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Are Your Food Storage Containers Safe?

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Storing leftovers has lengthy been a method to stretch out the pleasures of vacation meals more than the following days and a lot of a kitchen cabinet is properly stocked with plastic tubs, cling wrap along with other containers. Even though they cut down on food waste, some containers pose far more of a burden on the atmosphere and potentially for your well being, than other individuals. Storing food in reusable containers assists lessen environmental impacts connected with single-use containers, but understanding far more about various forms of containers (which includes the sort of resin for plastic containers) can assist you to make superior possibilities.

Resin Codes

Plastics are normally classified by certainly one of seven resin codes, indicating the sort of resin utilised (the code is typically located inside a modest triangle on the bottom of containers and bottles), as follows:

#1 polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) -Products: Soft drink bottles, water bottles and some medicine containers

#2 high density polyethylene (HDPE) - Items: Bottles for milk jugs, detergent, shampoo and motor oil, (also some toys)

#3 polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC) -Products: Piping, shower curtains, (and some clip-wraps)

#4 low density polyethylene (LDPE) -Products: Wrapping films, grocery bags

#5 polypropylene (PP) -Products: Syrup bottles, yogurt tubs, bottle caps

#6 polystyrene (PS) - Items: Single-use coffee cups, clam-shell take-out containers, packing peanuts

#7 other (commonly polycarbonate but can mean any resin not listed above, which includes compostable plastics) - Items: Medical storage containers, some Nalgene water bottles

The Complications



Even though most industrial processes are connected with specific byproducts, manufacturing plastic resin creates additional toxic emissions than manufacturing glass. Based on the Berkeley Plastics Job Force, making a 16 oz. PET bottle generates additional than 100 occasions the toxic emissions to air and water than producing the exact same size bottle out of glass.

The Process Force stated within a 1996 report that the plastic market contributed 14% from the most toxic industrial releases -- which includes styrene, benzene and trichloroethane-- in to the air. Other key emissions from plastic production processes contain sulfur oxides, nitrous oxides, methanol, ethylene oxide, and volatile organic compounds.

Petroleum - A Non-Renewable Resource

Plastics are created of petroleum, a non-renewable resource that demands new fossil reserves to become extracted continuously. Simply because fossil fuels take millions of years to form, they may be a finite and, ultimately, an exhaustible power resource. The USA, the world's second biggest oil extractor, has only 4% in the world's oil reserves but makes use of practically 30% of all oil extracted every year. By picking to switch from plastics to renewable and recyclable packaging, we are able to conserve this beneficial resource and minimize our dependence on oil.


Based on the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2008, the United states of america disposed of just more than 30 million tons of plastic. Though plastic recycling continues to develop, escalating 580% from 1990 to 2001, with two.1 million tons of plastic recycled in 2008 the reality is the fact that recycling rates nonetheless stay really low (with only about 7% of plastic recycled annually). Moreover, buyers usually think the coding symbols on plastic containers mean the item is recyclable when, actually, the symbols only determine the resin base from the plastics, not all of that are accepted by all recycling programs. Businesses should be urged to make use of recycled plastics and citizens ought to encourage their states to pass and enforce bottle bills and also other legislation supporting elevated recycling.

Individual Well being


Substantial threats to wellness arise throughout plastic manufacturing, use, and disposal, each from ethylene monomers, one of many standard developing blocks for plastic, and from the issue chemical substances added to provide plastic solutions their desirable overall performance properties. Some examples of chemical compounds connected with plastics manufacture are described beneath.

[sidebar1]Dioxins, that are very toxic in even at low doses, are emitted in to the atmosphere and waterways when most plastics are manufactured and incinerated. Even though dioxin levels within the United states of america atmosphere have already been declining for the final 30 years, they break down so slowly that a few of the dioxins from past releases will nonetheless be within the atmosphere a lot of years therefore. In its 2000 final draft reassessment in the wellness effects of dioxins, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concluded that dioxins have the prospective to generate an array of adverse well being effects in humans. The EPA report estimated that the typical American's threat of contracting cancer from dioxin exposure can be as high as 1 in 1,000 -- 1,000 occasions greater than the government's present "acceptable" normal of 1 within a million. Dioxins are also endocrine disruptors, substances which will interfere with all the body's natural hormone signals. Dioxin exposure, in addition, can harm the immune process, and may possibly influence reproduction and childhood improvement.


