Is Heating Food in Plastic Containers Destroying Our Health?
The plastic containers in which we store and heat our food can be dangerous to our health.
This is according to a study published by the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
The plastic that these containers are made with contains a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), which has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other illnesses.
The next time you use a plastic container to microwave leftovers, it's important that you know the risks of this process.
Note: This article is not to try and scare you in any way. It's basically an information resource for you to read and then research for yourself.
What is food packaging made of?
Food packaging comes in a wide variety of different materials like plastic, paperboard, aluminum foil, and plastic.
We haven't reached this point by accident. The reason why we use plastic specifically is that it is moisture-proof, lightweight, can be molded into any shape, and doesn't break down easily.
They are commonly used for food packaging due to their low price point per unit weight and inability to corrode with constant use like metal does over time.
The History of Plastic
Plastics are the new frontier of materials science.
They're not actually a single material: rather, they refer to any type of plastic inorganic polymer that is used for commercial or industrial purposes and/or can be molded into shape (and most importantly, has been discarded as rubbish).
One major reason people throw so much away is that plastics have become synonymous with disposability.
Plastic was originally coined by chemist Nathaniel Thirlmere who thought up this word after finding polymers pliable enough to mold out shapes from his experiments at Cambridge University back in 1800s England.
However, In 1907 Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite, the first fully synthetic plastic, meaning it contained no molecules found in nature.
Robert W. Vergobbi, a patent attorney from New York City invented the zipper storage bag in 1925.
He also found out that it could be used as a pencil case for school bags because of its size-but his invention became so much more than just this use when he partnered with Minigrip to sell them on their behalf.
They hoped people would continue using these versatile inventions to store food items but instead, Ziploc®Zipper Storage Bags were introduced by Robert (who was now working at Dow Chemical) 15 years later in 1968.
The plastic that is most commonly found in our homes today, however, has only been around for about 50 years or so.
In relative terms plastic hasn't been around that long, so studies are still going on to determine what the long-term effects will be.
Before plastic, Tupperware was manufactured in 1945 by Earl Silas Tupper and his wife, Maybelle Clark Tupper to make plastic containers that were more convenient than using aluminum foil or wax paper for the storage of food items.
Hence, where the name "Tupperware" came from :)
The dangers of plastic food containers
Who knew that your food and drinks could be contaminated by plastic?
Apparently, plastics have chemicals in them which can leach into the foods we consume.
This is really dangerous because these chemicals might not even end up being detected during taste tests but will cause you to feel funny later on down the line.
Is heating food in plastic containers really that bad for us, or is it just a myth?
This is a really good question.
The plastic containers that are made for heating food do not melt or release harmful chemicals, but the plastic lining of the container can be damaged.
What this means is that when you use a plastic bottle to heat up your favorite dish from home, it's possible that some of these dangerous toxins will leach into the contents.
The best way to limit this chemical exposure is to avoid heating anything in a plastic container.
There are many types of plastic, and the most common ones have a chemical called BPA.
Normally used to harden plastics like water bottles or food containers, it's more dangerous than you may think.
In recent studies, they found that as we drink from our water bottle all day long without washing it out between sips (or after every sip!), we're drinking these chemicals straight into our bloodstream.
These substances matter because they can disrupt the natural balance of hormones in your body.
BPA and some phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which mimic or block these naturally occurring elements within you that regulate things like moods, sleep patterns, sex drives, and much more.
This is a serious issue for people who have hormonal disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or take hormone replacement therapy to treat conditions such as menopause - both groups should avoid any contact with products containing BPA at all costs.
Instead of heating our food up in a plastic container, we should use a plate or glass container.
This will decrease the risk of plastic leaching chemicals into our food.
Generally speaking, the safest food to use is number 1, 2, 4, and 5.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has banned the use of plastics marked with codes 3, 6, and 7 or made from polycarbonate.
The plastic used is number 3, containing vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), 6 with polystyrene, and 7, which may contain different plastics such as Bisphenol-A.
You can also use these methods:
- Line plastic storage with parchment paper or waxed paper before filling it with food and freezing it.
- Heat in the oven instead of plastic containers.
- Cook eggs on ceramic dishes rather than plastic pans to avoid any transfer of chemicals
This will prevent any contact between plastic and your frozen foods, preventing BPA from leaching into the food during a thawing cycle.
The Possible long-term effects of eating these chemicals over time
There are several studies linking plastic chemicals to diabetes, obesity, and thyroid problems.
The National Institute of Health states that plastic leaching into food is a “concern” for pregnant women and children because they are more vulnerable to the effects of these chemicals.
The importance of researching before making decisions about what is healthy or not healthy for you
It's important that you carry out your own research before you make a decision about what is good for you and what isn't.
You should read blogs, articles, books on plastic containers and the potential dangers that they provide before making any decisions to avoid plastic in your own home.
Like I said earlier. This article is purely for informational purposes.
If you want to make an informed decision about plastic containers then I suggest that you do your own research as well as mine before making any decisions.
There are other plastics that are known to cause human health issues:
- PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) – This is the main type of plastic that is used in plastic bottles.
- PVC plastic (Polyvinyl chloride) – This is the most commonly used plastic in plastic wrap, plastic bags, and plastic packaging. PVC plastic is also used in the manufacture of raincoats, upholstery fabric, paints, and varnishes as well as some electrical equipment including computer cables.
- Polypropylene - These are typically used as single-use containers like plastic cutlery or straws. They do not present any significant health risks.
- DEHA (Di-Ethylhexyl adipate) - This is mainly used in plastic food wrap and plastic containers for microwaving.
- HEPA (High-density polyethylene) - When used in plastic packaging, this type of plastic can emit low levels of certain chemicals that have been linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. It is also less resistant to cracking than other plastics which means it breaks down faster.
- Polystyrene - This is mainly used for plastic foam cups or plastic take-out containers. When hot food and drinks are stored in Styrofoam, the heat causes the material to break down into the food or liquid. Certain chemicals that are found in plastic containers may be metabolized into the bloodstream, stored in body fat cells, and absorbed into other tissues.
The best solution is to reduce your use of plastic containers.
Throw them away when they are scratched, chipped, or cracked, and don’t let children use them for playtime with food.
And, if possible purchase glassware or stainless steel instead; these materials will not pose the same health risks as plastic does.
You can line your container with parchment paper or waxed paper and heat away without worrying about the contents of the container getting into your dish.
The concern is that even though plastics do not transfer any chemicals when heated at low temperatures (such as cooking), they might under higher temperature conditions such as microwaving or boiling water for tea or coffee.