Reducing chemical exposure – for our kids, ourselves, and the planetIt has long been known that certain chemicals are dangerous– poisons, toxins and heavy metals can all have a detrimental effect on our health. But did you also know that certain chemicals commonly used around the household may be linked to cancer, obesity and fertility issues?
Nutritionist Karen Ball looks at staying healthy in a world of plastic...A report released earlier this year by the United Nations, lists over 800 chemicals that are known as endocrine disruptors – chemicals which mimic human hormones, and which have been linked to cancer, birth defects and changes to the growing foetus, decreased fertility, and obesity.
Two of the most concerning chemicals in plastics are:
- Polycarbonate: often used in the production of food storage containers, the lining of cans, and bottles, in particular baby bottles. Releases bisphenol A,or BPA, a chemical now known to cause serious health problems. Whilst this chemical is easily removed from the body, the unknown effect of long term exposure is concerning, with recent studies showing a link between BPA and increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Canada has recently banned the sale of polycarbonate baby bottles, with the EU and parts of the US looking to phase out use in some products, especially children’s toys, dummies, teethers and bottles.
- PVC: used in bottles, cling film wrap and seals on screw-top jars. PVC itself is considered fairly safe, but to make it soft and pliable plasticisers are added, and these can leach phthalates and DEHA –endocrine disruptors known to affect reproductive development, especially in young boys, and have possible links to increased risk of diabetes and obesity.
Making sense of different numbered plastics:
How to reduce plastics exposure:Australia currently has no safe limits set by the Food Standards Code (FSANZ) on BPA, DEHA or phthalates, but the following practices will help to minimise your exposure to these chemicals:
- Don’t reuse BPA container water bottles or food storage containers that are made for single use - listed with symbol 7. Repeated exposure to high heat and detergent in a dishwasher can make dangerous chemicals even more unstable and likely to leach into your food or drink
- Buy organic canned foods. Brands such as Spiral, Ceres Organic or Eden Organic all offer BPA-free options for canned goods. Better yet, buy foods in glass or use the dried bean / pulse / lentil and cook from scratch. A little bit more time consuming but much easier on wallet and the planet
- Stop buying bottled water. Choose BPA-free, glass or stainless steel reusable drink bottles for all the family. Easy to clean and re-fill, reduces chemical exposure and landfill waste
- Avoid use of nasty chemicals to clean the home or for use in skin care (stay tuned for Karen’s next updates on these subjects)
- Say no to plastic bags whilst shopping. There are a multitude of reusable alternatives, most of them small enough to fit in a pocket or handbag when you head out to the shops
- Avoid cling film and food wrapped in plastic. Store leftovers in glass containers, or simply cover with an upturned plate, and choose fresh foods with less packaging whilst shopping
- Avoid reheating foods in the microwave in plastics, as chemicals are more likely to leach into foods. Use glass instead, or better yet re-heat foods in the oven or on the stove top
- As a rule, try to avoid plastics with the symbol 3 (PVC) or 7 (includes polycarbonate), with code 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 considered safer options