My husband said the other day, in his own inimitable way, “I don’t think we have enough glass jars in the fridge…”. I think there was an element of sarcasm there. How do you store your leftovers?
But I store leftovers (and food for freezing) in washed out glass jars for a reason. It is becoming increasingly recognised that exposure to particular components of plastics may be contributing to our ill health in several ways.
You may have heard of “endocrine disruptors” – what does this mean? What are they? "Endocrine" simply refers to the hormonal system, the blood-borne chemical messengers in our body. They travel from gland to gland delivering important messages. The cells receive these messages via receptors of a specific “shape”, designed to accept those particular hormones.
But what happens when substances in plastics are molecularly similar to our hormones? They can block these receptors (or interact with our endocrinal system in other unhelpful ways). Commonly recognised endocrine disruptors include BPA, phthalates and the (very scary) “forever chemicals”, PFAS.
Take BPA, for example. BPA stands for bisphenol A. It’s “an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1950s...often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles. .... (also) used to coat the inside of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines” (quoted from here). They’re also found on the thermal paper commonly used for those new shiny receipts that are everywhere these days.
Research has linked BPA to a wide range of conditions, especially reproductive disorders. These include disrupting egg maturation, and the actions of the pituitary and hypothalamus glands. “The researchers suggest that this type of action can affect puberty and ovulation and may lead to infertility”. They add that the impact may be “lifelong and transgenerational”. Also, “according to a 2009 study that looked at the effect of males’ exposure to BPA at work, BPA may affect male fertility”. Full article here.
Other conditions implicated with endocrine disruption of BPA include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, body weight issue, foetal brain development, breast cancer, prostate cancer and asthma. Oh my goodness!
Phthalates are another “ingredient” of modern plastics that we should be wary of. Acting like anti-androgens (male hormones), they can disrupt the hormonal balance between oestradiol (a form of oestrogen) and testosterone, leading to abnormal prostate cell proliferation (source here).
Finally, there are PFAS (stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, if you're interested). They are "a large, complex group of synthetic chemicals that have been used in consumer products around the world since about the 1950s". They are most often used to keep stuff from sticking to other stuff. These chemicals do not degrade easily in the environment, hence the name “forever chemicals”. Unfortunately they may also be forever in our bodies as well. A 2015 study found PFAS in 97 percent of blood samples tested (source here). We are all Teflon-coated on the inside!!!!
Getting away from Teflon is not that difficult in your home (who knows what’s going on outside) – you can swap out your Teflon cookware for stainless steel, carbon steel, or enamel. By the way, this has been joyous in our house. We LOVE this De Buyer frying pan. It really does do something magical to your morning eggs. Go try!