Smorgasbord Health Column – Health in the News – The hormone mimic in plastic and inside food cans.

Plastic water bottles, food containers and the insides of many of our canned goods, have been in the news for a long time. Since the 1960’s when we moved away from glass for containers we have been ingesting leached substances from the new and modern alternative. Plastic was heralded as the clean, disposable and convenient way to package and store our food. Most of us are likely to come out of the supermarket with at least bottled water sold to us in handy packs of 6, 12 or 24. Plenty for all the family.

This latest study, although not huge does raise a very interesting issue. Whilst we may have had limited exposure to plastics as children in the 50s and 60s, the generations born in the 80s have certainly borne the brunt of the plastic epidemic. Milk, juices, fruit cordials, tomato sause all came in glass containers and I made a pretty penny collecting and returning bottles to augment my pocket money.

I have moved away from most packaged foods including in house baked bread, vegetables which I buy loose and meat and fish from the fresh counters. I have also now gone back to buying my mineral water that I buy occasionally in glass bottles.

I am not intending to be alarmist but I do suggest that you take a look around your kitchen and also check out your next shopping trolley. Especially if you have children or teenagers. Just how much plastic are they being exposed to. Particularly if they drink a lot of soft drinks or water in plastic bottles.

Gender-bending chemicals found in plastic and linked to breast and prostate cancer are found in 86% of teenagers’ bodies

Almost 90 per cent of teenagers have gender-bending chemicals from plastic in their bodies, according to a study.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in plastic containers and water bottles, on the inside of food cans and in till receipts.

The chemical, used since the 1960s to make certain types of plastic, mimics the female sex hormone oestrogen, and has been linked to low sperm counts and infertility in men, as well as breast and prostate cancer.

A study by the University of Exeter, whose researchers tested urine samples from 94 teenagers, found 86 per cent had traces of BPA in their body. 

Read the rest of the article:

Here is an extract from another article that covers some of the other chemicals that are used in the manufacture of our plastic food containers

The Dangers of Using Plastic Containers

Commonly-used plastic containers today contain a hazardous mix of additives and chemicals, including:

Bisphenol A (BPA). It mimics the female hormone estrogen and disrupts the endocrine system. BPA is one of the most well-known plastic dangers today. Out of 115 animal studies published, 81 percent revealed significant effects from even low-level BPA exposure. This endocrine disruptor mimics the natural hormones in your body that triggers major changes.

Dr. Mercola explains that exposure to BPA early in your life may cause chromosomal errors in developing fetuses. It may also lead to genetic damage and spontaneous miscarriages. Even 0.23 parts per billion of BPA can disrupt the effect of estrogen and potentially harm your baby’s developing brain.

Phtalates are industrial chemicals that are added to plastics, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC), to make them more flexible and resilient. They’re commonly found in food packaging. Phthalates are pervasive endocrine disrupters that have increasingly become associated with changes in the development of the male brain. It is also linked to metabolic abnormalities, genital defects, and reduced testosterone in babies and adults.

PBDEs are chemicals that release hormones in your body and alter your brain’s calcium signaling, which is critical for memory and learning. PBDEs mimic your thyroid hormones and are linked to decreased fertility.

Dr. Mercola says these chemicals do not magically stay inside the plastic, but actually leach into the foods or beverage you put in them. The amounts of chemicals vary depending on how you use the containers. For example, when BPA plastics contain hot foods or are subjected to heat, the chemical leaches into foods or drinks 55 times faster than if they are used cold.

Old and scratched plastic containers also leach out more chemicals. Washing them with harsh detergents or frequently putting them in the dishwasher increases the amount of leached chemicals, too.

The Ecology Center in Berkeley, California has listed the different kinds of plastic toxins found in the products you use, such as:

Soda bottles, water bottles, cooking oil bottles, and peanut butter jars are made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate). These contain acetaldehyde, which is listed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a probable human carcinogen.

Salad dressing and cooking oil bottles are made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which leaches plasticizers like phthalates, cadmium, lead, mercury, and carcinogenic diethyl hexyphosphate into your food.

Meat trays, foam packing materials, and foam take-out food containers and cups are made from polystyrene (PS) that leaches styrene in your food. Styrene can damage your nervous system.

Read the complete article:

What is interesting is that the FDA and some of the medical sites debunk this as myth and that cooking in plastic containers and using foods stored in plastic is completely safe and has their seal of approval.  Having seen so many U-turns on many issues both by the FDA and the UK medical council, especially after long-term usage of a drug or other product, it is my view that their assurances should be taken with more than a pinch of salt.

Apart from our own health it is now clear that the oceans and our wildlife are also at risk of permanent damage from our use of plastics which in many countries is simply tossed into the ground or into the sea.

You might find these facts of interest.

Landfill environments are filled with specific microbes and enzymes adapted to break down trash, landfills have been the standard solution for solid waste disposal for years.

Now, landfills are being overloaded with plastic products that can take hundreds of years or more to biodegrade.

Consider the lifespan of these popular plastic products:

Plastic Water Bottle – 450 years
Disposable Diapers – 500 years
Plastic 6-Pack Collar – 450 Years
Extruded Polystyrene Foam – over 5,000 years

Flexible, resilient, and durable – plastics have facilitated innovation and convenience in almost every area of American life. From our medical supplies to our food storage containers, plastic is a commonplace and inexpensive solution for many Americans. But, plastic is not without its flaws. Strong polymers in plastic are extremely resistant to natural biodegradation processes. This means that traditional plastic products can persist in landfills for hundreds of years, if not indefinitely.

Read the rest of the article and more plastic facts:

There is hope on the horizon but probably not in our lifetimes as the major plastic producers look for more bio-friendly ingredients for their products. However, the majority of plastic manufacturers are unlikely to be quick to modernise their current production plants and methods. But with an industry that is estimated to be worth $660 Billion by 2020, which includes industrial components for the car industry and other manufacturers, Governments are unlikely to clamp down on and risk their tax contributions.

However, on the food related plastics we can make a difference if we move away from buying products such as water in plastic and either filter our own and use non plastic alternatives to store and carry, or move to glass. Perhaps if manufacturers see that the end user is making other choices, it will encourage them reconsider…. one can but hope.

One of the alternatives to plastic drinking bottles.

I bought a couple of stainless steel water bottles for trips and you might find this useful if you decide to do likewise:

I will leave you with this video made by students in Hawaii. Douglas McCauley


I hope this might give you something to consider. Thanks Sally