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Do plastics release toxins into food?


Ask-the-Expert Online Conference

Question from ChristineM: Having read about artificial estrogens, I store everything in glass containers rather than plastic. I heard that cooking or freezing in plastic can release carcinogens (dioxin?) into the food. And what about fumes from gas heating and cooking? What about plastic water bottles?
Answers - Sue Heffelfinger There's much, much concern about plastics. Even in animal studies, it's an issue to make sure we don't contaminate experiments with plastics, especially old ones that have been used and washed many times.

As for water bottles, it depends on the plastic. Polyethylene is relatively safe. If you look at the bottom of your plastic bottle, there is a number in a little triangle. Look at Consumer Reports or The Green Guide for more info.

Generally you don't want to heat or cook with most plastics. It would be a better world if the plastics manufacturers provided us with information on these issues, rather than us having to become experts on what is a good or bad plastic.

Again, human data are just not available. So in personal practice, avoiding heating plastics and going to glassware if possible is wise.
Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. Just to clarify, microwaving in plastic is not advisable?
Sue Heffelfinger I would certainly avoid it, even for the concern we have with the plasticizers being released. It's really an avoidance issue in the absence of real data on human health effects.

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