Health Chats
The Real Truth About Plastics: What you should and shouldn't worry about
Wednesday Dec 08, 2010, 07:30PM - 08:30PM (EST)
Joe Schwarcz, PhDBlank
Director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society
Are plastic water bottles safe? Should you microwave food in plastic containers? Are baby bottles made with bisphenol A (BPA) safe for your child? Should you have any concerns about buying plastic toys this holiday season? Find out the answer to these questions and more as world-renowned chemist, Joe Schwarcz, PhD, and pediatrician Stacy Stryer, MD, review the latest research in this live health chat. Please join us at 7:30pm ET on Wednesday, December 8, 2010, to ask the experts your questions and learn the facts about plastics safety.
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
ahhh..Celebrity Science!  Surely Sheryl must be an expert on chemistry and toxicity..no?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
NO!!!
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
there is no possibility of dioxin leaching from PET...that can only leach from PVC that is heated to incineration temperatures
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
let me backtrack a minute...a previous question asked about AML...I was glancing too quickly and I answered as if it had been ALS
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
as far as leukemia goes...there are solvent connections....benzene has certainly been connected occupationally with leukemia
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
so if the gentleman had worked inan industry where benzene was used...and it is used in many industries...a connection cannot be ruled out
new4me:
What is the lifespan of a plastic container? In other words, when should I replace sippy cups? food containers? water bottles?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
The lifespan depends on use....how many times it has been through the dishwasher..how many times in anger you have thrown it at the wall...
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
but I suspect the issue is about BPA...and indeed some sippy cups will leach small amounts...that's why manufacturers are replacing polycarbonate's with other plastics..
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
there is no evidence that BPA has ever cause dany problem ina human...but the truth is that such evidence would be very hard to come by
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
all we can do is make educated guesses based on animal studies, laboratory experiments, human occupational exposure epidemiological data...
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
and the consensus seems to be that the alarm over BPA is exaggerated...
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
EFSA, the European Food Safety Association, one of the toughest scientific agencies when it comes to protecting the public has just carried out an extensive review of all the data...
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
and the conclusion is that there is no need to take any extreme measures...in regulating
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
any more than is done now
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
and conrary to what some people think, FDA, WHO, Health Canada and other such regulatory agencies are not rogue organizations that are in teh pockets of Big Pharma and the chemical industry to undermine the health of the public so that they can approve and sell expensive but ineffective medications..
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
these organizations are staffed by competent scientists who really do try to look out for thpublic good...are they infallible?   Of course not....
Barbaraf310:
My apologies again...I guess I cannot hit the enter button to scroll down---please disregard the last two submissions.  My questions are:  Are plastics safe to store food?  Is there a difference between the containers bought in a dollar store as opposed to higher price plastic containers?  Thank you.
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
there are many types of plastic containers...the ones sold for storage like Tupperware and Rubbermaid (I have no association with either of thos companies) are great...they are made of polyethylene or polypropylene.
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
I wouldn't, however, heat up tomato sauce in an old margarine tub...because that has only been tested for margarine storage
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
as a general rule though for use in the microwave oven glass or ceramic are the best
InPain4evr:
With all the bad publicity plastic is being saddled with in recent history, shouldn't polypropylene, a relative of plastic used in pelvic and hernia surgeries, be studied very closely for causing adverse reactions and long-term health care issues?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
surgical plastics are extensively studied before they are approved..in fact they have some of teh toughest regulatory hurdles to overcome..
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
that is not to say that there are no issues....with hip replacement products for example there is the worry about tiny particles coming off with time.....
SixUntilMe:
Is it safer to use plastic or glass bottles for a newborn?  I hear conflicting reports and, as a new mom, I'm paranoid.  :)
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
As you may have heard canada as well as some European countries and several US sates have banned polycarbonate #7 baby bottles because of developmental problem concerns
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
this is based on the "precautionary principle"
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
which suggests that if there is any risk we should avoid the substance
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
but one also has to exercise the precautionary principle in exercisingthe precautionary principle
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
meaning that you have to make sure that the replacement is less risky tahn waht you are rep[lacing
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
I think inthe baby bottle business..we have glass which is certainly a good replacement
Dr. Stacy Stryer:
We always recommend breast feeding and you don't have to worry about the issues of which plastics to avoid.  If you choose to formula feed it is better to get powder than ready made formula.