Our modern world is one filled with faster and more convenient products. From Internet surfing on the move on the latest smart phone, to the ping of the microwave on your 5-minute ready meal. There is one material that plays a very large part in our fast living, disposable lifestyle and that is plastic.
The UK plastics industry is now worth over £20 billion. Most plastics are made from petrochemicals and can contain a variety of additives, some of which are toxic, for example phthalates, which have been linked to genital deformity in baby boys and low birth weight if Mum is exposed during pregnancy. BPA or bisphenol-A is also an endocrine disruptor found in many plastics, that can cross the placental barrier during pregnancy and exposure has also been identified as a risk for ADHD and even cancer.
In recent years many manufacturers, with increasing consumer awareness around the dangers of BPA, have jumped on the ‘BPA free’ marketing to consumers. BPA-free products have still been found to contain bisphenols of equal toxicity, so you may decide you want to limit your plastic exposure all together.
I made a promise to myself in the last couple of years to eliminate as much plastic from my home as possible, focusing especially on food and drink storage. Microwaving some plastic containers also encourages the chemicals to leach into the food, particularly with fatty foods, (and of course microwaving food throws up a whole new set of health worries in it self as it changes the molecular structure of the food).
Please note that the term ‘microwave safe’ does not refer to your health but as to whether the container can withstand being microwaved without being damaged.
The Environmental Working Group, which focuses on environmental health issues, especially for babies and children who are particularly vulnerable to endocrine disruptors like BPA, recommends that you never microwave plastic. This is why Frederick vom Saal, the University of Missouri researcher who studied BPA for more than a decade and oversaw the tests for the Journal Sentinel, said, “There is no such thing as safe microwaveable plastic”. In his research he found ”all 10 products labelled ‘microwave safe’ tested leached BPA”.
This begs the question that, if like me, you previously relied on the plastic identification number system and only number ‘7’ is supposed to contain BPA, then how did all the containers then leach BPA into the food? It may surprise you to know that the number system was never meant for consumers but only as an identification system for future recycling purposes. When the code was developed by the plastics industry in 1988 it was requested that manufacturers make it as inconspicuous as possible.
Canned goods are also a big culprit for BPA exposure to food. You can start by making simple changes by buying food and drinks in glass bottles instead of canned e.g. passata in a bottle instead of canned tomatoes, (especially as tomatoes are one of the worst culprits due to the acid nature of the tomatoes reacting with the lining of the can).
Make a commitment to improving your health now by reducing your exposure to plastic chemicals and have some fun looking for better, safer alternatives to food storage. Here are some of my favourites:
These glass storage jars with wooden lids are so beautiful you won’t want to push them to the back of your cupboard but have them on display. I use these to store my superfoods and seeds:
Stainless steel water bottles without an inner plastic lining. I keep a variety of sizes for every event. My kids take these to school everyday and I always have a small bottle with water in my handbag or the car:
I am lucky enough to live in Brighton where we have a fabulous retro shop called ‘Utility’. Not only is it like taking a step back in time to a pre-plastic era, it is full of glass storage gems. I use their 500ml jars to store food or liquid leftovers. They also have great various sizes of glass and metal flip lid jars that I store my homemade dressings and mayonnaise in:
Other favourites of mine are retro glass milk bottles with ceramic and metal flip lids that I store my raw almond milk in, and beautiful metal biscuit and cake tins for those lovely homemade goodies, all from Bert's Homestore.
There really is no shortage of choice when you start looking around for alternatives to boring, toxic plastic containers.
References and related articles you may find of interest:
BPA-Free Products Still Contain Bisphenols of Equal Toxicity
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