Is It Safe to Heat Food in Plastic?

My kitchen is credibly alike to yours — filled with products that help me get dinner on the mesa fast. I have cans of beans and tomato glue on my pantry shelves. In the electric refrigerator, there ‘s normally a solicitation of leftovers — survive night ‘s lasagna, some barbecued chicken the kids did n’t finish — in dishes covered with fictile wrapping, fix to eat after a nuke in the microwave. I sometimes buy food and drinks in plastic containers, I ‘ve been known to chop on a plastic cutting dining table, and I carry water around in a plastic bottle. So I ‘ve grown increasingly alarmed over news stories on plastics in recent months. First, reports quoted scientists and environmental groups saying that the same containers and wraps that have made life so convenient may contain chemicals that can pose dangers to health : bisphenol A ( BPA ), which, among its many roles, is used to make a type of hard plastic, and certain phthalates ( marked THAL-ates ), a wide range of chemicals that, among their many uses, cushion fictile.
quickly, as the media coverage intensified, manufacturers and retailers took up the charge : stopping point spring, barely when I was packing my kids ‘ lunches with Nalgene urine bottles, the party announced it was phasing out bottles made with BPA. many retailers have decided to stop betray toys and other kids ‘ products with BPA and phthalates, and a growing list of companies, including P & G and Nike, have been taking phthalates out of everything from beauty products to sneakers .plastics in the microwave

David Arky

Lawmakers have jumped into legal action, besides. California, Washington State, and Vermont, for exemplar, have limited the allowable amount of phthalates in children ‘s products, and Congress added a partial derivative phthalate banish to its new consumer-protection law, passed in August. But while legislators have been scurrying to pass protective laws, the federal agencies entrusted with overseeing our health have been slow to respond — and maddeningly dim when they do. In 2007, an adept empanel was commissioned by the National Toxicology Program at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, which evaluates chemicals for safety. The panel issued the reassure argument that it had “ minimal refer ” about most human health effects from BPA, though it acknowledged “ some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human vulnerability. ” But after it was reported that a consulting group used by the panel had ties to the industry, NTP scientists revised these findings, raising the horizontal surface of concern. It ‘s enough to make a ma pass up her hands — and toss out all the credit card in the house. Or possibly just in the kitchen ? The biggest worry has been over BPA and phthalates getting into food and drinks ( and into toys little children chew on ). Most of us are n’t eager to sacrifice the ease and cleanliness of fictile. But we need more definitive answers than the authorities have been giving us. That ‘s why the good Housekeeping Research Institute undertook testing of wide available storage containers, bags, wraps, frozen-entrée trays, and slow-cooker liners to see if these chemicals were, in fact, migrating into food — a kind of real-world probe that would help moms decide precisely how timid they need to be. If the chemicals are getting into food, we need to understand what that means for our health. And if they ‘re not, we ‘d like to stop hyperventilate. The GHRI tests turned up good news. But a review of extra late inquiry yielded other faze questions, particularly about hormonally relate ills. Both the tests and the research point to the smartest ways to keep our families safe .stacked tupperware

