Into Well Being, PC

Noel John M. Carrasco, M.D., FAAP

Pat Murphy Carrasco, BSN, MFA, CMHT

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Healthier Living with Plastics

07 January 2007

by Dr. Noel John M, Carrasco

After recently buying some beverages (juice, nectars) in plastic containers, I reviewed the type of plastic composition they were in and was quite surprised at what I had learned. I transferred the liquid into glass bottles. So I wish to share this with you.

Admittedly plastic food wraps and containers play an important role in protecting us against the dangers of food-born illnesses- it helps keep foods fresh, handy and portable. It's also durable and lightweight, but recent studies show that Plastics affects both our food and health. Not all plastics are created equal, and some are safer to use than others.

A Closer Look - are plastics permeated with peril?

Plastic chemicals have been shown to alter normal development, biologic function, disrupt normal hormonal activity and may reduce immunity, alter behavior in adults and cause cancers and irreversible organ damage in fetuses and children. The most offensive of these chemicals are bisphenol A (BPA), adipates, phthalates and other plasticizers. Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) found that BPA simulates the action of estrogen when tested in human breast cancer cells. A recent study on the decrease in male rats testosterone from exposure to BPA is significant enough to evaluate the risk in humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention detected BPA in the urine of a majority of the thousands of people it tested in the United States.

Have you ever wondered about those little numbers with the chasing arrows around them, on the bottom of plastic containers? The numbers on the bottom of plastic containers are “resin ID codes” intended for sorting in recycling. It doesn’t mean it is made from recycled plastic.

The following is a translation::

#1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) _Products: Soft drink bottles, medicine containers

#2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE) _Products: Toys, bottles for milk, water, detergent, shampoo, motor oil _

#3 Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC) _Products: Pipe, meat wrap, cooking oil bottles _

#4 Low density polyethylene (LDPE) _Products: Wrapping films, grocery bags _

#5 Polypropylene (PP)_Products: Syrup bottles, yogurt tubs, diapers _

#6 Polystyrene (PS) _Products: Coffee cups, clam-shell take-out containers _

#7 Other (usually polycarbonate) _Products: Medical storage containers, some Nalgene water bottles.

Some specifics:

The #7 recycling code means other plastics but most, including baby bottles, some sports water bottles, microwave ovenware, the plastic coating for metal cans and eating utensils contain polycarbonate plastic made with BPA (bisphenol A). This chemical, which has estrogenic effects, can leach into the beverages or food contained within the container and is a good reason to avoid it.

Microwave safe merely means the plastic won’t melt and doesn’t guarantee that chemicals will not leach into food. Professor of reproductive biology at the University of Missouri-Columbia Fredrick vom Saal PhD. studies the effects of chemicals in plastics states, “Many countries, in fact, have banned polycarbonate dishes and cutlery,” and “In Japan, consumer use of polycarbonate continues to plummet” (due to consumer awareness).

To soften #3 PVC plastic into its flexible form, manufacturers add various toxic chemicals known as "plasticizers" (adipates and phthalates) during production. Traces of these chemicals can leak out of PVC when it comes in contact with foods. Remember heat speeds up this chemical migration. The plastics on many pre-wrapped foods at the grocery shops is usually made up of polyvinyl chloride heavy in plasticizers that cause damage to the liver, kidney, lungs and reproductive systems. This leaching process continues over time, so the longer it is wrapped the more will be leached into your food. It is also wise to unwrap foods bought in plastic and to rewrap them in wax paper, or place in non-plastic containers (glass or ceramic). Cheese is particularly vulnerable since fat increases leaching.

#1 PETE plastic water bottles have been shown to leach antimony into water, but are below drinking standard allowances and considered safe. It's important to remember that for any prolonged period of time leaving water in any plastic bottle allows for chemical leaching to occur.

My advice:

Avoid products, that contain bisphenol A (BPA), #6 polystyrene (_often found in foam containers and cups and sometimes in clear disposable takeout containers, plastic cutlery, and cups. Polystyrene may leach styrene, a possible human carcinogen, into food it comes in contact with. Therefore don’t nuke {heat} drinks in them), #3 polyvinyl chloride {PVC}, or di- (2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA).

Adopt a one-use and-Toss, philosophy.

Microwave food in glass or ceramic, , never in plastic. _

Once opened, , notice the canned products that are lined with plastic and try to avoid them, as they don’t mention whether they contain BPA. _

For baby bottles change over, to those made of glass or opaque pastel-colored #4 or #5 plastic (nontoxic bottles are offered by Gerber and Evenflo, also Born Free or Medela bottles). The sippy toddler cups are made from safe #5 and polyethylene #2 plastic and I have no overt concern about them.

To freeze food in bags, its fine if made from polyethylene and polypropylene, plastics that don’t appear to pose health problems. But use non-plastic containers in the refrigerator or in the pantry.

Use plastics wisely and protect both your health and your food.

Wishing you health and wellness,

Dr. C,

For further information on plastics visit and for 7 Misconceptions about Plastic and Plastic Recycling

If you have found this information helpful, email me at . I offer individual consultations providing the opportunity to be more specific and give you greater detail.

IntoWellBeing does not warrant and shall have no liability for information provided in this newsletter or on . Each individual person, or material may react differently to a particular suggested use. It is recommended that before you begin to use any substance, you read the directions carefully and test it first. Should you have any health care-related questions or concerns, please call or see your physician or other health care provider.


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