Cancer Causes: Reduce the Risks from Plastics

Studies show that petroleum-based plastics leach harmful chemicals into our food and drinks.

Plastics are so convenient to our lives that they have flooded our environment. It is difficult to imagine life without them, but we can reduce our cancer risk by choosing to buy food and drink and store foods in safer types of plastic.

Most plastic containers are marked with a recycle symbol that surrounds a number. That number is how you can determine whether the plastic is one of the safer types or definitely dangerous to your health. If a container is not labeled, it is safer not to use it. In this post, I’ll first list the choices for safer living, then list the more technical info about which plastics cause which diseases.

Here are 2 lists of safer living suggestions, one from and the other from the Health Observation Library.

Safer Choices With Plastics, List 1:

1. Plastics leach more harmful chemical into foods and drinks when the food is oily or fatty foods, during heating and microwaving, or exposed to excessive moisture or harsh cleaners. Plastics degrade from the heat and moisture in dishwashers. Avoid these practices.

2. Select safe plastics that use polyethylene (#1, #2, and #4) and polypropylene (#5), which require the use of less toxic additives. They also are non-chlorinated.
Avoid choosing products that use polyvinyl chloride (#3), polystyrene (#6), and polycarbonate (#7) which often are found in baby bottles or sippy cups.

3. Use safe plastic alternatives such as glass, ceramic that’s lead-free, and stainless steel whenever possible. Particularly use glass or ceramic containers to microwave food and beverages.

4. Be cautious of cling wraps, especially for microwave use. Wrap foods in butcher paper, waxed paper, or paper towels. Store food in glass or ceramic.

5. Look for plastic products that state “no phthalates” or “no bisphenol A (BPA).”

6. Wash plastic containers by hand with a mild soap. (See Footnote A below for link to full article.)

Safer Living With Plastics, List 2:

1. Avoid using plastic containers in the microwave.

2. Beware of cling wraps, especially for microwave use. Use waxed paper or paper towel for covering foods.

3. Avoid plastics for storing fatty foods.

4. For food and drink use only use plastics labeled 1,2,4,5 inside the recycle symbol. Avoid 3,6,7, and items with the letter “V” underneath the symbol.

5. Avoid plastic bottled water unless you’re traveling or your quality of water is questionable. If you’re worried about tap water quality, consider a good water filter. (See my post on Water Filters for Drinking Water )

6. If you do use plastic water bottles, do not use for warm or hot liquids. Water bottles from #1 or #2 plastics are recommended for single use only.

7. Most plastic baby bottles and sippy cups are made of polycarbonate. Use a safe alternative, such as baby bottles made of glass, polyethylene or polypropylene. Those made of pliable, milky-colored plastic contain no polycarbonates. (See Footnote B below for link to full article.)


Some Addition General Need-to-Know Information:

Be aware of other harmful soft PVC plastic items that have a distinct odor, such as vinyl shower curtains. The odor itself is a sign that harmful toxins are being released into the air. The types of plastics shown to leach the most toxic chemicals are polycarbonate, PVC and styrene. Realize that these plastic types have received the most study, so the results do no imply that other plastics are completely safe.

While it is still legal for US retailers to sell dangerous PVC toys (with phthalates), the European Parliament already permanently banned such toxic toys in 2005. One EPA study found that vinyl shower curtains can release dangerous levels of air toxins for more than a month. Irreversible health threats may come from poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates. (C Link to full article below.)

The following quotes specify many of the illnesses to which plastic exposure contributes.

Your level of exposure to plastics can contribute to illnesses such as prostate and breast cancers, impaired brain function, learning disabilities, birth defects, and more. Plastics have been linked to endocrine disruption in babies, cancers, birth defects, and poor brain/nervous system development. Recent studies suggest that BPA exposure can impair brain function, leading to learning disabilities and age-related neurodegenerative disease. BPA has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and to simulate the action of estrogen. Doses of BPA lower than current EPA limits in female rats inhibited estrogen-induction of synaptic connections in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with the expression of sexually differentiated behaviors. Another study found that exposure to BPA before birth permanently changed DNA signaling in rats, predisposing them to developing cancer much later. However, this study injected BPA directly into the subject animals’ blood, whereas most human exposure is via ingestion. (See Footnote A for link to full article.)

Bisphenol A (BPA), #7 inside the Recycle Symbol, is a chemical that mimics the action of the human hormone estrogen, can leach from polycarbonate plastic. Human exposure to BPA is widespread. A Centers for Disease Control study de-tected BPA in the urine of 95 percent of adults sampled. Bisphenol A has been found to stimulate prostate cancer cells and causes breast tissue changes in mice that resemble early stages of breast cancer in both mice and humans. Early-life exposure to BPA can also cause genetic damage. )ver 90 percent of government-funded studies did so. Adverse effects include:
• Early onset of puberty in females
• Changes in gender-specific behavior
• Changes in hormones
• Increased prostate size
• Decreased sperm production
• Altered immune function
• Behavioral changes such as hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, impaired learning

Styrene, #6 inside the Recycle Symbol, leaches from polystyrene plastic. Styrene is toxic to the brain and nervous system, among workers with longer-term exposures, but also has been found to adversely affect red blood cells, liver, kidneys and stomach in animal studies. Behavioral changes include hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning.

DEHA (di(2-ethylhexyl)adipate), #3 inside the Recycle Symbol, is one of several plastic (softeners) to which people have daily exposure through food, water, air and consumer products. PVC cling wrap contains DEHA, which can leach into oily foods on contact and when heated. DEHA exposure is linked to negative effects on the liver, kidney, spleen, bone formation and body weight. It is also a possible human carcinogen, affecting the liver. (See Footnote B for link to full article.)

Plastics and Breast Cancer– At Tufts Medical School in Boston in 1987, Soto and Sonnenschein serendipitously discovered that plastic test tubes thought to be inert contained a chemical that stimulated breast cancer cells to grow and proliferate wildly. Manufacturers routinely add nonlyphenols to polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They concluded that p-nonylphenol acted like an estrogen. When isolated from estrogen, the cells would stop multiplying.

In 1993, at Stanford University School of Medicine, Dave Feldman, professor of medicine was experimenting and found that the polycarbonate bottles used to hold drinking water contained bisphenol-A. The Stanford team found that 2-5 parts per billion of bisphenol-A was enough to cause the breast cancer to proliferate; the manufacturer’s lab equipment did not detect samples at this limit.

One Dartmouth University Study showed that plastic wrap heated in a microwave oven with vegetable oil had 500,000 times the minimum amount of xenoestrogens needed to stimulate breast cancer cells to grow in the test tube. (See Footnote D for link to full article.)

(A) Safety List
(B) Health Observation Library Safety List
(C) Campaign for Safe, Healthy Consumer Products
(D) Cure Breast Cyst Site

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