While the debate over the safety of using microwave ovens is old news, there are a lot of new findings about the safety of the food you just cooked in the microwave. Many people are consuming toxic chemicals because they were not using proper dishware in the microwave.
I love my microwave. I can’t imagine living without it. I don’t really cook, but I definitely “nuke”. When it comes to what’s acceptable to put in the microwave my attitude was blasé at best. No foil (saw that one on Bill Nye the Science Guy) and if it doesn’t explode than its microwave safe. I was really only thinking about safety in terms of potential fires and explosions. It never occurred to be that I might be hurting my family.
Recently, that all changed when I started reading a series of articles (for work) on the topic. I was shocked and surprised. So, when I saw hubs put a plastic patio dish in the microwave to cook his soup. I freaked. “Is that dish microwave safe???” He looked at the bottom, and NOPE, it wasn’t. And how many times has he cooked in that plastic patio dishware?
You see, the problem is plastic is made up of several chemicals, and some of those chemicals are released when the plastic becomes heated. One of the main ones you have heard about is BPA.
BPA was first created in 1891. Early evidence of its hormonal action came from animal
experiments on rats carried out in the 1930s, but it was not until 1997 that the adverse effects of low-dose exposure on laboratory animals were first reported. Research on rodents has shown that BPA can affect the immune system in ways that may be a factor in autoimmune diseases. There is also some evidence that BPA at low levels of exposure might be associated with the development of Type 1 diabetes. Yes, that’s right, it can cause infertility, obesity, and new research shows it can cause miscarriages.
BPA is a building block of a lightweight, clear, heat-resistant and almost unbreakable
plastic called polycarbonate. It’s also used in epoxy resins a chemical used as a protective coating in metal food and beverage cans. The coating prevents corrosion of the can and thus contamination of the contents with trace metals.
The biggest concern with exposure to BPA is for infants less than 18 months old. This is because when baby bottles are heated, BPA can transfer into the hot liquid. Also, some cans of infant formula are lined with BPA. Because of these two ways of exposure, it is possible that infants get exposed to an amount of BPA that is closer to the level where health risks could occur.
Ban In Canada
The Government of Canada banned BPA in polycarbonate baby bottles in October
2008 and declared BPA a toxic substance in October 2010. However, BPA can still be found in other types of plastics. (Another main source of BPA is receipt rolls from stores. Yup, every time you touch a receipt you are coming in contact with BPA).
How do I know if something has BPA in it?
Look at the bottom of your plastic container. If it has a number 7 recycling code (see the triangle symbol on the bottom) then it may contain BPA. You may also see the number 7 with the letters “PC” beside it. This means that the plastic will contain BPA. A plastic container without a number may or may not contain BPA. The safer plastic containers to choose are those labelled with the numbers 2, 4 and 5.
I want to reuse my plastic food containers. Can I store leftovers in them?
Food containers, such as those for yogurt or margarine are designed to be “single use”. That is, they should only be used for their intended purpose and then recycled. They are not good for storing leftovers because they are not strong enough for freezing, thawing and frequent cleanings. If you do reuse them, make sure to allow your leftovers to cool completely before storing. Do not use containers that are damaged, stained or have unpleasant smells and never use a container not meant for storing food.
Can I use plastic wrap in the microwave?
The health concern associated with plastic wrap is that the food may absorb some of the plasticizer (which is the chemical that makes the wrap flexible). This is mostly a concern when the wrap is heated to a high temperature or when used with fatty or oily foods. If you’re going to use plastic wrap make sure that it is labelled “microwave safe”.
What can I do to reduce any health risks that may be associated with plastics?
- Use glass containers more often instead of plastic containers. They can also be used in the microwave. When using plastic containers in the microwave, make sure they are labelled “microwave safe”.
- Choose glass or products made with other types of plastic (look for recycle codes 2, 4 and 5)
- Allow baby bottles to cool to room temperature after sterilizing them or washing in the dishwasher.
- Do not put boiling water in baby bottles. Allow the water to cool in a BPA-free container and then transfer to the baby bottle.
- Do not store breastmilk in plastic bottles that may be made with BPA.
- Never microwave in disposable plastics like margarine or yoghurt containers
For More Information:
Bisphenol A, by Government of Canada
Questions and Answers on Bottled Water, by Health Canada
Government of Canada BPA Information Line: 1-866-891-4542
- The evils of BPA- science, politics and the media (thescifact.wordpress.com)
- BPA exposure may cause miscarriages (cnn.com)
- What Is BPA, Anyway? (mindbodygreen.com)