Plastic seems to be everywhere. It’s in tubs, wraps, and a host of bags and bottles used to store food and drink.
However, in recent years, more people have been questioning whether the exposure of food to all this plastic is safe.
Is it bad to put hot food in plastic containers? When plastic is heated or something hot is poured in it, it can leach chemicals 55 times faster than usual. Even if it says that it’s microwave-safe, it’s still going to leach chemicals. So, putting hot food in plastic containers is a terrible idea.
Plastic containers are famous because they are lightweight and convenient. However, there are some things you should know about them.
The Dangers of Plastic
Plastics containing or high in Bisphenol A (BPA) are unsafe. This is a chemical that, when one ingests it, mimics estrogen in the body.
Many plastic containers have this chemical, which can leach into food. #7 plastics, or shatterproof plastics, use this.
Here are a few of the dangers of plastics:
1. Possible Carcinogens
Studies have shown that these chemicals can promote the growth of human breast cancer cells and reduced sperm counts.
Pregnant mothers, babies, and children are highly at risk.
It is still a debate as to whether or not we are subjected to high-enough BPA to raise a concern.
A study has found that humans can have exposure to BPA levels at least 10 times as high as the EPA’s recommended amount.
This exposure is considered not harmful due to the volume of chemicals observed in tissue and blood samples.
Humans metabolize BPA more quickly than rodents. This makes daily human exposure much higher.
Because we have so much BPA in our tissues, we are ingesting more than what the EPA finds healthy.
3. Chemicals Leaching into Foods
#3 and #7 are the most dangerous plastics to use. However, not using them will not solve the problem.
Whatever type of plastics you use can leach into your food even faster when we’re talking about hot foods.
4. Other Health Risks
Plastics take decades to break down. However, they do not last forever. The more you reuse them, the more chemicals begin to break down.
Once chemicals start to break down, the foods you place in them will absorb the broken-down chemicals. Severe health issues can arise.
When you store food in plastic containers, you are taking the risk of some health issues. It could lead to the following issues:
- Heart problems
- Insulin resistance
- Other metabolic disorders
Plastics to Avoid
If possible, avoid using plastic containers. BPA is hidden in everyday plastic containers for food and beverages.
To keep yourself safer, use metal or glass containers, especially for little ones.
The Food and Drug Administration banned BPA materials from baby items such as bottles and sippy cups.
However, just because they did so did not mean that all companies followed the rules Other manufacturers continue to use BPA.
So, when you see something BPA-free, it does not necessarily mean that it is free and safe.
Here are the plastics best avoided:
Products such as polyester fabric, beer, juices, mouthwash, and microwavable plastics are the most used of this plastic-type.
Plastic #1 contains polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE, or polyester), considered dangerous to human bodies.
Polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is known to leach phthalates and antimony trioxide.
These pose a significant threat to anybody’s health, whether human or pet.
While phthalates are disruptors of the endocrine system, antimony is a significant contributor to cancer development, skin problems, and fertility issues.
#3 plastics contain lots of phthalates. They are strong and elastic. Toys, containers, shampoo and squeeze bottles, oil jars, shower curtains, and more contain PVC.
#3 is considered even more harmful than #1 because it consists of bisphenol A (BPA), lead, phthalates, mercury, dioxins, and cadmium.
Some #6 products are food packaging and containers, egg cartons, disposable cutlery, CDs and DVDs, hangers, test tubes, and smoke detectors.
#6 plastics may leach styrene, a chemical that is also found in second-hand cigarette smoke, considered to be a carcinogen.
It may also damage the nervous system and the cortex. Some medical studies have shown that #6 can damage the lungs, liver, and genes and adversely affect the immune system.
This is called the other (O), which refers to all other plastics containing polycarbonate (PC).
Some #7 products are water bottles and containers, baby bottles, ketchup, juice containers, eyeglass lenses, car parts, and lab equipment.
Plastics with a PC may leach bisphenol A (BPA), an endocrine disruptor, and may affect one’s estrogen hormones.