David Arky

Where Chemicals Lurk

many had n’t heard of bisphenol A before it grabbed the headlines earlier this year, but the chemical has been in our lives for decades. not entirely is it used to make hard-plastic food containers and baby bottles, but it ‘s besides found in monocle lenses, covenant magnetic disk, electronics, and a skid of other common, everyday items. Used in the plastic-like application that lines food and beverage cans, BPA helps buffer the contents from cans ‘ corrosive metals and extends the products ‘ shelf lives. And when these containers and cans and bottles and four hundred cases end up in landfills, BPA can leach into rivers and streams, possibly reentering our homes — and bodies — through tap water. The chemical has besides been found in family scatter, where it settles as plastic products break down and scatter microscopic particles. We all touch it and breathe it in ; crawling babies, who put everything in their mouths, may absorb even more. But our highest photograph comes from our daily diet, reports the National Toxicology Program. Molecules of BPA can migrate from containers into food, specially, say experts, when the containers are heated and the foods are acidic ( like tomatoes ) or fatty ( like gravy ). That ‘s why GHRI used those two food types for its tests — plus, these items are normally heated in a microwave. Just as a ma might prepare her family ‘s dinner in her kitchen, GHRI scientists, working with chemists at an freelancer lab, heated samples of Old World Style Ragú Traditional Smooth Pasta Sauce and Heinz Home Style Gravy Savory Beef in the microwave in two different widely available storage containers and in glass bowl covered with a normally used credit card envelop. Why these ? In pretesting, low levels of BPA had turned up in the two containers — Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids and Rubbermaid Premier. One formative wrap, Glad Press ‘n Seal, had tested positive for gloomy levels of both phthalates and BPA. ( A one-fourth detail, Glad Storage Gallon Zipper Bags, was found to contain depleted levels of BPA, but was eliminated from food testing since it ‘s improbable that anyone would use the bags for heating fluent foods like pasta sauce or gravy. ) The results : When food was heated in these containers in the microwave ( or, in the font of Press ‘n Seal, in a glass bowl covered with the wrap prior to microwaving ), all three defendant products passed : “ No detectable amounts ” ( to use the scientific phrase ) of BPA or phthalates wound up in either the tomato sauce or the boom. While this is terrific news program, there ‘s more you should understand. For one thing, we know we have these chemicals in our bodies, and they ‘re getting there somehow. indeed, closely every american has BPA coursing through his or her veins, according to data gathered in 2003-04 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and children have the highest levels of all. The FDA estimates that adult Americans consume, on modal, a accumulative 11 micrograms of BPA per day through diet — largely from the liners in displace foods, say several scientific groups. Is that level a lot ? Is it safe ? No one very knows yet, but “ we ‘re concerned about how much exposure there is to this chemical and possible health repercussions, ” says Anila Jacob, M.D., a doctor and senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group ( EWG ), a nonprofit watchdog scientific constitution. Nor does anyone know for sure whether BPA accumulates in humans over time, though most scientists believe adults process it cursorily — in equally little as a day. however, the fact that so many of us have the compound in our bodies means that we ‘re exposed to it day by day, says Dr. Jacob. And fetuses and babies may not metabolize the chemical american samoa well as adults, other experts point out, so it ‘s potential that it builds up in their small bodies .

Just Can These

The insides of food cans are often lined with an epoxy resin that keeps corroding metal away from the food. But bisphenol A in that resin can migrate into the foods ; in fact, it ‘s the major source of our exposure to the chemical, says the politics ‘s National Toxicology Program. While the FDA has issued reassure statements about the hazard, other experts are n’t so convinced. In 2007, the nonprofit Environmental Working Group found BPA in more than half of the 97 food cans it tested, with the highest levels coming from chicken soup, baby formula, and ravioli. merely one to three servings of those foods with those concentrations could expose a charwoman or a child to BPA at levels that cause good adverse effects in animal tests, the group concluded. Though you may see “ BPA-free ” on some canned goods, food manufacturers are not required to list the chemical on labels, so you have no way of knowing whether it ‘s salute. To limit your kin ‘s exposure :

  • Buy more fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.
  • Choose soups and broths that come in aseptic boxes or dried soup mixes in nonplastic bags.
  • Be extra cautious with infants: If you use commercial formula, buy it in powdered form, which comes in a foil-lined cardboard container and shouldn’t have any BPA, says the FDA.
  • Use BPA-free baby bottles and sippy cups.

