By Emma Brownell
Plastic is incredibly convenient, but research shows that it also poses real health concerns.
Studies indicate that Bisphenol A, or "BPA," a chemical found in many plastics, can actually leak into the food or liquid it holds. The effects? An array of reproductive disorders that manifest in women as fibroids, endometriosis, cystic ovaries and cancer.
Scientists have noted BPA’s potential reproductive hazards since 2007. In 2008 the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that BPA in the blood can also cause “an increased prevalence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities.” With more and more research pointing to the prevalence and dangers of BPA, Nicholas Kristof, who usually writes about human trafficking, genocide and rape, recently addressed the issue of BPA in an article, “Chemicals in Our Foods, and Bodies.”
With plastic virtually everywhere, how can we minimize our contact without further complicating our lives? Here are a few ways – from how we shop to how we cook to how we eat:
- Use mesh or transparent fabric bags at the grocery store for your apples and broccoli rather than the plastic produce bags the store offers. Not sure where to buy one? Make your own.
- Don’t buy bottled water. Use aluminum reusable water containers and fill them with filtered water from your home tap or Brita.
- Think twice before you buy your corn, juice or soup in a can. It turns out canned goods – while not in plastic -- may expose you to BPA as well. In December Consumer Reports announced that it had found BPA in almost all of the 19 name-brand canned foods it tested. So consider the alternative to buying canned goods – like buying frozen corn or juice in a cardboard container.
- Avoid buying microwavable meals that are packaged in plastic. If you do, at the very least, transfer the food to a glass or ceramic container before microwaving it. Even better, consider making a large pot of soup, a tray of enchiladas or burritos, or a roast chicken over the weekend. Package the portions individually or in family-size amounts and store them for the week.
- In lieu of using Tupperware or plastic containers, store leftovers in glass containers. These are available at most house wares stores, as well as at Target.
- When wrapping up leftovers, choose tin foil or your glass containers instead of plastic wrap. You can recycle that tin foil, too.
- When cooking, try to avoid using plastic utensils – like plastic spatulas and plastic mixing spoons. If possible, opt for the metal or wood version instead. Where not possible, make sure to keep these plastics at lower temperatures – try not to wash them in the dishwasher, and avoid heating them in the microwave. The same goes for the utensils, cups and plates you eat and drink from – if you can avoid plastic, do, and where you can’t, protect it from heat.
Plastic is ubiquitous. Completely eliminating plastic from your kitchen or life would be a real coup. Short of that, where and when you can, make lifestyle switches like those above. In doing so, you might just be helping the planet, along with your health.
Emma Brownell is the editorial manager for The Women's Conference website.