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Which Plastics to Never Use with Food

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Which Plastics to Never Use with Food

Although the apron-wearing, martini-bearing, housewife-in-heels with her rainbow of Tupperware may be a thing of the past, the quest for a well-organized kitchen persists. To see tidy stacks of food-filled plastic containers in the fridge and freezer is comforting in a primal kind of way. But then comes the procession of warnings about storing and cooking food in plastic, and leaching chemicals, and hormone disruption, and ACK! So here it is: The lowdown on plastic food containers.

Flip over your favorite plastic food storage container and check the recycling code number. If you spy a number 3 or 7, well, those containers should probably go to the craft room or garage to store buttons or screws rather than food. If there is no number listed, contact the manufacturer. (And to be fair to Tupperware, they do manufacture products that are not made of these plastic types.)

Number 3 is polyvinyl chloride (PVC), also known as vinyl. PVC has garnered the moniker “the toxic plastic” for the presence of DEHA–one of several plasticizers (softeners) used in its production. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, long-term DEHA exposure has the potential to cause: Reduced body weight and bone mass; damage to liver and testes; and cancer. The manufacture and incineration of PVC also releases carcinogenic dioxins into the environment and food chain. Although PVC is not the most common plastic used for food storage containers, some are made from it and it is often used in plastic wrap to improve performance.

Recycling code number 7 includes several plastic types (it’s the catchall “other” category–see tips below) but it is predominantly polycarbonate. The problem with polycarbonate is that it harbors bisphenol A (BPA). Studies have shown that BPA damages the reproductive systems of lab animals by interfering with the effects of reproductive hormones and has other serious health effects. BPA’s capacity to cause these stems from its ability to mimic the human hormone estrogen–it has been linked to prostate and mammary gland cancers, early onset of puberty and reproductive-organ defects.

Next: 12 tips for safer plastic use

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

248 comments

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4:57AM PDT on May 14, 2015

Simple but significant enough

4:04AM PDT on May 14, 2015

Interesting, thanks

12:57PM PDT on May 11, 2015

ty

1:54AM PDT on May 8, 2015

Shit. I use plastic too

6:17AM PDT on Apr 30, 2015

Thanks

5:51AM PDT on Apr 26, 2015

interesting

9:12AM PDT on Apr 25, 2015

best is to eat straight in the shop :))))
no bags
no containers
just imagine

( i am kidding :))))) )

3:46PM PDT on Apr 24, 2015

Thanks for sharing.

3:34PM PDT on Apr 24, 2015

So, is a place like Lakeland good to buy from. . .?

8:18PM PDT on Apr 23, 2015

But I have to have something to put food in to freeze it for later use. Is aluminum the answer?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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