Sandwich plastic bags and plastic wrap are a wasteful, single-use, petroleum products that I am convinced are not an acceptable part of natural living. When used to store or heat food, plastic leaches toxins into our food that we then consume.
Many studies have now proven that BPA, a chemical that is in many plastics, causes a number of unacceptable health issues in those who consume food products in contact with it. All plastics contain chemicals, and some are not well-studied to prove their safety.
Here’s a list by recycling code number:
- 1 HDPE (high density polyethylene) is another common plastic used for milk and water jugs, dairy product tubs, and plastic bags. HDPE is not known to leach toxins.
- 2 PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate ethylene) is a common plastic used to package a variety of foods and drinks. PETE is considered a safe, non-leaching plastic, even though some studies have found that it can release the toxic metallic mineral antimony over time, especially when subjected to heat.
- 3 LDPE (low-density polyethylene) is used for bread and frozen food bags, squeezable bottles, other types of packaging, and reusable containers. It is not known to leach toxins.
- 4 PVC or V (polyvinyl chloride) is found in plastic wrap, especially commercial varieties used to package deli and similar items. These plastics use hazardous compounds called phthalates to maintain their pliability. Phthalates have been found to easily leach out of PVC products. PVC can also release a material called di-(2-ethylhexyl) adipate (DEHA) when in contact with fatty foods. The use of #3 plastics is not recommended.
- 5 PS (polystyrene) is often found in foamed food containers. It can leach a number of chemicals into foods and is not recommended in the kitchen.
- 6 PP (polypropylene) is found in bottles and food tubs, and reusable containers. It is not known to leach toxins.
- 7 OTHER is a catch-all category that includes everything else. One common #7 plastic is polycarbonate, a shatter-resistant material used in things like baby bottles and reusable water bottles. Polycarbonates readily leach a toxic compound called bisphenol-a (BPA) into food and drink. But new corn-based polylactic acid (PLA) plastics, which are generally recognized as safe, are also labeled #7. It can be hard to tell if a given #7 container is kitchen-safe without additional identifying information, so look for bottles that say they are BPA-free.
Researchers have linked BPA, phthalates, and other chemicals known as endocrine disruptors (these act like hormones in our body and affect our natural hormone production) to cancer, problems in the reproductive organs, and several other health problems.
That’s why six phthalates are banned by law from children’s products, and why the FDA is studying BPA to determine if it should be banned from baby bottles and the lining of food and beverage cans. Plastic wrap does not typically contain BPA or phthalates, although in tests done by Good Housekeeping magazine in 2008, the labs found very low levels of phthalates and BPA in Glad brand “Press n’Seal” wrap.
Studies in the 1990s showed that DEHA can cause liver tumors in mice, and other studies showed that DEHA migrates from plastic wrap into food—particularly high fat foods such as cheese. A 1998 study by Consumers Union tested plastic-wrapped foods and found DEHA levels higher than what is recommended and even permitted by European advisory committees and regulatory agencies.
The FDA, however, has not established a limit for how much DEHA is safe in our food because there is insufficient data on its health effects on humans and no government body has classified it as a cancer-causing chemical.
A University of Texas study published last month in Environmental Health Perspectivesconfirms that hormone-disrupting chemicals leach from almost allplastics, even BPA-free plastics.
This is more likely to happen when the plastic has been heated or when it’s old and has been subjected to repeated use or washings.