Plastic – Friend or Foe
The connection between plastic and breast cancer was first discovered in 1987 at Tufts Medical School in Boston by research scientists Dr. Ana Soto and Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein. In the midst of their experiments on cancer cell growth, endocrine-disrupting chemicals leached from plastic test tubes into the researcher’s laboratory experiment, causing a rampant proliferation of breast cancer cells. Working with her colleague Carlos Sonnenschein, Soto purified the contaminant and identified it as nonylphenol, a chemical added during the manufacture of plastic to prevent it from cracking. They discovered molecules of nonylphenol were being shed from the tubes into the serum. Their finds were published in Environmental Health Perspective (1991).
Again in 1987, a research team headed by David Feldman of the Stanford University School of Medicine also discovered that plastics, such as the plastic giant jugs used to bottle drinking water, had similarly contaminated their experiments. They reported their findings in Endocrinology (1993).
Spanish researchers, Fatima and Nicolas Olea, tested metal food cans that were lined with plastic. The cans were also found to be leaching hormone disrupting chemicals in 50% of the cans tested. The levels of contamination were twenty-seven times more than the amount the Stanford team reported was enough to make breast cancer cells proliferate. Reportedly, 85% of the food cans in the United States were lined with plastic. The Oleas reported their findings in Environmental Health Perspectives (1995).
Heat facilitates the dissolution of phthalates into the water. Then the bottles may be stored for a much longer time than 10 days prior to consumption. Furthermore, freezing the containers produces micro-fissures in the interior surface of the plastic bottle container as the water expands, exponentially exposing more solute surface area. Traumatic handling or any motion of the package will further enhance diffusion.
Fatty foods in plastic containers are even more problematic, as fats are absorbed differently and carry their phthalate solvents into our bodies more easily. Phthalates bio-accumulate because of their fat solubility. Phthalates concentrate in such fat organs in our bodies such as brains, prostates, testicles, ovaries, breasts and, unfortunately, breast milk. (The other popular food alternative for infants are worse. Commercial baby formulas are loaded with the man-made phthalates.)
Solution 1 – Choose glass or stainless steel containers for storage of food and beverages.
Solution 2 – If you choose not to eliminate plastic, look at the bottom of the bottle. A 2 HDPE or 4 LDPE container (the number in the triangle) will have less likelihood of leeching into the food or beverage.