It may affect sperm production in men and chromosomes in women. It even contributes to puberty disturbance and has negative effects on behavior, immunity, neurological functions, and cardiovascular health.
It is also carcinogenic and can cause cancer of the breast and the prostate. This plastic is responsible for miscarriage, diabetes, obesity, metabolic diseases, and chemotherapy resistance.
Plastics Safer to Use
While the safest thing is to stop plastic use, specific codes are better than others. Numbers 2, 4, and 5 are safer than numbers 1, 3, 6, and 7.
This code contains high-density polyethylene (HDPE).
Some products include juice and water bottles, some medicine bottles, opaque containers of milk, and cereal boxes.
Although it is commonly deemed safe for use in limited amounts, studies have shown that code 2 plastics can leak nonylphenol, in particular when exposed to sunlight, which is an endocrine disruptor.
This plastic contains low-density polyethylene (LDPE). It includes products like grocery bags, bread packages, film applications, frozen food, and garbage bags, beverage cups, squeezes bottles, and food containers.
It is comparatively safer than other codes; it is still known to leach the endocrine disruptor nonylphenol, particularly under sunlight.
This contains polypropylene (PP), which can be found in food containers, sanitary pads, and several parts of home appliances and cars.
This type is safer and more stable but still does not eliminate the possibility of leaching plastic additives. It has also been linked to occupational asthma.
Safely Use Plastic Food Storage Containers
It’s almost impossible to have a 100% plastic-free kitchen. After all, plastic is everywhere.
Wherever you look, you will see plastics. Because you cannot avoid it, you can at least know how to use it safely.
Avoid Heating Plastics
Although polycarbonate plastic is strong and long-lasting, it can break down from high temperatures and overuse.
Never microwave food in plastic food containers. Plastic containers from packaged microwavable food should not be reused after initial use; they are safe only for one-time use.
Warming plastics by heating them in a microwave is not the smartest thing to do.
Using plastic containers for hot food or washing them in a dishwasher can increase the chance that harmful chemicals will leak out of them and end up in your food or liquid.
Avoid Hot Water
Washing anything with hot water provides a germ-free finish, but plastic containers are not the same.
Cleaning a plastic container with hot water or storing hot water in a plastic bottle is not a safe idea.
Similar to the reaction of the heating of the plastic container mentioned above, hot water causes chemical release.
It can make the water in the bottle or food in the plastic container harmful to some extent.
Create a Safer Kitchen
I don’t want to create any confusion about plastic containers and what you should do with them.
Plastics can never be easily replaced, but not to worry, as there are ways you can continue using them.
Use Glass or Stainless Steel Containers and Water Bottles
I am not saying you should completely cut ties with plastic. However, you can reduce your use of it.
The first step is to let up on buying plastic containers for your food and drinks and buy a glass or stainless steel.
Stainless steel and glass are BPA-free materials! Now you can lessen your worries because you won’t be ingesting harmful chemicals.
Recycle Plastic Containers
Plastics take many decades to break down completely. It almost doesn’t matter where you store your plastics; they will always take a long time to decay.
Recycling and reusing plastic raw materials and converting them into other products can save landfills.
- Upcycle Laundry Detergent Bottles Into a Watering Can – Keep your empty laundry detergent pots, drill or poke holes in the cap, and you’ve got a new watering can. You can remove the sticker so that your neighbors don’t think you are spilling laundry detergent on your plants.
- Make a Piggy Bank from a Reused Plastic Bottle – Recycled plastic bottles will save you money in more than one way. Make a plastic piggy bank and start cashing in on your craftiness.
- Upcycle a Lotion Bottle into a Charging Dock – Make it simple for you and your guests to build a reclaimed mobile phone charging dock. The only things you need are an empty bottle of lotion, a pen, and a box cutter.
It is challenging to have a plastic-free household because almost everything is made from the same materials.
The least you can do is pick the right containers and limit their use to food storage. Consider glass or stainless steel containers for hot foods instead.