Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Health and Safety Concerns About Plastic

It is an unavoidable component of many parts of daily living for most people in the United States and urban centers worldwide. Our food and water is packaged and shipped and consumed from plastic containers and many studies have shown that the chemicals from these containers may leach into the food or liquids they hold, eventually entering and being absorbed by the human body. While there is some controversy about how much is absorbed and how detrimental this is to the individual, it is hard to deny that plastic may pose a health threat to the consumer, even if all the data is not yet conclusive. Here is a breakdown of the latest information on plastics as a safety concern.
The following plastics do have known potential health hazards:
Code 3: Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC / Vinyl. This material, used often in flooring and shower curtains, as well as household water pipes (primarily for evacuation only - they should never be used to bring fresh water into the home), used to be used in cling wraps. The plastics industry is adamant that the type of PVC currently used in cling wraps does not contain the phthalates that are known endocrine disrupters. However, these phthalates may still be present in PVC bottles and toys. There was recent information that many baby teethers were also made from PVC, due to its soft flexibility. PVC or vinyl items should never be given to a baby or child who may put them in his or her mouth.

Code 6: Polystyrene, or PS / Styrofoam. As well as being another endocrine disrupter, styrene is also believed to be a carcinogen. This plastic is used to make some types of disposable forks, spoons and knives and also the "foam" cups such as those sold under the name Styrofoam. Hot liquid can cause the styrene to leach out of these products, as can fatty oils or alcohol.

Code 7: Other "resins" and Polycarbonate, or PC. This one has been hotly contested by the plastics industry because of the high heat required for the endocrine disruptor, Bisphenol - A (BPA), to be released. However, BPA is a primary component of PC plastics and is a verifiably dangerous compound. PC is largely used for water bottles of the type used for delivery services (multi-galon containers) that fit on the "water cooler" at home or office. Many clear baby bottles are made of PC and there is much in the news about the controversy of these bottles not being labled with any code so that consumers cannot tell what type of plastic is used. With baby bottles, this is a real concern, as many people boil the bottles with formula or milk inside them. PC is also used in food cans with a plastic lining. Whenever possible, it is recommended that these plastics not be exposed to high temperatures. The plastics industry insists that they are completely stable under most conditions but some studies suggest that leaching still occurs.
by Jeffrey Poehlmann

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