    Tiny Amounts, Big Problems

    Despite BPA ‘s pervasiveness in about all of us, the actual amount found in our blood and urine is very small — possibly equivalent to mere drops of water in a swim pool. That ‘s not enough to harm us, according to the FDA, which beginning reviewed BPA in the 1980s, and in August issued a draft report stating that exposure to the modest amounts of BPA that migrate from containers into the food they hold is not dangerous. traditionally, politics toxicologists have operated under the long-familiar hypothesis that “ the dose makes the poison ” — the more chemical you ingest, the ghastly you get. Keep the levels below a certain doorway and you ‘ll be OK. That ‘s why the FDA issued its reassure statement and why the american english Chemistry Council, an industry trade group, besides believes the amounts of BPA we ingest are safe. “ An average pornographic would have to consume more than 500 pounds of canned foods and beverages every day ” fair to reach the safety standards set in the U.S. and Europe, says Steven Hentges, executive conductor of the ACC ‘s Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group. But tied if we ‘re not being directly poisoned, there still may be chronic health effects, say experts whose studies point to a different way of assessing damage. BPA and phthalates are what are known as endocrine disruptors — chemicals that can interfere with our hormone systems, mimicking, shutting down, or modifying the chemical signals that regulate everything from metabolism and replica to our bodies ‘ response to tension. This newfangled sympathy turns the “ drug makes the poison ” logic on its head, suggesting that even bantam levels can cause wrong if exposure happens at a particularly sensitive fourth dimension during development, such as when a fetus ‘s brain or sex organs are forming in the uterus. “ There are critical windows of vulnerability, ” says Maida Galvez, M.D., a baby doctor with the Mount Sinai Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit in New York City. “ It can be a question of when in addition to how much. ” Or, as some scientists nowadays put it, “ the timing makes the poison, ” says Andrea Gore, Ph.D., who studies hormone disruptors at the University of Texas at Austin. Until recently, researchers had no way to detect the modest amounts that are at the heart of this controversy. But “ now that we can measure these low levels, we see how incredibly potent these compounds are, ” says David O. Norris, Ph.D., an endocrinologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder. It ‘s potential, say many researchers, that early exposure to chemicals like BPA is making more of us grow up to be chubby, sterile, or more prone to illness as kids and adults .

    Messing with Our Hormones

    It ‘s no surprise that BPA affects hormones — the atom was tested in the 1930s as an artificial estrogen. But it was passed over for a stronger synthetic estrogen — the ill-famed diethylstilbestrol ( DES ) — which, starting in the 1940s, was given to meaning women to prevent spontaneous abortion. many women used DES until the early 1970s, when researchers discovered it was causing an unusual cancer of the generative tract in young women who ‘d been exposed to the hormone in the uterus. ( ironically, it turned out that DES did n’t prevent the miscarriages for which it had been prescribed in the first place. ) today, as DES children — and now DES grandchild — have grown up, doctors have cataloged a long list of generative and early abnormalities linked to the drug. As for BPA, its dark side began to emerge in the 1990s. One dramatic discovery happened by accident : In 1998, Patricia Hunt, Ph.D., a generative biologist then at Case Western Reserve University, was studying mouse eggs when her experiment on the spur of the moment went haywire. Her see mouse — the healthy ones — started developing the sorts of genetically abnormal eggs that can lead to miscarriages and birth defects. “ We checked everything, ” Hunt says. “ Was it the air in the facility ? Were there pesticides coming in ? ” finally, after weeks, they found that a irregular worker had used the improper detergent to clean the plastic cages and water system bottles, causing BPA to leach into the mouse ‘s water system and environment. While more and more reports about BPA-affected lab animals were coming in, other scientists were growing concerned about another group of hormone disruptors : phthalates. They are added to many plastic products — automobile dashboards, vinyl shower curtains, raincoats, even your toddler ‘s arctic darling — to make them soft or bendable. Certain phthalates are besides used in beauty products, to prevent chipping in smash polish, for example. Like BPA, phthalates have been “ total ” to most of us as well. In a CDC study published in 2004, more than 75 percentage of the 2,540 men, women, and children surveyed had measurable levels of seven different phthalates in their urine, with children having the highest levels of three of the chemicals. The numbers were startling and perplex : “ We do n’t very know where all our exposure comes from, ” says Shanna Swan, Ph.D., director of the Center for Reproductive Epidemiology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY. “ It ‘s not like DES. We ca n’t just ask if you ‘ve taken a drug. This is a silent, hidden exposure. ” Swan and early experts believe, though, that phthalates might come from family dust and food .Family Of Chemistry Glassware

    PM Images

    Are These Chemicals Making Us Sick?