Quite a few cling-wrapped meats, cheeses as well as other foods sold in delis and grocery shops are wrapped in PVC. To soften #3 PVC plastic, along with other plastics, into their flexible form, producers add several toxic chemical substances generally known as "plasticizers" for the duration of production. Traces of those chemical compounds, called adipates and phthalates, can leak out of PVC when it comes in speak to with foods.

Phthalates are identified to interfere with all the production of male reproductive hormones in animals and most likely to have equivalent effects in humans. Their effects in animal research are nicely recognized and include things like lower testosterone levels, decreased sperm counts and lower sperm top quality. Exposure to phthalates for the duration of improvement may also result in malformations from the male reproductive tract and testicular cancer. Young kids and establishing fetuses are most at threat. Within a move to address these issues, in 2008 Congress banned the use of six phthalates in children's toys and items.


A lot of #7 polycarbonate bottles (like infant bottles), microwave ovenware, consuming utensils and plastic coating for metal cans are produced with bisphenol-A, a chemical invented inside the 1930's for the duration of the search for synthetic estrogens. Bisphenol-A can leach into food in cans or from polycarbonate bottles as they age.

A lot of research have evaluated bisphenol-A as a hormone disruptor, a chemical that alters the body's typical hormonal activity. Exposure amongst test animals to this chemical early in life is linked with:

Pre-cancerous modifications within the mammary and prostate glands;

Altered improvement from the brain causing behavioral abnormalities and earlier onset of puberty;

Reproductive abnormalities for instance lower sperm counts, hormonal adjustments, enlarged prostate glands, and abnormalities inside the quantity of chromosomes in eggs,

Obesity and with insulin resistance, a condition that frequently precedes the improvement of diabetes. plastic storage containers

There is certainly concern that BPA could lead to comparable wellness troubles in humans. Much more than 90 percent with the common population has BPA in their bodies, at levels close to those which happen to be shown to trigger harm in animal research.


PET plastic water bottles happen to be shown to leach antimony into water. A current study conducted by University ofHeidelberg researcher Bill Shotyk, and published in volume 8, problem two with the Journal of Environmental Monitoring, located antimony levels in PET water bottles had been greater than levels discovered exactly where the water was sourced. Based on Shotyk, customers really should not be concerned about drinking water bottled in PET plastic, because the levels located in water are beneath secure drinking standards. Nonetheless, it is critical to do not forget that leaving water in any plastic bottle to get a prolonged time frame will allow for chemical leaching to take place.

The Solutions

What to appear for

Glass, Ceramic and Stoneware

Glass, ceramic and stoneware are the safest choices in terms of food packaging and storage since they usually do not leach any questionable chemical substances when in get in touch with with food. As opposed to plastic recycling, which can create toxic chemical substances, glass recycling is a lot more environmentally friendly.

Safer plastics-#1PET, #2HDPE, #4LDPE, and #5PP

When deciding on plastic containers, even those you will use more than and more than once more, opt for those which might be accepted for recycling inside your location. #1 PET is ideal identified for its high recyclability. Whilst some #1 PET reusable containers exist, analysis shows that reusing single-use bottles can lead to bacteria to develop up in screw threads. A lot of reusable containers are created from a different typically recycled plastic, #2 HDPE.

Quantity #4 LDPE and #5PP plastics, while not as widely recycled, are also great possibilities because, as with #2, most study has not shown leaching of any carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. Some bread and frozen food bags and squeezable bottles are produced out of #4 plastic and some ketchup bottles and yogurt and margarine tubs are manufactured from #5 plastic.

Biobased compostable plastic

Biobased, compostable plastics, created from corn (Polylactide or PLA), or other plants, are decomposed by bacteria when composted inside a commercial composting technique. Though bags produced of PLA appear, really feel and smell like typical plastic bags, in about twelve days inside a commercial composter, much more than half the bag will have broken down, in contrast to standard plastic bags, which may well take as much as 100 years. Sadly, several cities lack composting facilities, which means that numerous these plastics will finish up in landfills, an atmosphere which will drastically slow their decomposition. Nevertheless, biobased plastics, like biofuels, are a building marketplace that, if created appropriately, can give some possible renewable options to fossil-fuel-derived, non-renewable plastics. Ideally, you need to obtain biobased compostable plastics created from agricultural residues (like bagasse, the waste from sugarcane production), which otherwise will be treated as waste.

Be wary of other varieties of compostable plastics that are produced from plant-derived materials mixed with petroleum-derived solutions that usually do not break down absolutely and could wind up inside the food chain.

