Toxins in Plastics
Plastics are now the most important material type used in food packaging – whether in the form of plastic-lined boxes, bottles, wrappers, plastic films, plastic-lined cartons or plastic bags. Today, there are few “convenience” or takeaway foods and supermarket food supplies that aren’t plastic-packed in some way. Your take-away lunch and some instant noodles sold come in Styrofoam packs or plastic cups. Some of the cakes or pastries you buy come packed in clingwrap or boxes with plastic windows. The supermarket meat you buy comes in a Styrofoam tray with a clingwrap wrapped over it. Then there are foods that come packaged in plastic bags. How safe are these packaging?
Ever get the feeling that your cheese tastes a bit like plastic? There might be a good reason. Chemicals in the plastic wrap used to wrap the cheese could have migrated into the cheese. The wrapper can have plasticizers – toxic chemical additives that give the wrap its “stretch and cling” quality – in it. Because most plasticizers are soluble in oils and have a special affinity to fats, they leach easily into fatty foods like cheese, butter, baked goods, mayonnaise and meats. More will move into foods that are heated up or left in contact with the plastic wrap for a number of days.
Toxic plasticizers, according to tests conducted by Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the UK, can be found in instant noodles, infant formula, fresh chicken, beef, lamb, pork, cheese, cheesecakes, cakes, sandwiches, bread, spare ribs, trout, confectionaries, pies, biscuits, bacon, pizza and Swiss rolls.
In addition to eating toxic plasticizers from plastics, you could also be eating plastic ingredients too! Besides plasticizers, other additives include catalysts, stabilizers, lubricants, release agents, antistatics, antioxidants and colorants. Some of these additives are known to migrate spontaneously. Others may interact with certain foodstuffs to leach the substance out of the packaging.
All of the above tests indicate that consumers could unknowingly be consuming these plastic additives together with their food. In some cases, intake of the chemicals have been found to be alarmingly high. Laboratory tests show that high intakes of plasticizers can cause liver cancer in rats and mice.
If you are able to read this, you are sure to have been contaminated by plasticizers. Do you think you need a body detox now? If not, read on.
In September 1996, Taiwan’s Consumer’s Association reported that their tests show Styrofoam containers used for instant noodles leach styrene – touted as cancer-causing agent – when boiling water was poured into them. In their tests, almost 80% of the noodles tested had styrene above 400 parts per million. The report says that consumption of styrene can cause liver and kidney damage as well as irregular heartbeat. Styrene has been identified as one of 200 hazardous substances which the US Environmental Protection Agency determines poses the most significant potential threat to human health.
Besides Styrofoam packaging used to pack take-away food in some fast-food joints, they are also used to package fresh produce like meats, fruits and vegetables. Some clear plastic containers (commonly used at take-out salad bars) are also made from styrene. Styrene also dissolves in water (although only slightly). This means that ingestion can take place even by using polystyrene cups to drink just plain water, or any mixed drinks for that matter. Polystyrene, usually referred to as No. 6 plastic, is the third most common plastic.
Still don’t think you need a body detox? You’re sure one stubborn person! OK, let me try harder to convince you.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) – often referred to simply as “vinyl” – is one of the most versatile of the plastic materials which now pervade modern society. It is also the most dangerous. PVC is used in a broad range of applications, so startlingly diverse that it becomes difficult to speak of it as being a single material: PVC is used in packaging as mineral water bottles, tubs, boxes and cling wrap. In 1995, Greenpeace called for a PVC ban because it was a major source of the carcinogen dioxin, which is created when PVC is manufactured and incinerated.
Increasing numbers of reports have now confirmed dioxin to be a hormone disrupter as well. Another significant hormone disrupter, phthalate, is added to PVC and other plastics as a softener. In recent years, the ability of some phthalates to mimic the hormone estrogen been identified. Phthalates have been found to be weak estrogens which may accumulate in the human body. A recent report by Greenpeace claims that these two chemicals interfere with the hormone system and thereby can affect fetal development, the immune system, reproduction, intelligence and behavior. Scientists are now linking hormone disrupters to the 50% drop in male sperm count over the last 50 years, falling sperm quality, genital abnormalities, and increasing breast, testicular and prostate cancer.
So, are you compelled to detox your body yet?