Bisphenol-A (BPA), a material used in household products such as baby bottles, food-storage containers and the lining of soda cans, imitates the sex hormone estradiol. It has been discovered that even the smallest amount of BPA can trigger detrimental changes in the body, including an increased risk of breast cancer.
However, BPA is not the only packaging material to be wary of, for reports have found all the plastics commonly used for food packaging can leach suspected hormone disruptors. That's why, according to a source from the International Plastics Task Force, the wisest heath choice is to store foods in glass or ceramic containers when possible and to avoid heating or microwaving foods in plastic.
Specific Plastics to Avoid
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or vinyl): used to make Reynolds Wrap and Polyvinyl Films cling wraps, the cling wrap most popularly used in grocery stores.
Polystyrene (PS): found in its non-inflated form in some disposable plastic cups and bowls and in most opaque plastic cutlery.
Polycarbonate (or "other" resins): used to make plastic baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, clear plastic "sippy" cups for children and some brands of plastic cutlery.
Further, since most grocery stores use PVC for their cling-wrapped cheeses and meats, it would also be wise to trim off the outer layer of such pre-packaged foods to reduce ingestion of DEHA--which has been found to cause reproductive effects and liver tumors in test animals. Canned foods, which can contain traces of bisphenol-A from the plastic inner lining of the can, may also be a source of concern.
International Plastics Task Force June, 2005
Many materials used in plastic food containers and wraps have the potential to cause you harm.
Animal studies have shown that low doses of bisphenol A (BPA), a substance used in certain baby bottles, food-storage containers and the lining of soda cans, can cause:
- Early puberty
- Increased fat formation
- Abnormal sexual behavior
- Disrupted reproductive cycles
- Structural damage to the brain
There may even be a connection between BPA and breast cancer.
Lexan polycarbonate, a material used in making the popular Nalgene bottle, may also cause problems leading to miscarriage and birth defects.
There are actually very few materials I would consider to be safe for use in food containers and cookware.
For the most part, glass is the best option. However, its fragile nature makes it an impractical choice in many circumstances. But, whenever possible, you should strive to store all of your food in glass containers. I lug my water to work nearly every morning in a half-gallon glass bottle and am convinced it is worth the trouble.
If you feel you have to use plastic, choose items that contain one of the following materials, none of which are known to leach harmful substances:
- Polypropylene, designated "#5 PP"
- High-density polyethylene, designated "#2HDPE"
- Low-density polyethylene, designated "#4 LDPE"
No need to worry about polyethylene bottles. These are the typical bottles that commercial companies use to store water in. I would just not reuse them for long, as most of them have very narrow openings making it virtually impossible to clean them unless you put them in a dishwasher. If you don't clean them then they will eventually start harboring bacteria and mold growth, which won't serve you very well.
Besides non-stick cookware, there are other potential hazards that you should be careful to avoid with other types of cookware:
PFOA induced potential health hazards -- from your immune system to birthing activities
Is a reactive metal and suspected casual factor in Alzheimer's disease
Potential likelihood of metal leaching into your food and allergen issues
Due to the possibility of copper caused discomfort, recommended to never have direct contact with your food