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Food Safety

Most Plastics Leak Harmful Chemicals Into Food, Study Finds

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Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 9:00 AM

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Most plastic items leach chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen into food products, even if they don't contain BPA, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives, reports NPR. That includes everything from food wraps to water bottles to bento boxes.

Much health concern has focused on BPA, a chemical that mimics estrogen. But the study shows that BPA is just part of the problem. Even though many plastic products are now marketed as "BPA-free," it's unclear whether people are being harmed by BPA or other estrogenic chemicals in plastic. Chemicals having estrogenic activity (EA) reportedly cause many adverse health effects, especially at low doses in babies and children.

For this just-released study, researchers purchased about 450 plastic items from stores including Whole Foods and Walmart, specifically choosing products that come in contact with food, such as deli packaging and baby bottles. Testing showed that "almost all"--more than 95 percent--of the products released estrogenic chemicals, especially when exposed to "stressors" like dishwashers and microwave ovens. In fact, in some cases plastics labeled BPA-free released more chemicals having estrogenic activity than products containing BPA.

The little ray of sunshine, according to the study, is that it is possible to make plastics that don't contaminate food--on a cost-effective, commercial scale--eliminating the "potential health risk posed by most currently available plastic products."

Can we get right on that, please?

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