Understanding the Safety of Kitchen Plastic

It’s everywhere, in mobile phones, in cars, in our homes and even in our kitchens. Plastic is an integral part of our lives. Plastic bottles, plastic container, plastic spoons seem to dominate the kitchens. It’s easy to handle and it’s cheap! But is it safe? The researchers do not think so. Those pretty plastic containers storing food, microwave containers, the water bottles spell doom for your health. Plastic is killing every minute, slowly but surely.

Plastic is made by a process called polymerization where monomers are combined into polymers under great heat and pressure. A monomer is a single molecule that can combine with other molecules to form a polymer. The polymer is then mixed with additives for the diverse uses of plastic like sun glasses, microwave containers etc. Moreover plastic is treated with plasticizers like adipates and phthalates to brittle plastics like PVC to make them more durable. DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) is the most widely used plasticizer in PVC.

<u>Heath concerns:</u>

Studies have indicated that plastic is harmful in the long run since the chemical released have been found to interfere with hormone functions and are suspected human carcinogen. The cause of concern is mainly due to the following:

1. Additives:

The additives used in the plastic are usually toxic. DEHP has been banned by the European Union for this very reason.

2. Monomers:

Even tough the polymers that make up the plastic may not be toxic; when the product degenerates it breaks down into monomers which again in most of the cases are toxic.

Understanding the code:

Flip over your favorite plastic food storage container and check the recycling code number. Plastic items are marked with a resin identification coding system (the number surrounded by arrows), which stand for: 1. Polyethylene terephthalate (PETE) 2. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) 3. Vinyl, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 4. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) 5. Polypropylene (PP) 6. polystyrene (PS) 7. Other (includes polycarbonate, acrylic, polylactic acid, and fiberglass)

If you spy a number 3 or 7, well, those containers should probably go to the craft room or garage to store buttons or screws rather than food. Number 3 is PVC which has deadly DEHP and number 7 includes several plastic types but it is predominantly polycarbonate which contains a toxin called as bisphenol A (BPA). Studies have shown that BPA has adverse effects on the reproductive system.

Most plastics degrade very slowly and in semi decomposed state the toxic additives tend to flow into the soil. This in turn seeps into our water system and garden plants ultimately finding its way into our body. Healthier Alternatives:

Even tough plastics cannot be totally isolated from our lives, there is a vast variety of alternatives which can be easily replace plastic in our kitchens:

1. Glass:

Glass can be used in a variety of kitchen accessories like containers, glasses, bowls and bottles. Glass milk bottles are a better alternative than the plastic bags.

2. Ceramic:

Ceramic plates and bowls are both microwavable and durable and are not very costly than plastic.

3. Metals:

Stainless steel is the cheapest and the cleanest alternative to plastic. Stainless steel can be used for containers and other kitchen utensils. Brass tough costly is a healthier alternative to plastic.

4. Bio-based plastic:

Bio-based plastics can be made out of products obtained from raw materials produced by a natural living or growing systems, such as starch and cellulose. The advantage of bio-polymers is that they readily degrade and can be composted.

With so many easily available options it should be easy to get plastic out of the kitchen. A safe kitchen is always a healthy kitchen.

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