    With BPA and phthalates, there ‘s nothing like the smoking-lung cancer connection, but there are lots of smoking guns. The research is hush in its early on days, and much of what we know comes from study with animals. besides, not all phthalates have been linked to health problems. But many big scientists believe these chemicals may cause a range of problems related to our hormones :

    Lower sperm counts and other reproductive abnormalities

    Since the late 1990s, after Hunt found that mouse in BPA-contaminated cages developed egg abnormalities, she and dozens of other researchers have linked the chemical to reproductive problems in rodents, including lower sperm counts and abnormal eggs. Phthalates, besides, may cause generative problems. In 2006, when Harvard researchers studied 463 men seeking discussion at a richness clinic, the scientists reported that men with higher levels of sealed phthalates in their urine had lower sperm counts and sperm motility, equally good as damage to sperm DNA, all of which affect the ability to impregnate a partner.In one of the most significant human studies indeed army for the liberation of rwanda, Swan measured phthalates in 85 pregnant women in three U.S. cities — Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Columbia, MO. In that 2005 survey, women with the highest phthalate levels were most probably to give parturition to sons with smaller penises, smaller testes, and “ reduced ano-genital distance ” ( the space between the testes and the anus ). In other words, these baby boys were reasonably de-masculinized, which could signal mar semen quality and decreased richness former on. “ The results were dramatic, ” Swan says. “ We were surprised by how potent the link was. And, based on animal studies, we ‘re concerned about possibly serious health consequences for these boys as they get older. ”

    Early puberty

    “ We think girls are maturing younger and younger, ” says Mount Sinai ‘s Dr. Galvez, “ and we ‘re nowadays trying to find out if hormone disruptors play a function. ” Her center is involved in a big report that is tracking 1,200 girls, presently ages 6 to 8, for five years. But there are already clues. In Puerto Rico, researchers have been studying girls who have developed breasts at extremely young ages ( before 8, and most starting before 2 ). Their 2000 study showed that these children had phthalate levels, on modal, about seven times higher than those in a control group of girls. While the researchers stress that this correlation coefficient does not prove there ‘s a connection, their report concludes, ominously, that “ if the hypothesis holds true, previous sexual development in Puerto Rico may prove to be an unfortunate exemplar of the affect of endocrine-disrupting environmental chemicals at a critical stage of human development. ”


    early puberty, in turn, has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. BPA, excessively, causes precancerous growths in lab animals, both prostate gland and breast abnormalities. But in humans it ‘s hard to prove induce and effect with 100 percentage certainty, says Andrea Gore. “ We ‘re exposed to so many things, and our mothers ate and drank this or that and 50 years late we get breast cancer, ” she says. “ How can you go back and say, ‘It must be this chemical ? ‘ ”

    Obesity and diabetes

    In one study of adult men, those with higher-than-average phthalate levels tended to have a larger shank circumference and increased insulin resistance, precursors to diabetes. In a study of mice, the ones fed BPA were more likely to give give birth to offspring who became corpulent .

    Neurobehavioral abnormalities

    In a drawn-out review article, published in 2007, researchers reported that low doses of BPA during development affect brain structure, affair, and behavior in rats and mouse .

