Think your BPA-free plastic water bottle is safe? A study in Environmental Health Perspectives shows that most of today’s plastics are still leaching hormone-like chemicals.
Just a few years ago, BPA was all over the news because it was revealed that the chemical mimics estrogen. Many plastic food containers contained BPA in the formulation, and studies showed this chemical leached into the contents over time. Companies rushed to replace their plastic formulations with new chemicals, many them with lesser-known effects.
It is still unknown the effects of these small amounts of estrogen-like chemicals on the human body, as most tests have been done on mice and lab rats. The study does not look into this, but focuses on revealing their presence in the products we purchase.
Of the 450 plastic items purchased from stores like Walmart and Whole Foods, 70 percent released chemicals that acted like estrogen. When those plastics were subjected to real-world stresses like sunlight, dishwashing and microwaving, that number jumped to 95 percent.
George Bittner, one of the study’s authors and professor of neurobiology and pharmacology at the University of Texas, Austin, noted that not all of the plastics tested leached chemicals, so it is possible to create safe plastics.
Bittner is also the founder of the study’s testing lab, CertChem, and PlastiPure, a company that makes plastics certified free of estrogenic activity.
Some scientists are questioning the reliability of the study, as wine and some vegetables can also act like estrogen. Others brought up the fact that Bittner holds a financial interest in the testing lab and in a company involved in making plastics that don’t release estrogenic chemicals.
Still, many are welcoming the new research.
“We’ve long cautioned consumers to avoid extreme heat and cooling for plastics, to discard scratched and worn plastics and we feel like this [study] validates one of our many concerns,” says Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group.
She advises against putting plastics through extreme heating or cooling cycles, and throwing away items that are worn or scratched.
While this study may not be definitive, it certainly warrants a closer look into this issue. I already try to minimize the plastic in my kitchen, but it is becoming increasingly harder to do. I was shopping for a thermos the other day, opening them all up looking for ones with the least plastic. When I told sales clerk why, he looked at me like I was crazy. Until we see more research from others in this area, I will be washing those few plastic items by hand.