One of the latest findings, a large-scale Canadian study published last month, linked the exposure of unborn children to the chemicals phthalate and bisphenol A BPA to the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life. The Endocrine Society says BPA is one of the most worrying chemicals — it is found in countless products, including reusable drinks bottles and food storage containers.
It also has its sights set on phthalates, a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and found in products including packaging, garden hoses and medical tubing. Though their use has been banned in toys in the EU since , and in America a partial ban imposed in looks set to be extended, phthalates are still used in many other products, including some nail polishes and hairspray. Some experts are changing their behaviour in light of the mounting evidence against EDCs.
For instance, Professor Richard Ivell, an endocrinologist at Nottingham University and one of the delegation lobbying MEPs in Brussels today, no longer microwaves anything in plastic containers. An ongoing consultation means the Commission has failed to hit its own December deadline for agreeing even a definition of what constitutes an EDC. The consultation ends in January, but Andreas Kortenkamp, a professor in human toxicology at Brunel University and a top expert on EDCs, believes the process will drag on for years.
Some governments are losing patience with the delays in Brussels. Our own Government was noticeable by its absence. Some, including BPA and phthalates, are banned in some concentrations and in some products, but the vast majority remain unregulated. The problem, said the report, was that most of the chemicals used commercially have not been tested at all for their impact on hormones. Evidence against EDCs is building all the time. In the past five years no fewer than papers highlighting the dangers of the chemicals have been published around the world.
One of the governments taking steps to protect its own population is Denmark. In , the Danes issued advice to pregnant women to avoid EDCs, in particular, steering clear of hair dyes, flexible PVC — used in imitation leather — and any products that have undergone antibacterial treatment chemicals such as triclosan have been linked to allergies.
The cosmetics industry is particularly sensitive to suggestions that some ingredients might be EDCs. That is extremely difficult and violates a basic principle of European chemical regulation, which is geared towards avoiding provable damage in humans.
Although known to be toxic for the brain, it was used for decades in petrol, even when safer substitutes were available. It has since been revealed that 17 of the 18 editors had worked with the chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, tobacco, pesticide or biotechnology industries. In the meantime, there is very little that consumers can do to protect themselves. Phthalates, for example, are everywhere, we even have [contamination] problems with them in the lab.
Their answers may surprise you Incidents such as the explosion at the chemical plant at Bhopal in and the subsequent rises in cancer rates and developmental problems in children, have shown us what happens if large amounts of these chemicals are suddenly released. So what happens if smaller amounts are around for a longer period of time?
Could there be subtle, long-term changes? For this reason, I avoid heating plastics as several studies have shown this raises the risk of chemicals such as phthalates leaching into the food. If I am microwaving something, I always take it out of the plastic tray first and put it on a plate. Phthalates are clearly toxic, and larger concentrations of these have been linked to carcinogenesis when normal cells start to turn into cancer cells.
We see it in marine life, which may be due to hormones entering the water currents. Andrea Gore, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin and editor-in-chief of Endocrinology The evidence for the endocrine disruptor theory is irrefutable and as a result I do not microwave in plastic, or drink from plastic water bottles.
I have switched some of my kitchenware from plastic to ceramic and I recommend eating fresh over processed packaged foods at all times. Some studies show one trend but others suggest another. Dr Michelle Bellingham, lecturer and researcher in biodiversity, animal health and comparative medicine, University of Glasgow I avoid deodorants, moisturisers and cosmetics that contain chemicals that have been highlighted as a potential risk, such as parabens, phthalates, and BPA.
They may be absorbed into your skin. I always wear rubber gloves when using cleaning products and when spraying pesticides. I avoid putting lotions or talcum powder on my children. Share or comment on this article: Is it safe to microwave food in plastic?