It could cause organ failure and even death in high doses.
The Daily Mail reports:
"... researchers ... studied four different acrylic adhesives commonly used on food labels. They examined in detail 11 compounds found in the glues, four of which seeped through the packaging. Three of these had low toxicity while the remaining compound belonged to the highest risk category."
As depressing as it might be to be reminded of yet another hidden health hazard, it's still important to become informed so you can make the healthiest choices possible for you and your family.
As it turns out, not only do you run the risk of ingesting dangerous hormone-mimicking chemicals like BPA and phthalates when you eat food packaged (or stored) in plastic containers, the sticky labels on those packages may also be leaching potent toxins into your food.
When it comes to plastic chemicals like BPA and phthalates, even tiny concentrations can cause health problems down the road. Likewise, the toxins from labels stuck to food items like fresh meats, vegetables, and various sauces, appear to leach through into the food at levels that could raise safety concerns.
Food Labels Contain a Cocktail of Chemicals
In this particular study, the researchers investigated four commonly used water-based adhesives. Each adhesive was adhered to six types of packaging material to assess how the chemicals were absorbed by each respective packaging, and whether or not, and how much, could seep through to contaminate the food.
Of the 11 chemicals present in the four adhesives, one is in the "high toxicity" class, and the remaining 10 are considered to be mildly toxic.
The most toxic compound, 2,4,7,9-tetramethyldec-5-yne-4,7-diol, was present in two of the four adhesives tested. In addition to being highly toxic, this chemical is also capable of passing through even the thickest packaging material, couche paper, which measures 70 micrometers thick.
The researchers estimated that the typical daily intake of this toxin from food is likely around 0.26mg per day.
There's no official safety limit for this chemical, but the researchers extrapolated a theoretical maximum intake based on the chemical's structure and its toxicity class, and suggest the maximum daily exposure should be 0.09mg/day.
So, depending on the types of packaging your food comes in, and the type of adhesive used to attach the label, your intake could easily be double or triple the theoretical "safe" limit!
What Else is Hidden in Your Plastic Food Containers?
There are so many reasons for ditching plastic; it could easily fill a book or two. But once you realize the basic hazards, it becomes clear that the healthiest solution is not to try to find a safe plastic, but rather to avoid plastic altogether, and I'll offer some guidelines for how to do that in a moment.
To give you an idea of how pervasive the problem is, just take a look at this short list below. The Ecology Center in Berkeley, California has put together an excellent list that exposes just what kinds of plastic toxins are in the products you use, and I recommend reviewing the entire list, but here are some highlights:
- Salad dressing and cooking oil bottles: This plastic container is made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which leaches plasticizers (lead, cadmium, mercury, phthalates and the carcinogen, diethyl hexyphosphate) into your food.
- Soda bottles, water bottles, peanut butter jars and cooking oil bottles: Made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the leach acetaldehyde -- a probable human carcinogen, according to the EPA -- into your food and drinks.
- Meat trays, foam take-out food containers and cups, foam packing materials: Made from polystyrene (PS), these materials leach styrene, which can damage your nervous system, into your food.
What's the Answer?
The simplest and safest choice is to switch from plastic packaging to glass.
Now, I realize that you won't have the option of choosing your packaging when you purchase foodstuff at your regular grocery store.
This is yet another reason for buying most of your food from a local farmer or co-op. It's really the ideal way to shop for a number of reasons. Organic, locally-grown food will offer you greater nutrition, less exposure to pesticides and other harmful food additives, and you'll have less toxic packaging materials to deal with, since the food is not pre-packaged and pre-labeled.
However, you can select sauces and soups packaged in glass canisters instead of plastic tubs or cans, for example, and many stores allow you to purchase fresh meats and seafood at the counter, where they tend to use paper wrap instead of plastic wrap, and the label on your package isn't on there for very long.
Here are a few other suggestions to reduce your overall exposure to various plastic toxins and the chemicals found in adhesive labels:
- Look for products that come in glass jars instead of cans or plastic tubs
- Store food and beverages in glass containers only. As you phase out your plastics, get rid of those marked with a recycling label No. 7 first, as they are most likely to contain BPA.
- Avoid microwaving your food and never heat food or drinks in a plastic container or covered with plastic wrap.
- If you use plastic kitchenware make sure it's in good shape. Don't put it in the dishwasher or wash with harsh detergents which can be absorbed into the plastic and then transferred to your food.
- Avoid buying bottled water. Filter your own using a reverse osmosis system, and store your water in glass bottles instead.