Friday, June 17, 2011

Safe Plastics vs Unsafe Plastics

So, we all know about BPA, right? Really? What do you know about it? And did you know that BPA isn't the only plastic-related health issue? Did you know that there are safe plastics and unsafe plastics? I didn't.

Since I obviously don't know what information you actually have on it, I'll tell you what I knew about BPA. I knew it was bad. I knew it was in plastic baby bottles, and that all plastic baby bottles had been recalled and replaced with
glass, and then with BPA-free plastic. That's about it. And I had no idea what the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers meant. I thought it was a recycling code or something. There's more to it, and it could hurt you or your kids if you don't know the facts.

I found all of this out when I was skimming through my "learning" package given to me when I went to the hospital to pre-register. There's a 3 page "Smart Plastics Guide" that has info about Bisphenol A (BPA). I normally don't even read these "guides", and I was surprised by what I read.

..."Studies have shown the main source of exposure for newborns and infants is from bisphenol A migrating from the lining of cans into liquid infant formula and migrating from the polycarbonate (hard, clear plastic) baby bottles into the liquid inside following the addition of boiling water.

Therefore, Health Canada is working with infant formula manufacturers to reduce levels of bisphenol A in the lining of infant formula cans, and encouraging the development of alternatives..."

Advice for Parents and Caregivers
  1. If you continue to use polycarbonate baby bottles, it is recommended that you do not put boiling water into them. Very hot water causes BPA to migrate out of the bottle at a much higher rate.
  2. If you are unsure as to whether your bottles are polycarbonate, check to see if the bottom of the bottle has the number 7 in the center of the recycling symbol. Although the number 7 is a broad category, you can only be sure it is polycarbonate if the number 7 also has a PC beside it. If the bottle does not have a recycling symbol, there is no certain means of identifying whether it is made from polycarbonate or not. ( I recommend erring on the side of caution on this one.)
  3. Water should be boiled and allowed to cool to luke warm in a non-polycarbonate container before transferring into baby bottles. This advice is consistent with proper instructions for the preperation of infant formula. (If you want to read that, it'll be on the website.)
It goes on to talk about proper ways to sterilize bottles, and how breastfeeding is the best food for optimal growth in newborns and infants. If y
What Plastic Labels Mean
Not all containers are labeled and a recycling symbol on a product doesn't mean it's recyclable. Commonly, only #1 and #2 with narrow necks are
recyclable, but some communities recycle other plastics with narrow necks. Check with your l
ocal municipality or waste disposal company.
  • A recycling symbol with the #1 in it (which could have "PETE" labeled under the symbol) PETE: Polyethylene terephthalate ethylene, used for soft drink, juice, water, detergent, cleaner and peanutbutter containers.
  • A recycling symbol with the #2 in it (which could have "HDPE" labeled under the symbol) HDPE: High density polythylene, used in opaque plastic milk and water jugs, bleach, detergent, and shampoo bottles, and some plastic bags.
  • A recycling symbol with the #4 in it (which could have "LDPE" labeled under the symbol) LDPE: Low density polythylene, used in grocery store bags, most plastic wraps and some bottles.
  • A recycling symbol with the #5 in it (which could have "PP" labeled under the symbol) PP: Polypropylene, used in most Rubbermaid, deli soup, syrup, and yogurt containers, straws and other clouded plastic containers, inclucing baby bottles.
  • A recycling symbol with the #3 in it (which could have a "V" labeled under the symbol) PVC or V: Polyvinyl chloride, used for cling wrap, some plastic squeeze bottles, cooking oil and peanut butter jars, detergent and window cleaner bottles.
  • A recycling symbol with the #6 in it (which could have a "PS" labeled under the symbol) PS: Polystyrene, used in styrofoam food trays, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, carry-out containers and opaque plastic cutlery.
  • A recycling symbol with the #7 in it (or any other # not listed) OTHER: Usually polycarbonate, usedin most platic baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, "sport" water bottles, metal food can liners, clear plastic "sippy" cups and some clear plastic cutlery. New bio-based plastics may also be labeled #7.
PVC: The toxic Plastic
Polyvinyl chloride, also known as vinyl or PVC, poses risks to both the environment and human health. PVC is also the least recyclable plastic.
  • Vinyl chloride workers face elevated risk of liver cancer.
  • Vinyl chloride manufacturing creates air and water pollution near the factories, often located in low-income neighbourhoods.
  • PVC needs additives and stabilizers to make it usable. For example, lead is often added for strength, while plasticizers are added for flexibility. These toxic additives contribute to further pollution and human exposure.
  • DIOXIN in air emmissions from PVC manufacturing and disposal or from incineration of PVC products settles on grasslands and accumulates in meat and dairy products and ultimately in human tissue. Dioxin is a known carcinogen (cancer causing agent). Low-level exposures are associated with decreased birth weight, learning and behavioural problems in children, suppressed immune function and disruption of hormones. in the body.
Health concerns with food use of plastics
BPA (#7)
A chemical that mimics the action of the humane hormone estrogen, can leach from polycarbonate plastic. Human exposure to BPA is widespread. A CDC study detected BPA in the urine of 95% of adults.
  • BPA has been found to stimulate prostate cancer cells and cause breast tissue changes in mice that resemble early stages of breast cancer in both mice and humans.
  • One study found an association between ovarian dysfunction and higher levels of BPA in urine.
  • Early life exposure to BPA can also cause genetic damage. Research shows that BPA causes chromosomal errors at low levels which in mice can lead to spontaneous miscarriages and birth defects.
  • In humans, one study found that women with a history of recurrent miscarriages had over 3fold higher levels of BPA in their blood compared to women without a miscarriage history.
Exposure to BPA (#7) can cause the following adverse effects:
  • Early onset of puberty, and stimulation of mammary glad development in females.
  • Changes is gender-specific behaviour
  • Increased prostate size
  • Decreased sperm production
  • Altered immune function
  • Behavioral effects including hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, impaired learning and other changes in behaviour.
DEHA (#3) is one of several plasticizers (softeners) to which people have daily exposure through food, water, air, and consumer products. PVC cling wrap contains DEHA, which can leach into oily foods on contact and when heated. DEHA exposure is linked to negative effects on the liver, kidney, spleen, bone formation and body weight. It is also a possible human carcinogen (cancer causing agent), affecting the liver.
Styrene (#6) can leach from polystyrene plastic. It is toxic to the brain and nervous system, among workers with long-term exposures, but also has been found to adversely affect red blood cells, liver, kidneys and stomanch in animal studies. Aside from food containers, children can be exposed to styrene from secondhand cigarette smoke, off-gassing of building materials, auto exhaust fumes and drinking water.
Young children's immature immune systems, rapid development and different eating patterns make them more vulnerable to these toxic exposures. Long term exposures to these chemicals or a few large exposures at a critical time in development could adversely impact children's health.
DISCARD old, scratched polycarbonate baby bottles and "sippy" cups. Plastic that shows signs of wear-such as scrates or a cloudy, crackled appearance-more readily leaches chemicals. Scratches can also harbor bacteria.
Now, there's more about all of this on the Health Canada website, and at:

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