The widespread use of plastics represents a source of exposure to chemicals. Plastics are omnipresent in our society, particularly in homes, work environments, hospitals, and schools. Many common household items are made from plastics, including baby feeding bottles and teething toys, kitchen appliances, cables, and floorings. Plastics contain plasticizers, which are chemicals—and known carcinogens—called phthalates that give products their flexibility. They get into our food and water from packaging and containers and, because they’re volatile (readily vaporized), they also exist in the air we breathe.
In fact, the often admired “new car smel” comes from the out-gassing of plasticizers! About the time you smell them, these toxic chemicals have likely made their way through your lungs into your bloodstream and are headed for your brain and internal organs. The damage is typically subtle—contributing not to overt symptoms, but to the Chronic Stress Response.
Consider some guidelines to avoid common exposures to plasticizers:
- Buy meat from a butcher and have it wrapped in paper.
- Do not defrost foods in their packaging materials.
- If you buy cheese or any other fatty food wrapped in plastic, cut off the outer layer in case plasticizers are leaching into the food.
- If you use plastic containers, check the Resin ID Code imprinted on the bottom, which is the number between 1 and 7 inside a triangle of arrows. If the number is 5 or higher, the container is safe to use more than once. Numbers under 5 release plasticizers.
- In the kitchen, use glass containers or ceramic cookware. For your pet, use glass or ceramic food and water bowls.
- Never microwave food in containers such as margarine tubs, cottage cheese cartons, or deli containers. We recommend that you do not use microwaves at all.
- Try to find natural substitutes for plastic products. For example, instead of plastic bags for your groceries, use paper or cloth bags.