    If the Chemicals Are So Risky, Why…

    In 1988, when the Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) set a safe consumer specify for BPA — you could ingest 50 micrograms per one kilogram of body burden per day — it used the old-school tests. typically, that mean dosing rodents with high levels of the chemical and looking for disease ( or death ), then reducing the total of chemical until it had “ no observe adverse effect. ” normally, a fraction of that tied is what ‘s allowed in our food and consumer products. But what scientists like Hunt and Swan and others have come to realize is that chemicals like BPA and phthalates do n’t play by the rules. Many of their and other studies of endocrine gland disruptors have found unplayful health effects at levels a depleted as 2 micrograms per one kilogram of body system of weights — that ‘s 25 times lower than the EPA ‘s dependable flat. “ We ‘ve been using an oversimplify manner of measurement, ” says Scott Belcher, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmacology and cell biophysics at the University of Cincinnati. There ‘s an extra concern : what early chemicals in plastics might be doing. “ We good do n’t know, because the politics is n’t doing the proper test to find out, ” says Dr. Jacob. That will probably change, though slowly. In 2000, the EPA established the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. But due to prolong consider among scientists, representation officials, and industry about the best ways to set up the tests, the program has yet to evaluate a single chemical. And when the means finally — stopping point year — proposed a blueprint list of 73 chemicals for the first base cycle of testing, neither BPA nor phthalates were on it. Pesticide chemicals, with a more conventional history of causing health problems, will be first. In contrast, the european Commission has already begun screening chemicals for potential hormone effects, and has identified 320 that will be national to extra, rigorous test. In the meanwhile, the National Toxicology Program has stepped in, conducting its own revised review of BPA. Its draft reputation, released stopping point April, was stronger than its earlier version, adding “ some concern ” for BPA exposure in fetuses, infants, and children, based on effects in the prostate and mammary glands, and on an earlier age for puberty in females. however, the final report, released in September, downgraded the concern for the mammary glands and earlier puberty from “ some ” to “ minimal. ” The NTP advice to consumers was hard to decode. “ There was nothing in our report that should cause alarm … but at the same prison term, people should make their own decisiveness about which precautions they want to take, ” says Michael Shelby, Ph.D., director of the NTP ‘s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction. “ The skill is just not authoritative. ” Which brings us back to my kitchen and yours. Since learning more about the health effects of plastics, including how much we do n’t know, I ‘ve changed some habits. Some of this is, true, compulsive more by emotion than skill. My kids have n’t reached puberty yet, and I do n’t want them to any earlier than nature intended. I give them water in BPA-free bottles. When I buy cheese wrapped in plastic, I cut off the edges and toss them before eating or giving it to my children. I now store leftovers in ceramic or glass containers in the electric refrigerator, and I do n’t put anything credit card in the microwave because there ‘s hush a set to learn about the interactions of heat and plastic — and it ‘s easy to find an alternative. I besides now buy phthalate-free shampoo and face cream. I ‘d be glad to stop doing all this, but until the government starts testing family plastics in ways that will tell us what ‘s safe and what ‘s not, I will go on being a little obsess. There are many ways moms try to protect their families. My list just got a little longer .

    Risky Numbers

    The american Chemistry Council says there are no phthalates in formative food containers or wraps. however, GHRI testing did find low levels in one wrap ( and BPA in it and in three other products ). If you want clues to the components of plastics, check the recycling codes on the bottoms of containers. Number 7 may contain BPA and 3 may contain phthalates. broadly, plastics with the numbers 1, 2, and 4 are very well ; many experts say that containers marked 5 are excessively, but one of the BPA-containing items in our tests was labeled 5. here are other steps you can take to protect your kin : cool food or liquids before putting them in a fictile container. ( University of Cincinnati researchers found that baby bottles leached BPA into boiling water up to 55 times faster than into room-temperature water. ) And keep off putting formative items in the dishwasher ; the detergent and heat break down the fictile, which may cause BPA, if it ‘s present, to leach out .rubbermaid easyfind lids

