Yeah... So About That "Safer" Plastic
In the age of chemophobia, companies are sometimes pressured into changing the chemical composition of their products based on viral negative publicity initiated by unscientific thinking. The trouble is, sometimes the replacement products, untested in public consumption, may prove to be actually harmful.
In some cases, compounds in our environment do occur in large enough doses to cause health issues, and it is important to replace those compounds with safer ones when the issues are discovered. For instance, class of common phthalates- a type of plasticizer- called di-2-ethylhexylphlatate (DEHP) gained attention in recent years as a result of real health concerns related to exposure to the compound. After being banned in Europe in 2004, American manufacturers voluntarily replaced DEHP in production by similar phthalates di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP). Plastic containers that contain these types of phthalates are labeled with recycling numbers 3, 6, and 7 on the bottom.
The trouble is, NYU researchers of the Langone Medical Center have conducted a series of studies and found that DINP and DIDP may be just as harmful to human health as the compound they replaced.
The first study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, found an association between concentrations of DINP and DIDP and increased insulin resistance that precedes diabetes.
A second study described in the journal Hypertension on July 9 found a “significant association” between high blood pressure and the environmental presence of DINP and DIDP in the subjects analyzed. The participants were from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a source of information about risk factors and prevalence of major diseases through an annual survey of 5,000 diverse volunteers.
While this is concerning news and a lesson that “different,” doesn’t always mean better, there are things you can do to limit your own exposure to plasticizers. You should avoid microwaving food in plastic containers or wrapped in plastic wrap, and hand wash plastic containers instead of placing them in the dishwasher. Heat and harsh chemicals can cause these plasticizers to leech into food.