Amid mount­ing ev­i­dence that plas­tic food wrap har­bours a host of tox­ins, even doc­tors now urge...

The Mail on Sunday - - Health - By Anthea Ger­rie

COULD cling film re­ally make us ster­ile, or cause can­cer? For decades, holis­tic health gu­rus have warned of the toxic im­pact of plas­tic. They have been dis­missed as quacks – but now it seems their para­noia might have been jus­ti­fied.

New ev­i­dence sug­gests that heat makes chem­i­cals in plas­tic stor­age boxes and bot­tles leach into food and drink: two ma­jor re­ports last year linked 175 com­pounds to health prob­lems con­nected to can­cers, fer­til­ity and foetal de­vel­op­ment.

Even Can­cer Re­search UK, which has so far been scep­ti­cal, is now warn­ing that cling film should not be al­lowed to touch the food it is cov­er­ing dur­ing mi­crowav­ing.

The chem­i­cal caus­ing most con­cern is Bisphe­nol A (BPA), which is widely used in plas­tics man­u­fac­ture. In the body, it mim­ics the ef­fects of fe­male sex hor­mone oe­stro­gen. Lab­o­ra­tory stud­ies have also linked BPA with breast and prostate can­cer and early sex­ual de­vel­op­ment in women.

An­drea Gore, pro­fes­sor of phar­ma­col­ogy at the Univer­sity of Austin in the US, who has stud­ied the ef­fects of chem­i­cals on re­pro­duc­tive func­tion, says: ‘I heat food only in glass or ce­ramic, and although I use cling film in my fridge to cover cooked food, I re­move it be­fore re­heat­ing that food in the mi­crowave.’

So when is plas­tic OK to use – and when do the ex­perts think we should avoid it? Here’s their ad­vice…


YOU may feel it’s thrifty to re­fill and old Evian or Volvic bot­tle from the tap. But re­search shows that this should be avoided, says Prof Gore. ‘They are likely to be made us­ing BPA, or bisphe­nol-A, which is a known en­docrine dis­rup­tor. When brand new, this is least likely to cause prob­lems, but as the plas­tic de­cays, par­ti­cles of the BPA can be re­leased into drink or food that touches it.

‘Many baby bot­tles now make a selling point of be­ing BPA-free, but we don’t know what chem­i­cals are re­plac­ing BPA and the man­u­fac­tur­ers don’t have to tell us.’

Con­sumer tests have found BPA is still found in many plas­tic bot­tles and other plas­tic food uten­sils sold in the UK. Breast Can­cer UK is call­ing for a Bri­tish ban, bring­ing us in line with other Euro­pean coun­tries.

Many sci­en­tists say bot­tles known to be free of BPA are safe to drink from and then throw away.

‘If you drink bot­tled wa­ter and then re­fill the bot­tle, it’s best to use for a short pe­riod rather than weeks, and then dis­card,’ says Ash­ley Grossman, pro­fes­sor of en­docrinol­ogy at the Ox­ford Cen­tre for Di­a­betes, En­docrinol­ogy and Me­tab­o­lism. Switch­ing to glass or light­weight me­tal sports bot­tles is an al­ter­na­tive.


MANY re­us­able plas­tic food con­tain­ers – in­clud­ing Tup­per­ware – are also made with BPA. Old con­tain­ers that are show­ing signs of wear are par­tic­u­larly sus­pect. Dr Thomas Zoeller, pro­fes­sor of bi­ol­ogy at Univer­sity of Mas­sachusetts, ad­vises: ‘Re­place all those which have been used and washed harshly, as these are most likely to be un­sta­ble and prone to re­leas­ing BPA into the food.’


WHETHER it’s cut­lery, stor­age con­tain­ers or bot­tles, heat­ing, even in a dish­washer, causes the com­pounds to be­come less sta­ble mak­ing par­ti­cles more likely to leech into food, says Prof Gore. A study pub­lished in the jour­nal En­vi­ron­men­tal Health Per­spec­tives showed that 95 per cent of plas­tic prod­ucts put through a dish­washer proved pos­i­tive for leach­ing chem­i­cals that had an oe­stro­gen-like ef­fect on the body.


‘DO NOT al­low cling wrap to come into di­rect con­tact with food when heat­ing it,’ ad­vises Can­cer Re­search UK. Ex­perts at Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity in the US con­cur, warn­ing that heat­ing food cov­ered with plas­tic can melt the plas­tic on to the food.

Of par­tic­u­lar con­cern is cling film made from PVC, which con­tains hor­mone-dis­rupt­ing ph­tha­lates, a chem­i­cal that keeps plas­tic soft. PVC cling film has been banned in Amer­ica, but it is still in use in Europe.

‘If you’re heat­ing a plate in the mi­crowave, just cover it with another plate or a chem­i­cal-free pa­per towel,’ adds Prof Gore.


STYRENE, a com­po­nent of polystrene cups and some egg car­tons, has been clas­si­fied as a pos­si­ble car­cino­gen by the US’s In­ter­na­tional Agency for Re­search on Can­cer, and ben­zene, also used in pro­duc­tion, is another sus­pected car­cino­gen. Avoid, say the ex­perts.

Many take­away chains now of­fer wooden dis­pos­able cut­lery, and if your chil­dren use straws, switch from plas­tic to pa­per ones.


FIZZY drinks may be pack­aged in bot­tles that con­tain formalde­hyde, a known tox­i­cant, so some ex­perts rec­om­mend choos­ing cans.

Con­cerns over its le­gal use in pack­ag­ing were raised in last year’s re­port in the Jour­nal Of Epi­demi­ol­ogy And Com­mu­nity Health, as it is po­ten­tially a car­cino­gen. How­ever, some sci­en­tists point out that formalde­hyde is also found in some foods, in­clud­ing ap­ples.


RE­US­ABLE ice-cube trays can get heavy use in a kitchen – and over the years will show signs of de­cay.

It is a myth, though, that freez­ing wa­ter in plas­tic ice-cube trays re­leases diox­ins, another dan­ger­ous chem­i­cal. The scare arose out of an in­ter­net hoax – and sci­en­tific stud­ies have shown that the freez­ing process ac­tu­ally pre­vents chem­i­cals leach­ing out of plas­tic.

KITCHEN STA­PLE: But sci­en­tists say that cling film should not come into con­tact with food while it’s be­ing re­heated

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