    Philip Friedman/Studio D; J Muckle/Studio D

    How We Did Our Testing

    We all do it : Pop a plate of leftovers covered with formative wrap in the microwave or warm up extra tomato sauce in a formative container. But newsworthiness reports have suggested that this may not be perfectly safe, that if there are chemicals — phthalates and BPA — in the credit card, they might migrate into our food. How likely is this ? To find out, we shopped at supermarkets and mass merchandisers for leading brands of microwave-safe containers, wraps, and bags, and at a dollar memory for some alleged value brands. We besides tossed into our shopping handcart packages of best-selling flash-frozen dinners for both children and adults and fictile liners designed to be used in a slow cooker. In short, we gathered together a assortment of the kind of fictile items most of us use for heating foods. We shipped several samples of each item off to an independent lab, where they were shredded into bits, then analyzed to see if any detectable amounts of BPA and phthalates were present in the products. The good news : Twenty-seven of the products tested contained no phthalates or BPA. Three, however, did contain low levels of BPA : the containers ( or bottom sections ) of Rubbermaid Easy Find Lids, Rubbermaid Premier containers, and Glad Storage Zipper Bags ; Glad Press’n Seal wrap had moo levels of both phthalates and BPA. Next, the lab tested these four items with “ food simulants ” — chemicals designed to stand in for substantial food in a lab. ( Our federal health agencies, like the FDA, allow the use of food simulants in testing. ) Results : No detectable BPA or phthalates migrated from the products into the simulants. For a real-life test, we microwaved Old World Style Ragú Traditional Smooth Pasta Sauce and Heinz Home Style Gravy Savory Beef in the two Rubbermaid containers and in a methamphetamine stadium covered with Press’n Seal. As you ‘re improbable to heat up tomato sauce or gravy in a plastic pocket, we eliminated the Glad Storage Zipper Bags from this partially of the test. The lab first evaluated the foods heterosexual from the jars to ensure that there were no phthalates or BPA present in the sauces before they were transferred to the test containers. In addition to testing foods heated in brand-new containers, we used ones that we had put through 30 rounds of microwave and clean in the dishwasher, to see if wear and tear made a deviation. intelligibly dependable news : none of the samples of sauce or boom had detectable levels of either BPA or phthalates .

    Products tested that contained no phthalates or BPA:

    1. Tupperware CrystalWave container
    2. Tupperware CrystalWave lid
    3. Tupperware Rock ‘N Serve container
    4. Tupperware Rock ‘N Serve lid
    5. Rubbermaid EasyFind Lids lid
    6. Rubbermaid Premier lid
    7. Glad SimplyCooking Microwave Steaming Bags
    8. Ziploc Brand Zip ‘n Steam Microwave Steam Cooking Bags
    9. GladWare Containers with Interlocking Lids container
    10. GladWare Containers with Interlocking Lids lid
    11. Ziploc Brand Containers with Snap ‘N Seal Lids container
    12. Ziploc Brand Containers with Snap ‘N Seal Lids lid
    13. Webster Industries Good Sense storage container
    14. Webster Industries Good Sense storage container lid
    15. United Plastics 21 oz Bowl
    16. Saran Premium wrap
    17. Saran Cling Plus Clear Plastic Wrap
    18. Glad Cling Wrap Clear Plastic Wrap
    19. Reynolds Clear Seal-Tight Plastic Wrap
    20. Ziploc Brand Storage Bags with Double Zipper
    21. Ziploc Brand Freezer Bags with Double Zipper
    22. Glad Freezer Storage Bags
    23. Reynolds SlowCooker Liners
    24. Kid Cuisine All Star Chicken Breast Nuggets container
    25. Kid Cuisine All Star Chicken Breast Nuggets film cover
    26. Stouffer’s frozen Homestyle Classics Lasagna with Meat & Sauce tray
    27. Stouffer’s frozen Homestyle Classics Lasagna with Meat & Sauce film covering

      The following items contained low levels of phthalates or PBA but the chemicals did not leach into food during microwave heating:

      1. Rubbermaid EasyFind Lids container
      2. Rubbermaid Premier container
      3. Glad Press’n Seal Multipurpose Sealing Wrap
      4. Glad Food Storage Bags*

        *Tested with simulants but not food .
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