phthalates, substances often added to plastics to increase their lastingness. Those who ate fast food frequently had phthalate levels up to 40 percentage higher than those who rarely ate fast food .

Should I microwave food differently?

If you follow the “ better safe than blue ” set about the following meter you get takeout, you can put your food on a plate and refrigerate leftovers in a non-plastic container ( even though it ’ s so easy to just eat right from the little box you stuck in the electric refrigerator when you got home ). When you gift yourself leftovers the next day, microwave the food in a microwave-safe bowl or container, like one make of glass, ceramic, or porcelain. ( Remember : No alloy in your science oven. )

This doesn ’ triiodothyronine mean you need to swear off your darling freeze dinners or entirely do takeout from spots that offer cardboard vessels. Cutting back on plastic any measure lowers your exposure to microplastics and whatever risks that may come with consuming them. CHECK, PLEASE is an Inverse series that uses biology, chemistry, and physics to debunk the biggest food myths and assumptions. Now read this: Do plant-based “meats” have enough protein? A sports dietician reveals one overlooked factor