/ INTERNATIONAL NEWS
Is plastic food packaging dangerous?
Source: The Guardian, Date: May , 2013
The phthalate chemicals used in packaging are banned in some countries
and have been blamed for many ailments. So should you ban them from the house?
If you've had to fight though plastic packaging to get to your food you
won't be surprised to hear it can raise your blood pressure â€“ but it's the
phthalate chemicals used in the packaging rather than the effort involved,
that's to blame. These chemicals are generally used to make plastic soft, for
example in credit cards or plastic shower curtains. A study of nearly
3,000 children in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children between the ages of six and 19 who had been exposed
to phthalates (measured by levels of breakdown products of the chemicals in
their urine) had higher levels of blood pressure than those who didn't.
When I asked the lead researcher, Leonardo Trasande from New York University School of Medicine, if the small, clinically insignificant rise in
blood pressure was likely to mean anything, he said it could do so in later
life. "We know that phthalates damage the walls of arteries by oxidative stressand they may directly
damage heart cells," he says. "We know these chemicals get into food
from plastic wrappings and gloves, and that they are in PVC flooring and
cosmetics. We think they may have a effect on cardiovascular health and that
children and adolescents should have limited exposure."
The debate about phthalates, specifically those with low molecular
weight such as DEHP, DBP and BBP, has gone on for years. They are known as endocrine
disruptors as they are also accused of messing with hormones and causing girls to
reach puberty earlier, as well as reducing sperm count in boys. Denmark has banned
some of them and may extend this further, while other countries have banned them from
toys. A report from the
WHO said more research was urgently needed on their effect on rising rates
of a range of diseases such as diabetes and ADHD. The report stressed the WHO's
concern over the exposure in young children of phthalates and other
environmental chemicals that seem to interfere with human hormones. Phthalates
have also been linked to
allergies and asthma.
Phthalates leach into food through packaging so you should avoid
microwaving food or drinks in plastic and not use plastic cling wrap and store your food in glass containers where possible. If you can avoid
pre-packaged, processed food then you are not only a terrific human being but
you will reduce your exposure. It may be too much to ask you to replace that
vinyl flooring with natural wood but studies do show that children breathe
in phthalates and absorb them through skin.