It seems like plastic just can’t win.
Health savvy shoppers look for a “BPA-Free” label on plastic and canned items. BPA is an endocrine disrupter and though the FDA recently stated the levels of the chemical found in foods are “safe” (this may not be completely accurate) it still may be in our best interest to avoid it.
New research shows that other elements in some types of plastics may pose similar dangers as BPA. A convincing study of BPS, a plasticizing agent used to replace BPA, found that BPS has similar endocrine disrupting properties. Suddenly, the “BPA-Free” label has lost some clout—sure there’s no BPA in there, but what else lurks? The list of those clandestine items seems to be growing. Phthalates are a group of chemicals that serve a similar function to BPA in making plastic more supple—easier to mold and shape. The plastics industry once used a phthalate called DEHP, which was found to be an endocrine disruptor, too. So, the industry switched to two other phthalates called DINP and DIDP. Now research has linked DINP and DIDP to hypertension and insulin resistance, particularly in young people.
NYU Langone Medical Center has studied the health outcomes of DINP and DIDP exposure. In the first study looking at hypertension, they found a 1.1mm increase in blood pressure for every ten fold increase in DINP and DIDP consumed. In their insulin resistance study, they found that one out of every three teenages with the highest DINP levels had high insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, of course, is related to Type 2 diabetes.
When exposed to food items, such as water, but especially acidic products like soda or canned tomatoes, plastics leach their chemical compounds into foods and water that we consume. The researchers at NYU are calling for tighter regulations on chemical testing, and reforms to the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), which has not been updated since 1976. Yikes!
In the mean time, Gabrielle Canon of Mother Jones gives a synopsis of how we can avoid these potential toxins:
The researchers recommend limiting exposure to these compounds by avoiding plastics marked with 3, 6, and 7, opting for fresh food over packaged, and making sure never to put plastic containers in the microwave or dishwasher, where they are more apt to leak chemicals."
The researchers, also publically gave their own recommendations, reported here in PR Newswire:
Alternatives to DIDP and DINP include wax paper and aluminum wrap; indeed, a dietary intervention that introduced fresh foods that were not canned or packaged in plastic reduced phthalate metabolites substantially. Our study adds further concern for the need to test chemicals for toxicity prior to their broad and widespread use, which is not required under current federal law (the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act)"
So, until the research is clear and the FDA steps it up to reform the federal chemical safety act, TSCA, it may be safest to avoid plastic as much as you can. Glass and steel water bottles are more expensive, but they may make a good health investment if you can afford them. You may also want to read our recent piece on BPA in cans and how you can shop to avoid it.
Image courtesy of Amy Rae on Etsy
"Safe" Plastic Alternatives Linked to Scary Health Problems via Mother Jones