Instead, what we often hear in the news is that microwaving our plastic containers or drinking from plastic water bottles could be dangerous to our health… and that BPA-free containers are better for baby. But where did the media come up with these ideas? I asked Dr. Chuck McKay, a toxicologist and emergency medicine physician at the University of Connecticut, to explain how safe levels of exposure (to various chemicals) are determined, and how to know if news reports are based on scientific evidence. I hope you’ll listen in to this educational Webinar.
Some of my favorite take-home messages from the Webinar include what I call “just becauses”:
1. Just because you can find a substance in your urine doesn’t mean it’s harmful. (Asparagus anyone?)
2. Just because an animal reacts to a substance, doesn’t mean that humans will. (How often have you caught a cold from your dog?)
3. Just because extreme doses of a substance can cause harm, doesn’t mean that tiny doses also cause harm. (Consider radiation exposure from riding in an airplane versus being near ground zero of a nuclear strike).
4. Just because something has a theoretical potential to harm, doesn’t mean it will. (Will you really be attacked by a shark in 2 feet of water at your local beach?)
5. Just because someone conducted a research study doesn’t mean their findings are accurate. (Do you really believe the Cosmo polls? There’s a lot of junk science out there!)
For an excellent review article of the high-quality science behind plastic safety, please check out this link. In the end, there are far more important health concerns to worry about than potential exposure to plastic compounds. And throwing out all your plastic containers may not even reduce your exposure to BPA anyway… A recent study found that people had higher concentrations of BPA in their urine when they followed a plastic-free, organic diet! Their exposure was actually traced to ground cinnamon, coriander, and cayenne pepper. Who knew?
Information circulating about the dangers of plastic containers has created fear and confusion. Are plastic containers toxic? Do harmful chemicals leach out into its contents? Do we need to discard all plastic containers?
While Dr. Schwarcz states that some plastics like those made by Tupperware and Rubbermaid are safe to use, there are other plastics made of Bisphenol A (BPA) that may cause some concern, however he did not become alarmed.
There is extensive information on the safety of plastics, and reading some of it can easily cause panic and confusion, but the smartest step health consumers can do for themselves is to remain calm and don’t become alarmed. Gather the facts and determine what’s best for you.
The Facts About Bisphenol A (BPA)
Bisphenol A (BPA) is used to manufacture polycarbonate plastics. This type of plastic is used to make some types of beverage containers, compact disks, plastic dinnerware, impact-resistant safety equipment, automobile parts, and toys. BPA epoxy resins are used in the protective linings of food cans, in dental sealants, and in other products.
General exposure to BPA at low levels comes from eating food or drinking water stored in containers that have BPA. Small children may be exposed by hand-to-mouth and direct oral (mouth) contact with materials containing BPA. Dental treatment with BPA-containing sealants also results in short-term exposure. In addition, workers who manufacture products that contain BPA can be exposed.
How Does BPA Get Into The Body?
BPA can leach into food from the epoxy resin lining of cans and from consumer products such as polycarbonate tableware, food storage containers, water bottles, and baby bottles. Additional traces of BPA can leach out of these products when they are heated at high temperatures. Read more »
Have you heard the new urban legend about plastic products? A growing number of celebrities and websites have been fueling a plastic paranoia, striking fear in the hearts of parents, fitness buffs, and microwave container users. Concerns reached such a fever pitch that I wondered if there may be something to this buzz: Can certain plastics harm our bodies or even cause cancer?
But like the buzz surrounding vaccines and autism (there is NO link between the two), plastiphobia (as I like to call it) is not backed by any clear evidence of human harm. Chemist, Dr. Joe Schwarcz of McGill University (who has no financial ties to plastics manufacturers, by the way) has reviewed the scientific literature and has found plastics to be an extremely unlikely candidate for human injury. (Well, unless you hit someone over the head with a water bottle.) Dr. Schwarcz reviewed plastics safety in a live health chat on December 8th. You can review the entertaining conversation here.
Plastiphobia has fueled an entire industry of plastic-free baby bottles and “microwave safe” containers. Read more »
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