Here's an article that'll have you rethinking your microwave-safe plastic food containers. While plastics last practically forever swirling in our oceans, Slate reports that the synthetic material does deteriorate relative quickly -- leaching scary chemicals. In an article about fine art pieces in museums that start falling apart over time, Slate exposes the instability of plastics:
It’s inevitable, however, that even plastic objects kept in dark, sterile drawers will begin to deteriorate chemically…. Often the only clue a plastic is degrading is its odor. Some begin to smell like ammonia or take on a sickly new-car smell. PVC weeps chlorine, giving it a swimming-pool smell, and any plastics with acetate eventually give off whiffs of acetic acid, which is found in vinegar. Other plastics are redolent of burnt milk, burnt hair, celery, cinnamon, raspberry jam, or camphor “muscle rub.”
Worst of all, when plastics weep and bleed they can corrupt everything around them. Chemicals evaporate from their surface and acidify any moisture inside a display case. This causes mini bouts of acid rain that in turn eat away at the plastic in nearby objects—as well as any cloth, metal, or paper in those objects.
If you're like me, knowing that plastics "can corrupt everything around them" with scary chemicals and acids will make you want to replace all the plastic food containers you own with safer alternatives like glass and stainless steel. At the very least, avoid the most dangerous of plastics -- that would be PVC (polyvinylchloride, better known as vinyl) or #7 plastics that aren't specifically noted to be free of BPA (Bisphenol-A), an endocrine disruptor suspected to permanently alter babies’ brains and reproductive systems and cause cancer and other health problems. And avoid heating up food or drink in plastic containers -- whether by putting it in the microwave or by leaving plastic bottles in a heated car.