Remember in Chemistry class when you learned about dangerous reactions? It probably went something like this: your teacher mixed different everyday substances together, and you watched in disbelief as they transformed into something totally weird and different from what you expected. While you and your classmates oohed and aahed, the teacher sent the message that you should learn what causes negative reactions and then avoid them, because your health could be at risk.
Heat and plastic are a bad mix. We’d like to say you heard it here first, but by now, you’ve probably just heard it. And there’s good reason this mantra is mainstream—the toxicity it causes wreaks havoc on all of us.
Heat causes BPA and other chemicals to leach out of plastic. Leaching means the material changes form and morphs into liquid. Gross.
Most everyone knows, BPA is bad news. BPA and other chemicals like phthalates are hormone-disrupting and have been linked to just about every major health concern you can name. As a hormone disruptor, it can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Environmental Working Group (EWG) has pushed to ban BPA ever since studies found that it has leached into 93% of American bodies.
In 2016, a study led by Dr. Shruti Tewar of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital studied 460 children ages 8 to 15 years old. The scientists found that 11% of children with higher urinary BPA levels were diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) versus the 2.9% rate in children with lower levels. Yikes, we may be spoon-feeding our kids their problems.
Phthalates are next-level bad for your brain, body, and babies. But they are found in so many everyday items, like traditional cleaners, fragrances, cosmetics, and personal products. Past studies have linked phthalates with ADHD, cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, neurodevelopmental issues, behavior issues, autism, altered reproductive development issues, and male fertility issues (hi, trouble getting pregnant). Several years ago, Columbia University researcher Robin Wyatt found that children exposed to these substances are 70% more likely to develop asthma.
In 2003, the US Center for Disease Control warned Americans about the negative impact of phthalates and helped fund dozens of studies to further prove the health consequences of these chemicals, which ultimately led to the Consumer Product Safety Improvement bill passed in 2008. The bill banned the use of these chemicals in many children’s products.
Unfortunately, chemical reactions cause even BPA-free plastic to turn harmful when heated. That’s because BPA-free plastics often contain other chemical compounds that behave the same way. Very sneaky.
At this point you might be asking, why do we even use BPA and phthalates? Good question. EWG and other organizations continue to push for a ban of these toxic substances. Wal-Mart and other retailers have pulled BPA items off the shelves. But the FDA has yet to tighten safety standards and still allows them to be used for structure and form.
Moral of the story: don’t put your plastic in the dishwasher, don’t expose it to heat and light period, and while you’re at it, rethink your overall plastic strategy.