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.
10NIS:
Why do plastic containers that you buy for leftovers sometimes get stained to the point that no matter how much you try, you can't get it fully cleaned.
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
Some compounds, like lycopene from tomatoes, have a strong affinity for plastics...they actually dissolve in them.  Virtually impossible to remove.
slightlycosmo:
I've dealt with infertility and recurrent miscarriage over the last several years.  I've read in various places that I should be avoiding chemicals in the hopes that I'll decrease any chances of damage to my eggs.  Chemicals in plastics have been one of these things.  However, I've only ever seen it discussed anecdotally - not with any firm research backing it.  Can chemicals in plastics interfere with the reproductive system?  If so, in what capacities?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
There are some animal studies about "endocrine disrupters" but no human evidence.  In theory there is the possibility of some effect because some environmental chemicals have hormone like properties.  But then again, there are plenty of hormone-like compounds as well as real hormones in our diet.  Milk and soy are classic examples.  
mername:
We live overseas and so are pretty conscious of the water we drink and have a 3-filter water system in our kitchen... but how can we know the water we drink is safe?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
The only way to know is to have a recognized lab test the water.
kim1998:
Hi- I have a fresh spring near my house that i love to get water from- I typically wash out my gallon milk jugs and bring them to to the spring. Is there a limit to how long i can keep using the same plastic milk containers to fill with water. I feel like i have been using the same ones for several months.
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
I would worry more about the water than the jug.  How do you know that the spring water is safe?
suesue2:
Hi- I usually make a bunch of food on Sunday night for my 2 year old for the week. Each night I microwave her meal on her favorite plastic plate or in a small plastic kids bowl. Is this safe to do?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
Nobody really knows...but when it comes to kids better to microwave on ceramic or glass dishes
wynni401:
I plan to join the live chat on Plastics tonight but if I forget then I just forget--like I sometimes do.   But I want to know the relationship (and forgot to put it in the lat question a moment ago).  What damage do we do to our liver when we drink city water,etc., and what about the damage doen via the plastic bottled water craze?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
Municipal water is tightly regulated and in my views is as good as bottled water
phandl:
What should the consumer look for to determine if the manufacturer used the correct plastic material for packaging the contents?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
There is no way for teh consumer to know this
SixUntilMe:
How do you work to dispel the incorrect health information being spread by celebrities?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
Good question...the only way is to spread correct information and call them out when they abuse their position
Barbaraf310:
How do you know which bottles contain BPA  polycarbonate #7?  Is there a way to identify that?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
If a bottle is made of polycarbonate it will be identified as #7 but not all #7 is polycarbonate
phandl:
There are many commuter cups that have plastic inner linings, what impact does a hot liquid have on the plastic?  Wouldn't the hot liquid leach out chemicals from the plastic?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
That lining usually is polypropylene and almost nothing leaches out of that
SixUntilMe:
Does the dishwasher compromise the integrity of those sorts of thing?  
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
yes...high temperatures can degrade plastics and increase leaching
phandl:
Why would it be hard to link BPA as a hazard to humans?  Laboratory tests on mice could be a first step.  Have any tests been conducted?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
Many tests have been done on rodents but the problem is that the human is not a giant rat and many of the animal tests that show a problem cannot be reproduced except by researchers who have made a name for themselves by linking plastics to health problems.
phandl:
The big issue is creditability with the plastic industry when considering what has happen in the financial industry around the world.  Institutions have tauted that they are looking out for the interest of the public but reality has shown they missed failed in their mission.  how can the public be made aware that the container is safe?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
There is no way for an individual to know this...but there is no evidence that plastics cause any problems in humans
phandl:
how does glass compare with plastic.  wouldn't glass containers be safer?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
yes...if you don't drop them and hurt someone with theflying glass
madtram:
What about the studies connecting plastics to xenohormonal contamination?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
The evidence is very soft..to saythe least
phandl:
what about the resins?
Joe Schwarcz, PhD:
what about them?