Sippy cups, Saran Wrap, Tupperware, Ziplock Bags: What do all these items have in common? They are all plastic and may contain chemicals that can leach into your food and harm you and your family. Everywhere you look in your home you will find plastic. It is seemingly unavoidable and it can be dangerous. Figuring out which plastics are harmful and which ones are safe can be quite confusing. Here are a few quick tips to deciphering the mystery and some safer alternatives.
If you look on the bottom of a plastic cup, bottle or container you will find what looks like a recycle symbol with a number inside. That number corresponds with the type of plastic that item is. By checking that number you can tell if the plastic is safe. Those considered safe for food storage are Polypropylene #5, High Density Polyethylene #2, and Low Density Polyethylene # 4. All other numbers are not considered safe for food preparation or storage. When I say “safe” I am saying that the plastic is not known to leach chemical substances into food. As a side note, even if a plastic is considered safe for food storage, you should never microwave or heat food in plastic containers. We will talk about the dangers of microwaving in a future article.
The danger in plastic lies in a chemical compound know as Bisphenol A(BPA) which even in small amounts can produce genetic abnormalities. Bisphenol A, like Parabens and other chemicals, mimic estrogen and disrupts the body’s natural hormone production. Much attention has been given recently to this chemical because of its overwhelming presence in
plastic baby bottles. There is speculation that because of the hormone disrupting properties associated with Bisphenol A, that it may contribute to early puberty. It is also carcinogenic and a likely neurotoxin.
By now, you are probably wondering what you can do to eliminate your health risks from constant exposure to plastic. We are so fortunate to have resources to turn to, especially recently with all the new information on plastic dangers. The first step is to go through your kitchen and determine which plastic you have is safe for food. Once you have thrown all your unsafe plastic into the recycle bin you can purchase glass storage containers. Some may have plastic lids and if so, you do not want the food to touch the top when the container is closed.
What about plastic water bottles?
Your best bet is to have your tap water independently tested and purchase a filter accordingly. Store the water in a glass container in your refrigerator.
On top of the possibility of chemicals leaching into the water, plastic bottles create massive amounts of waste.
Did you know that if you do not separate the bottle from the lid before placing it in the recycle bin that it ends up in the landfill? Even with the best of intentions, the landfills are being overwhelmed with garbage, much of which should have been recycled and reused.
When you are on the go, you have many eco-friendly options for water carrying. Some of my favorites are Kleen Kanteen Stainless Steel water bottles. They come in many sizes, even a sippy size, to accommodate everyone. The tops are made from a non-leaching plastic and you can get thermal sleeves to help keep you water chilled.
I have noticed in using Kleen Kanteen that the water will have a bit of a metallic taste.
Other options include SIGG bottles which are aluminum on the outside and an impermeable alloy on the inside. They come in many sizes, colors and designs which are fun for children.
Thermos also makes bottles that are similar to SIGG. Nalgene makes a bottle that is made from a non-leaching plastic but be sure to double-check as there was a line that was not safe awhile back. For Bisphenol A-free baby bottles, try the Born Free brand.
Many parents face a dilemma when packing their children’s lunches. There is so much plastic and so much waste! A convenient and safer solution is the Laptop Lunchbox. It is made of a safe plastic and has separate, removable compartments for different foods. It even comes with a cookbook to help you prepare the healthiest lunches that you can for your children. They are dishwasher safe and easy to clean.
Using reusable lunch bags also helps out the environment. There are some really cute bags you can purchase online or at your local health food store that are made from safe materials and are geared towards the eco-friendly parent. Some favorites of mine are Mimi the Sardine bags, Basura bags and Built NY Munchlers.
To wrap sandwiches, Wrap N Mat has a convenient solution. Also made from safe material, Wrap N Mats are a convenient way to have a lunch wrapper and placemat all in one.
Armed with this information and some simple alternatives, I hope that navigating the world of safe vs. dangerous plastics is a little bit easier. By changing what we use in our homes makes a statement for what we stand for. We may feel like we are not making a difference in the world, but we sure are making a huge difference in our homes for our health and the health of our families. Be safe!