Friday, September 4, 2009

All Plastics Are Not Alike

I'm on the mailing list for the Environmental Working Group, an organization that, among other things, disseminates educational material about health and environmental impacts of lifestyle choices. Today they sent some interesting information about picking plastics. All plastics are not alike. Here's the meat of the article, but I hope you'll use the links to read the remainder:

"The toxicity of plastics is not fully understood or adequately tested. What we do know is that most plastics contain chemical additives to change the quality of the plastic for its intended use (examples are to make it softer or resistant to UV light). Some of these ingredients or additives we know are harmful, like the plastics chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) and the plastic softeners called phthalates. Others, we just don't know enough about."

"Stay away from toys marked with a "3" or "PVC" (PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, commonly called vinyl). PVC is often mixed with phthalates, a toxic additive that makes plastic more flexible. While phthalates were recently banned in new children's toys, they may be in toys made before February 2009 when the ban went into effect, as well as in shower curtains, inflatable beach toys, raincoats and toys for children older than 12.

Avoid polycarbonate containers (sometimes marked with a #7 or "PC"), especially for children's food and drinks. These plastics are rigid and transparent, like plastic food storage containers and water bottles, among other things. Trace amounts of BPA can migrate from these containers, particularly if used for hot food or liquids. Soft or cloudy-colored plastic does not contain BPA. A recent study from Harvard University found that college students drinking their cold drinks from polycarbonate bottles had 93% more BPA in their bodies than during the weeks that they drank liquids from other containers.

We recommend the use of glass over plastics. When you have no choice, plastics marked with a #1, 2, 4, or 5 don’t contain BPA and may be better choices.
"When you do use plastics, handle them safely. We suggest that you:

Don't microwave food or drinks in plastic containers -- even if they claim to be "microwave safe." Heat can break down plastics and release chemical additives into your food and drink. Microwaves heat unevenly, creating hot spots where the plastic is more likely to break down.

Use plastic containers for cool liquids -- not hot.

Don't reuse single-use plastics. They can break down and release plastics chemicals when used repeatedly.

Avoid old, scratched plastic water bottles. Exposures to plastics chemicals may be greater when the surface is worn down.

Wash plastics on the top rack of the dishwasher, farther from the heating element, or by hand. This will reduce wear and tear.

Don't allow your baby or young child to handle or chew on plastic electronics (the remote, your cell phone) because they may be treated with fire retardants (learn more about fire retardants and how to reduce your family's exposure in a previous
Healthy Home Tip).
Wash children's hands before they eat."

Read the rest here:

Why you should pick plastics carefully.
How to choose and use safer plastics.
Finding safer, non-plastic alternatives."

The entire article can be found here: Healthy Home Tips 4: Pick plastics carefully Environmental Working Group

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