Aluminum and Stainless Steel

Food storage containers produced of aluminum are an option to plastics simply because aluminum is recyclable, comparatively cheap and delivers even heating capability. Nonetheless, aluminum extraction is really power intensive, so reuse containers like old pots, seek new containers created with recycled content material, and recycle containers when they’ve reached the finish of their valuable life.

Containers produced from stainless steel are also a great option, not simply since the materials is 100% recyclable, but in addition due to the fact stainless steel is simple to clean devoid of any harsh chemical compounds. Stainless steel is also low-cost, enticing, and can not react with foods through cooking.

What to appear out for

Riskier Plastics-#3 PVC, #6PS, and #7Other (Typically Polycarbonate)

At times identified in clear food packaging, PVC, the second most typically utilised plastic inside the planet, can be a toxic plastic risky each to our wellness and towards the atmosphere. Its manufacture and incineration releases dioxins, a potent carcinogen and hormone disruptor. Vinyl chloride, the major constructing block of PVC, is really a identified human carcinogen that also poses a threat to workers through manufacture.

In make contact with with foods, specially hot, fatty foods, PVC may also leach chemical compounds for instance adipates and phthalates, which happen to be shown to lead to birth defects and harm for the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems in mice. Furthermore, most community recycling programs usually do not accept PVC, so the vast majority of vinyl ends up in landfills or incinerators. Whilst a lot of businesses have agreed to restrict or phase out PVC, we nevertheless possess a lengthy strategy to go ahead of this "toxic" plastic is banned from use.

Polystyrene, #6 PS, is commonly identified in foam containers and cups and at times in clear disposable takeout containers, plastic cutlery and cups. It is very best to prevent this plastic simply because PS may well leach styrene into food it comes in speak to with. Styrene, deemed a feasible human carcinogen by the Globe Well being Organization's International Agency for Investigation on Cancer, may well also disrupt hormones or influence reproduction.

Polycarbonate (among the quite a few plastics marked as #7, “other” - do not confuse with compostable plastics which are also marked as #7), normally identified in infant bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, and lining in food cans, can release its major creating block, bisphenol-A (BPA), into liquids and foods. A study conducted at Prefectural University of Kumamoto, Japan, concluded that polycarbonate bottles containing hot liquids leach a lot more bisphenol-A than new bottles.

Although quite a few organizations are starting to move away from BPA, parents possess a suitable to become concerned as 95% of all child bottles available are nonetheless created of polycarbonate, which consists of BPA. The National Environmental Trust recommends switching to polycarbonate-free infant bottles, like those manufactured from glass or from polypropylene (#5) plastic.

Plastics inside the Microwave

Even though a "microwave-safe" or "microwavable" label on plastic containers only signifies that they should not melt, crack or fall apart when employed within the microwave, the label is no guarantee that containers do not leach chemical substances into foods when heated. The USDA also warns on its site against microwaving in single-use containers not intended for that objective, like takeout platters and margarine tubs. Based on the FDA, microwave-safe plastic wrap must be placed loosely more than food to ensure that the steam can escape and must not straight touch your food.

For safety's sake, it really is very best not to heat foods in plastic and use ovenproof glass or ceramic containers with covers. Under no circumstances use plastic storage bags, grocery bags, newspapers or aluminum foil within the microwave.

Right here are a couple of ideas you'll be able to follow to lower plastics and toxic exposure within your residence:

Keep away from single-use, disposable packaging

Get food in glass or metal containers

Keep away from heating food in plastic containers

Bring your personal containers to salad bars, yogurt stores, and so on. -anywhere you are going to be served in plastic

Prevent plastic cutlery and dinnerware, specifically when cooking or heating food; use stainless steel or wooden utensils and appear for recycled paper solutions

Use wood as an alternative of plastic cutting boards and spray your wooden board using a mist of vinegar, then having a mix of hydrogen peroxide, to kill bacteria

When buying cling-wrapped food from the supermarket or deli, slice off a thin layer exactly where the food came into get in touch with with all the plastic and retailer the rest inside a glass or ceramic container, or non-PVC cling wrap (see Shopping Ideas)

It is possible to also write a letter to producers of food and drink packaged in plastics, indicating your concern about plastics-especially if their packaging is #3, #6 and #7. Tell them you will be actively looking for merchandise packaged in secure, reusable glass, metal and recycled paper. Ask producers to get a mailing address by calling their toll-free question/comment line, typically listed on the back in the item; alternatively, it is possible to come across their mailing address on their web site.



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