April 22, 2008

Hard and Hidden Plastic

Hard, clear plastic is the new food-tainting villain.

Bisphenol-a (BPA) has been shown to cause mammary and prostate changes in mice, and to accelerate puberty in some tests of female mouse pups. So, if you're a mouse pup you should probably be very concerned. But even we folks who are not mouse pups might want to consider reducing our exposure to bisphenol-a. Especially if you are a human child, since you're closer in size to a mouse pup.

According to NYT, it's safe to assume that any hard, clear plastic container is made from polycarbonate which can leech BPA. You know that water filter pitcher you're using to filter out impurities in your water? it's probably leeching some BPA into your water. You're welcome!

Between you and me, I'd be more worried about the polycarbonates that are lining the inside of food cans. To prevent food from reacting with the metal, manufacturers line many cans with polycarbonate. And after the food is added to the can, the can is heated, which can increase the transfer of BPA from the plastic to the food. So, people trying to feed their kids canned veggies are exposing them to BPA.

This is one of those really fuzzy risks. BPA hasn't been proved to cause problems in humans, so no ban of clear plastic water bottles is looming. But Wal-Mart has already started taking all BPA-containing baby products off the shelves. But if you're an adult who gets a lot of his veggie intake from canned foods, are you really at a lower risk is you, say, give up canned foods and eat fewer vegetables? Ideally, experts have recommended switching to fresh veggies for people trying to limit their exposure to BPA. But when you tell people to stop doing what they're used to for food, you don't know what they'll replace it with.

When many people are confused about how to eat healthy diets just considering the foods that are available, additional news like this is going to throw an additional wrench into the equation.

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Posted by James at April 22, 2008 8:39 AM
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Fabulous! More reasons to eat fresh and frozen vegetables.

I just finished watching "King Corn". I plan to blog about it. Afterwards I asked my husband if he thought we could try to have a week where we didn't eat any corn-based food. He said that he could not give up his Coke or morning Raisin Bran, on top of the rest of the quest being expensive and inconvenient.

*sigh* We're all doomed aren't we?

Posted by: Kitten Herder at April 22, 2008 9:28 AM

Interesting that you post this. I heard a very interesting report on chemical levels in pets on NPR last week, which discussed, among other things, bisphenol A, which is "a component of the resin that lines metal cans."

Read it or listen to it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89726772

Posted by: Patti M. at April 22, 2008 9:48 AM

Reading comments on this post, stirring my tea with a clear polycarbonate spoon.


Posted by: James at April 22, 2008 12:03 PM

Live dangerously, James!

Seriously, though, I would like to see the risk of dying from BPA vs. the risk of dying from driving a car.

I firmly believe people do not know how to weigh risk. Look at all the people who said, after the plane crashes on Sept. 11, 2001, that they would never fly again.

Why? Driving is far more dangerous!

Posted by: Patti M. at April 22, 2008 12:07 PM

I think our love of packaging is destroying most other things we hold dear. I long for the day I can bring my own bottles to the store and fill them with whatever I want to drink, instead of buying new one-time-use bottles.

Humanity needs water and fluids to survive, it's true. We don't need fluid to come in disposable bottles and cans.

Posted by: Chuck S. at April 22, 2008 12:39 PM

I was wondering if the reason we can't do that anymore is sanitation. Then I recalled that you can buy large bottles of beer from local brewers and return them for refill.

Of course, the brewery is sterilizing these bottles through a standardized process, and I wonder if people would bother to be that clean--I suspect not.

I am also reminded that the dairy in the next town over sells their milk in glass bottles and the farm near me carries it. I put a $1 deposit down and return the bottle when it's empty. Again, they sterilize their bottles.

Hey! Check this out:

"Beer. Massachusetts leads all 50 states in the use of refillable beer bottles: 16 percent of the volume of beer sold there comes in refillables. In 1998, three other states--Iowa, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania--reported that over 10 percent of their beer sales came in refillable glass bottles [BW99]. Massachusetts, Iowa, and Connecticut have deposit laws, but sales in bars and restaurants or other market conditions may be what is boosting refilling. Pennsylvania's small but viable market for beer in refillable bottles has been attributed to that state's restriction of beer sales to special outlets."

More on refillable bottles at http://www.grrn.org/beverage/refillables/USrefill.html

Posted by: Patti M. at April 22, 2008 12:50 PM

Before the bottled water craze, I'm sure I remember water machines in Supermarkets which dispensed filtered water. I don't remember if this was around the time we were in college or before, but I distinctly remember it.

And as recent as 5 years ago there were big water dispenser machines in a couple of parking lots in Fall River. So, we're regressing.

Perhaps the rising price of petroleum will have an effect.

Even China has already banned plastic shopping bags. I have a pile of reusable bags in my car now, and once the habit is established, it's pretty easy to use them on every visit. One of them is even an insulated bag, so the ability to keep certain foods at a safe temperature while transporting them has actually improved now that I don't use plastic bags so often.

Once in a while I still forget to carry the bags, but we re-use those bags to carry trash; they come in handy during geocaching for cache-in trash-out activities.

Posted by: James at April 22, 2008 12:50 PM

For those who want more in-depth science:

Clearly Concerning
Do common plastics and resins carry risks?


Posted by: Patti M. at April 22, 2008 6:36 PM

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