PROTECT Yourself: Avoiding Harmful Chemicals in Food Storage Containers and Cookware

1. Avoid plastic containers that contain bisphenol A (BPA).

BPA has estrogen-like activity that makes it a hormone disruptor, like many other chemicals in plastics. Hormone disruptors can affect how estrogen and other hormones act in the body, by blocking them or mimicking them, which throws off the body’s hormonal balance. A list the of twelve most common hormone disruptors can be found here.

  • Avoid any containers with No. 3 (polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) and No. 6 (polystyrene). Also, look closely at plastics with a No. 7 recycling symbol on the bottom. If the plastic doesn’t also say “PLA” or have a leaf symbol on it, it may contain BPA.
  • If you use plastic containers rather than glass ones, choose those that contain polyethylene (No. 1, 2, and 4) and polypropylene (No. 5), as their additives appear to be less harmful. See here for more information about plastic types.
  • Keep all plastic containers out of the heat and sun.
  • Carry your own glass, steel, or ceramic water bottle filled with filtered tap water.
  • Use glass baby bottles if possible, or plastic bottles with labels that say “BPA free”.
  • Use proper water filters to treat your tap water.

Please visit the EWG website for more information about filtering tap water.

2. Use heat-resistant glass or lead-free ceramic containers in the microwave. 

The label “microwave safe” means safe for the container, not necessarily for your health.

3. Use pots and pans that are steel clad, enameled, cast iron, or anodized aluminum and avoid nonstick coatings. 

Such choices will help you avoid perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, a chemical used in manufacturing some products with nonstick and stain-resistant coatings. PFOA, which is found in the blood of most Americans, has been linked to cancer and birth defects in animals.

4. Further reduce your exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, by reducing the amount of time your food is stored in packaging made with it. 

This carcinogen is used in the production of food packaging to make it resistant to grease, such as packaging used for pizza, microwave popcorn, and hundreds of other foods.

5. Avoid products made from polystyrene. 

Styrene, a suspected carcinogen, is primarily used in the production of polystyrene, or Styrofoam, and used in plastic packaging, disposable cups, and other containers. Especially avoid storing acidic food and drink-such as tea with lemon-in polystyrene containers, as they can help the styrene leach into your food and drink.

Reduce how much canned food you eat and how much canned formula your baby uses.

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Image credits: Top: Photo by Stephen Depolo on Flickr. Bottom: Photo by Rubbermaid Products on Flickr.