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Dangers of Plastic Bottles – When All Else Fails, Put Down The Plastic

Posted Jan 15 2009 11:46pm

This weekend my husband handed me an Op-Ed piece from the New York Times and said “you should really blog about this.” The piece he handed me that day was on the dangers of plastic. “Yeah, we know,” you're thinking. “we’ve all heard the scare tactics before.” Over the last year or so there has been much said on both sides of the debate over the inherent dangers of plastic, especially any plastic denoted with the numbers 3 or 7. But what I found poignant enough to share with you today about what this author had to say was his simply, yet unarguable message – especially for those of us with children.

While the discussion will continue to rage about the safety concerns of certain types of plastic, most notably PVC (#3) and BPA (#7), this author felt we should all live by the number one “truism in every family rulebook -- “when in doubt, especially when it comes to children, err on the side of caution.” I could not agree more.

Even though the Food and Drug Administration said just last month that the small amounts of bisphenol-A, also known as BPA or #7, that leach out of containers and into our (more profoundly our children’s) food and drink was not dangerous -- others would disagree. In late August, the National Toxicology Program (a federal program, by the way) reported that research findings showed “some concern” about the effects BPA had on “brain development and behavior of fetuses, babies and young children.” While these studies were conducted on animals, it was concluded that BPA could have a similar effect on humans. Because BPA acts similarly to the female sex hormone estradiol, other research has linked BPA exposure to female reproductive problems, early onset of puberty, and breast and prostate cancers.

In addition to BPA, for quite a number of years now there has also been alarming concern about the health dangers associated with PVC, (polyvinyl chloride) also commonly referred to as vinyl or plastic number 3. Similarly to BPA, PVC which makes products flexible has been linked to reproductive and respiratory complications.

The bottom line is that we should all try to avoid these types of plastics, especially since there are a number of alternative and proven safer solutions on the marketplace today. To keep your family safe here are some important guidelines to follow:

  • Avoid any product made with BPA or PVC. The best way to tell if the plastic products you're using contain BPA or PVC is to look on the bottom of the item in question for the number 7 or "PC" for BPA and the number 3 or letter “V” for PVC. Choose safer BPA-free plastics that are made with polyethylene or polypropylene. These plastics can be found by looking for the numbers 2, 4, 5 on the underside of the products.

    Another alternative to plastic is using glass or stainless steel. Stainless steel water bottles have been growing in popularity.

  • Avoid heating, microwaving or placing plastic bottles or food containers containing BPA (#7) or PVC (#3) in the dishwasher. The incidence of leaching is much greater from heated than unheated plastic bottles. An alternative is to place food or drink in glass or ceramic if you are planning to heat it.

  • Throw out any cracked bottles. “Leaching increases after a bottle has been washed more than 20 times, went through prolonged daily use, or became scratched” researchers noted.

  • The Environmental Working Group conducted tests on 97 cans of food and found that “cans of chicken soup, baby formula and canned ravioli have the highest BPA levels.” Avoid feeding especially young children canned food lined with BPA.

    When it comes right down to it the solution is quite straight forward. As parents we will do just about anything to safeguard our children from harm, even when the likelihood of danger is low – "just in case" we use car seats while driving, carbon monoxide alarms in our homes, as well as childproof everything in sight, among other things—so why not have the same attitude toward the plastics we chose to expose our children to? Just like the old adage says – “Better to be safe than sorry.”
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