Are you giving your kids an unhealthy does of estrogen for dinner tonight? For years now, scientific studies have gone back and forth about whether or not plastics release potentially harmful chemicals, especially when heated — like in the microwave or dishwasher. Recent research seems to once again provide a link between common household plasticware and their release of estrogenic chemicals.
Background Information on BPA and Estrogen in plastics
Many plastics contain the compound bisphenol (BPA), which has been found to act like the hormone estrogen. And, while estrogen is a naturally occurring hormone in our bodies, an excess of it has been linked to cancer, diabetes, infertility, obesity,and heart disease. The concern about an excess of estrogen is even greater when one considers the bodies of infants and children, and the fact that natural hormone levels are much lower in the years before puberty. Some feel higher than normal estrogen levels, in some cases, are causing children to reach puberty prematurely. All of this information brought about the recent push by companies to create plastic products are “BPA Free.” This study finds, however, that just buying plasticware advertised as BPA free doesn’t mean it is necessarily safe. Read on for a summary of the study’s findings.
Research on dangers of plastics
Journalist Eliza Barclay, of NPR News, reported that the research team bought more than 450 plastic items from various retail stores. They specifically purchased and tested items that were intended to be used with food – deli packaging, water bottles, baby bottles, flexible bags, etc… These plastics were then chopped up and soaked in either alcohol or saline (saltwater). After soaking, the liquid was then tested to see if any estrogenic chemicals were present.
- Over 70% of the products tested released chemicals that acted like estrogen when a simple saline or alcohol solution was used.
- Over 95% of the products released estrogen-like chemicals when the plastics were subjected to real-life wear-and-tear like: dishwashing, microwaving, and exposure to simulated sunlight.
- In some cases, BPA free products produced more estrogenic activity (EA) than non-BPA free products.
What should consumers and parents do about harmful plastics?
Of course, you will have to be the judge of how much concern these results cause you. As always, the findings are being disputed by some groups. For me, it’s one too many studies showing a link between plastics and potentially harmful chemicals. For our family, my husband and I have decided to reduce our risk of exposure as much as possible. I’ve already started a “plastics purge” in our kitchen. We’ll stick with stoneware, ceramics, or glass instead. Our grocery stores are filled with plastics, and many of our favorites–yogurt, cheese, frozen veggies, bread, milk, deli meats, etc…all come wrapped in plastic. While we can’t control all of that, by eliminating plastics used in our kitchen, at least we will reduce the amount of our exposure.
What is your opinion of all of this? Will you make any changes in your use of plastics? Let us know.