Plastic per se is not a problem. The polymer molecules it is made from are too big to shift packaging material onto the food. Plastic also contains smaller particles that migrate into the food it comes into contact with.
Plastic breaks down, and in doing so, releases monomer or other chemicals that grant the substance its distinct mechanical properties. So, what’s the risk associated with plastic food packaging, and how can you safeguard your health against it?
Harmful Plastics: What’s the Risk?
Polycarbonates are one form of harmful plastics. They were used to make food storage bottles and containers. Epoxy is used for lining cans. It then releases BPA or bisphenol A that triggers serious health issues.
Further, PVC(1) is used for making bottles, clinging wrap, and seals for screw cap jars. PVC is a rigid and sturdy substance. So, this form of plastic contains additional chemicals called plasticizers that make it flexible and soft. They constitute over 40% of the PVC material. Phthalates and epoxidized soybean oil/ESBO are often a part of these plasticizers that are used for food packaging. Recent research raises doubts about the possible safety of such compounds.
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3. BPA and Phthalates
BPA, as well as phthalates, are endocrine disruptors, replicating the natural hormones of the body and causing a host of health issues. For example, young children and infants have greater vulnerability because hormones impact growth and development. The effect of such plastics on your health can be lifelong. Efforts are clearly and consistently tried in animal experiments or when individuals or wildlife have been exposed accidentally to endocrine disruptors.
Such compounds are damaging to health, due to lower levels of exposure, causing problems such as breast cancer, obesity, infertility, prostate cancer, and diabetes. BPA is eliminated from the body. However, research shows detectable levels of BPA in the body tissue. FDA and ESA have set daily limits of BPA exposure, but scientists are concerned that human tolerance for this plastic molecule may be lower than previously determined.
Additionally, phthalates are used in many products. Therefore, these become impossible to avoid. Swiss studies found those who avoided chemical additives and were exposed to plastic had the same level of phthalates as those who eat junk foods and do not worry about their diet.
Some phthalates are endocrine disruptors, too. DEHP is a plasticizer used for PVC; it is a phthalate. Lower levels of exposure to DEHP can impact reproductive development, more so in young boys. An American study further found exposure to phthalates and increased risk of obesity and diabetes in men.
This is one of the most common PVC additives used for containers or food packaging. It works as a stabilizer and plasticizer. Lid seals formed at high temperatures cause the PVC in the seal to break down and release hydrogen chloride. Further, ESBO reacts with hydrogen chloride(2) and prevents plastic breakdown, so it leads to compounds like chlorohydrins. These compounds make up 5% of ESBO, but they can be toxic. Chlorohydrins are detected in foods linked to glass screw cap jars.
What Can You Do?
With the right mindset and actions, plastic usage as a form of food packaging can be avoided. Chemicals in synthetic plastics damage the oceans, and we need to do our part to keep things clean and lessen the trash produced.
Many of us are fast discovering the way we consume food has to change, and part of the answer lies in modifying the packaging. Plastic food packaging and poor health outcomes are often correlative, so it is essential to deal with two at one go by avoiding plastic covering. Here’s how you can do this.
1. Watch Out for Plastic Packaging
In a supermarket, most unhealthy foods come in plastic wrappers, bags, or other forms of packaging. Avoiding these is as simple as sticking to only fresh fruits and veggies in the supermarket. Buy bulk grains or legumes that can be stocked reusable bags. The cupboard needs to be packed with nutritious items, not plastic and synthetic foods.
Food contained in plastic is processed. Additionally, we need to avoid BPA. Misused plastic packaging such as Styrofoam leaches into the food we eat and releases chemicals. So, avoid plastic bottles and cups. Look for glass-encased items.
Try paper sacks that are BPA free. In the end, it’s all about being aware and alert regarding how to deal with the issue in question. Check that you are eating right and following eco-friendly measures in the kitchen and the restaurant when it comes to plastic use.
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2. Give Up on Fast Food
Fast food is terrible. There’s a profusion of chemicals, processed items, sugar, and salt in these junk food items. Fast food should not be the first eating option. It should be the last. Do yourself and the environment a favor. Visit healthy eating joints and don’t succumb to fast food. Try brown bags or recyclable containers and natural, whole-grain foods instead of those greasy burgers packed in plastic or candies covered in colorful plastic wrappers.
3. Cook in Creative Ways
Cooking at home is the best and quickest way to curb plastics and ensure healthy eating. Ingredients tend to come fresh sans packaging or with less packaging as compared to processed foods, which require being big and attracting customers.
Check what you are eating and what it is encased in. Cooking creatively is all about super simple meals and secure solutions. Healthy whole foods can help you to protect the planet and your diet.
So, there you have it! These are just some of the ways you can avoid plastic food packaging and realize why cellophane can be such a pain. Avoid plastic food packets, bags, cups, bottles, and wrappers. It may seem a difficult task, but it’s easy if you eat healthily and stay conscious of your eating and shopping habits.