Phthalates in PVC: The "fatty" plastic
While avoiding plastic altogether is best, it is still an inescapable material. Here are several tips to help you green your plastic use.
Sat, May 16, 2009 at 10:42 AM
While we devour the flab-busting tips in Elle, we must point out that wrapping your thighs in the wrong plastics could backfire: Toxic phthalates found in soft PVC #3 plastic, including some food wraps, toys, vinyl flooring and shower curtains, as well as in synthetic fragrances, have been linked to obesity in mice and men. And new research finds an obesity connection with Bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical that can migrate out of polycarbonate (#7) plastic sports and baby bottles, as reported in Science Daily this month. Both chemicals are suspected hormone disruptors, exposure to which can tamper with development in the womb.
Below are some tips for avoiding unnecessary chemical exposures in your food and drink. The best choice for the environment, of course, is to use less plastic, which is made of nonrenewable petroleum (except for PLA bioplastics, see below). But reusing plastics meant for that purpose helps reduce this negative impact on the Earth.
* Now that summer's here, keep your plastics cool. When filled with boiling hot liquids, plastic containers can leach more BPA. While that may sound extreme, water bottles left for hours in full sun or in a car can reach pretty high temperatures.
* Wrap your food (or your thighs) in Glad or Saran cling wraps, made of non-leaching low-density polyethylene (#4, LDPE). Glad and Hefty baggies and Ziploc freezer bags are also #4.
* Supermarket meats and cheeses may be wrapped in PVC films, so reduce your food's exposure to potential phthalate leaching by not storing it too long. You can also slice off the outer layer of fat on meats before preparing (healthier for your diet in any case), and shave off the thin outer layer of cheese, which you can then transfer to a non-leaching baggie.
* Choose reusable food and drink containers made of non-leaching polypropylene (#5, PP), including those from Gladware and Rubbermaid.
* Switch your Lexan polycarbonate (PC, or #7) water bottle for one that's guaranteed PC-free, such as the pretty new Tritan sports bottles from Nalgene or Camelbak.
* Polyactic (PLA) plastic, made from corn, potatoes or sugar cane, is also coded #7 but contains no BPA. While not picked up for recycling in most curbside programs, PLA is compostable in municipal or industrial facilities, thus a better option for deli, restaurant and institutional cafeteria take-outs. For products, click here. Look on store shelves for water bottled in PLA.
* To make things more confusing, some new BPA-free baby bottles are also marked #7. To alleviate your confusion, see the updated list of safer baby bottles here.
* What do do when confronted with an unmarked, uncoded plastic container or bottle? When in doubt, don't use.
This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.