The Healthy Home : Let’s Get Cooking (part 5) - Our Plastic Kitchen - Styrofoam Containers, Baby Bottles and Water Bottles

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Styrofoam Containers

Styrene—the building block for polystyrene—is described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a suspected carcinogen and a suspected toxin to the gastrointestinal, kidney, and respiratory systems.

The foamed version of polystyrene is what we typically use to pack home restaurant leftovers. Polystyrene is also used for disposable cups, especially those made for hot drinks such as cocoa and coffee. Considering what we’ve just learned regarding heat and plastic, it won’t come as a surprise to note that some studies have shown that chemicals leach from polystyrene when it’s exposed to heat or oily substances.

Yet most people use the “to go” container when they microwave their leftovers the next day and carry steaming hot coffee, tea, and cocoa in Styrofoam cups.
That’s a scary thought.

The leaching of styrene may not even require heat, though. One study conducted by Louisiana State University showed that eggs—still in the shells—stored in Styrofoam containers for two weeks exhibited up to seven times more ethylbenzene and styrene than eggs fresh from the farm. Those toxins are going right through the shells!

Despite this, many egg cartons are made with Styrofoam. (After reading the studies, I’ve opted to buy my eggs packaged in cardboard.)

To reduce our risk, my wife and I make it a habit to immediately transfer into a glass container any food we bring home from a restaurant. This way that fatty salmon or oily pasta isn’t reacting with any plastic, and neither of us will be tempted to throw the styrofoam container into the microwave.

Baby Bottles and Water Bottles

As was mentioned at the beginning of this section, BPA is used in the manufacture of hard polycarbonate plastics, including baby bottles and reusable water bottles. You’ll also find BPA in resins that line almost all food cans—from chicken noodle soup to green beans.

BPA is a potent endocrine disruptor that is known to mimic estrogen, and it has been shown to increase insulin resistance, chronic inflammation, and heart disease.
Again, avoidance is your best bet. Although most baby bottle manufacturers in the United States have phased out BPA, it’s still found in hard plastic (polycarbonate) water bottles. If you’re unsure whether your water bottle is polycarbonate, look at the number in the middle of the recycling triangle stamped on the bottom. If it’s a 7, it’s likely BPA polycarbonate.

Getting rid of a polycarbonate water bottle is easy enough, and you can still drink plenty of liquids each day—as you should. Just make a stainless steel bottle your new best friend. You’ll be able to take it everywhere for years before needing to replace it. If you’re out shopping for a water bottle, don’t opt for anything made from aluminum—these bottles are typically lined with BPA and will pose the same risks as polycarbonate bottles.

You should also avoid canned foods to reduce your risk from BPA. It may be impossible to rid your pantry of all canned foods, but at the very least try to avoid those for which you have fresh or frozen alternatives. Besides avoiding toxins, you’ll also be getting more vitamins and minerals from unprocessed produce.

Manufacturers in Japan have already found a way to eliminate BPA from their canned foods, and I hope the United States can follow suit. As they have with BPA baby bottles, concerned consumers must motivate major food companies to act.
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