Plastic bottles and pizza boxes are not safe anymore
We’ve been doing it for years and now they tell us that it’s not safe. Two separate “discoveries” in the last few weeks have revealed that those hard transparent plastic bottles and containers you use are toxic…and so is cardboard. Those cardboard boxes in which you get your pizzas delivered to your home could well be carcinogenic.
Some types of plastic containers are not safe anymore
The first piece of news was not reported in the Indian media as far as I know but Amit was kind enough to send me the link. The culprit here is the “odorless, tasteless chemical called bisphenol A” which is used in the manufacture of the transparent lightweight bottles.” From what I understand this chemical makes plastic more durable and harder. Well, such bottles/containers are widely used for storing drinking water and for feeding babies and I guess for sundry other things. This is what the article says:
…the US National Toxicology Program, part of the Department of Health and Human Services last week released a draft report on the chemical, saying there was “some concern for neural and behavioral effects in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures…”
As a result of this report major corporations in the US like Wal-Mart have pledged to stop the sale of baby bottles made with bisphenol A by next year. Nalgene, which makes these bottles has agreed to replace bottles containing bisphenol A bottles in stores. The Canadian government has taken a harder stand - it is banning the chemical from all baby bottles in the country.
I’ve written about unsafe plastics (of the kind which are not food-grade) but had no idea that even “food grade plastics” could contain dangerous chemicals. Whether the bottles we use in India for storing water contain this chemical or not I don’t know, but apparently most baby bottles have it. And unfortunately newborns and infants are most vulnerable according to the findings. Both the US Toxicology Program and Canadian expert opinion is that there appeared to be “a negligible effect” from bisphenol A on adults.
What harm does bisphenol A do?
The chemical has been linked (in animal studies) to “reproductive problems and possible cancers later in life” and apparently bisphenol A can also “contribute” to obesity if the person has been exposed to it as a fetus. However, what is the exact level of risk of ingesting this chemical? This is what David Ozonoff (professor of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health) said (to the Boston Globe):
The truthful answer is that nobody knows…and because we don’t know, it’s prudent to avoid something that is avoidable.
I never really trusted plastic, never believed that it was a hundred percent safe…there were too many ifs and buts. In any case, how can anything so damaging to our environment be good for us?
All of us carry around bisphenol A
It’s not just baby bottles however. Hard plastic is used for packaging many products and we all buy them. Plastic is all pervasive. Listen to this:
A recent study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that about 93 percent of the US population had bisphenol A in their body. Infants and young children had higher levels than adults.
There is no chance that any such survey will be undertaken in India…not for another half a century at least! Far more dangerous colours and synthetic chemicals (banned in developed countries) are to be found in foodstuffs and packaging in India…who will care about the newly discovered dangers of bisphenol A?
PIzza boxes contain PFOS
Recent studies have shown Pizza boxes to contain Perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) which is a carcinogenic chemical, classified as such by the US Environment Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board in 2006. It has been shown to “affect the liver, neonatal development, the immune system, and hormone levels.”
This chemical will be banned in packaging from October 2008 onwards “under the Stockholm Convention, to which India is also a signatory.” This will be a global ban but countries need to come to an agreement on it and agree to look for alternatives.
Not surprising to know that the European Union, which is always the first in these cases, has already banned PFOS. So has Mexico.
It has been known for some time now that toxic substances are present in pizza boxes. In Italian studies in 2006, chemicals like benzene, phenols and phthalates (known carcinogens) were known to be “probably released from the cardboard boxes.” These substances can migrate into the food, especially if a hot pizza (more than 60°C) is in direct contact with the box.
Well, I’m thinking our parents were wise. They used glass to store everything…from pickles and masalas to milk and water. Well, I use glass as much as possible but not for storing water. Now I’m wondering whether I should.
(The first two photos are mine. The third one, of the dominoes pizza boxes, has been taken from the dominoes (uk) site)
Related Reading: Metals and Toxins in food packaging
What the world is doing to stop plastics from degrading the environment
Check the weight of what you buy
Newsprint is unsafe to pack food in
Chemicals in our food