This episode started with an Instagram DM from a friend. Her message linked to an article with a note that said: “This would be a good topic for the podcast.” To which I replied, “Do you think? I feel like people already know this…” It was her response back that really blew me away. So in this episode, we’re talking about plastic.
This episode started with an Instagram DM from a friend. Her message said: “This would be a good topic for the podcast” with a link to an article, to which I replied, “Do you think? I feel like people already know this…” It was her response back to me, though, that really blew me away. So in this episode, we’re talking about plastic.
The article that my friend linked me to was from the website WIRED with the headline: “For the Love of God, Stop Microwaving Plastic.” And when I said to her that people already know not to microwave plastic, she replied: “We have meals for the kids in our fridge right now, that’s packaged in plastic with directions to microwave it.”
I mean, I understand that we live in a plastic world. It’s everywhere, from shampoo bottles to toothbrushes to fresh fruit that’s wrapped in plastic – it is the most durable and convenient way to package just about anything.
But even though I know all of this, it honestly never would have crossed my mind that an organic food company, marketed as a kids meal, would suggest microwaving the meal in plastic. This really did blow me away. And then, upon further research, I found out that, actually, the majority of baby food containers recommend microwaving.
So why is this all so alarming to me?
Well, when plastic is heated (in the microwave, in the oven, even a water bottle that’s left in a hot car), it leaches millions of bits of plastic (called microplastics and nanoplastics), as well as phthalates and BPA into the food or drink inside of it. So then, when you (or your kid or baby) go to consume that food, you are all ingesting that plastic, and phthalates and BPA.
You’re probably already familiar with all of those terms – especially if you’ve been listening to this podcast, you know they’re problematic yet everyday occurrences in our lives. They’re virtually unavoidable so our goal is to reduce our exposure as much as we can. But one new term I want to introduce you to, that I haven’t talked about before, are leachates. Leachates refer to the specifically toxic chemical components of plastic.
According to scientists, leachates quite literally “leach” out of the plastic and are able to coat themselves with proteins already in your body. By coating themselves with proteins in your body, they are able to slip past your immune system, basically, incognito. One professor of chemistry compared them to “Trojan horses.” What happens is that our organs, specifically the ones like our kidneys or livers that are there to remove waste from our bodies, are essentially on the front lines of exposure to these plastic contaminants.
Scientists say that while we may be able to filter and excrete some of the bigger microplastics, the smaller nanoplastics are able to cross cell membranes – effectively sneaking past our body’s defense systems. And what do they do?
They sabotage our hormones and endocrine systems.
These endocrine disruptors will already sound familiar if you’ve listened to the skincare episode from season 2 and the fragrance or makeup episodes from season 1. Having even a small quantity of a foreign chemical affecting the hormones in your body has the potential to affect anything from your fertility to puberty to menopause to your metabolism.
You may not specifically have baby food containers or kids meals to microwave, so I should clarify that this applies to any plastic – whether it’s Tupperware with leftovers in it, a takeout container from your favorite Thai restaurant, baby bottles, plastic bowls or plates – there is no such thing as microwave-safe plastic.
I’ll say that again, there is no such thing as microwave-safe plastic.
When something says “microwave safe” it just means that it won’t melt – it doesn’t mean that it won’t leach hormone-disrupting chemicals into your food.
Surprising absolutely no one, the FDA is extremely behind in their own recommendations of “microwavable” plastic based on what the science is telling us.
In order for a food packaging manufacturer to get approved by the FDA, it needs to submit a limited amount of self-reported data to be deemed acceptable for food or beverage packaging. However, the FDA doesn’t have the resources to test the safety of every plastic product that is submitted before it goes on grocery store shelves.
At this point, it’s basically on the shoulders of the corporations and businesses to do the right thing, by not using plastic packaging, because there is no regulation or government entity telling them to do otherwise. And of course, using plastic is far cheaper than using glass or silicone.
So what are we to do if our food packaging isn’t going to change anytime soon? Well first, even if the label recommends microwaving the food contents, we need to take it upon ourselves to stop putting plastic in the microwave – obviously. Side note: plastic, of any kind, really shouldn’t go in the dishwasher either. Also, it’s important that we’re not pouring hot liquids or hot foods into plastic containers. Let it cool before your store it but ideally, you want to switch to glass or stainless steel food storage containers – I’ll link to some of my favorites in the show notes at cleanlivingpodcast.com/plastic.
The bottom line is: microwavable baby food is the easiest option – what parent wants to add one more step only for most of the food to likely end up on the front of a bib, the floor, or in my house, the wall? But this is one suggestion that I don’t take lightly in recommending a change. The negative effects far outweigh the extra few minutes of meal prep time and this is not a situation where it’s “maybe bad for you” – the science is undeniable. When it comes to kids meals or baby food specifically, baby-led weaning can be an even better solution, because it requires no purees, no plastic containers and just a little bit of prep. I’ll link to some of my favorite baby-led weaning resources in the show notes, as well.
And for those of you who aren’t feeding kids or babies, start to pay attention to the food containers you receive from your favorite takeout restaurants, or get at the grocery store or use to put your leftovers in the fridge. As much as we can, and I know – we love convenience, but as much as we can, we can all try to limit the amount of plastic in our lives. Not just for the environment but for our own health and wellbeing.
Thanks for listening to this episode of The Clean Living Podcast, I’m your host Shannon Lohr. Who’s the person in your life still microwaving plastic? We all know someone. If you can take a minute to share this episode with them (without feeling like a Judgy Judy), I would so appreciate it. Sharing the podcast is one way to show your support of the podcast and gives me the boost I need to continue creating more episodes. Thank you in advance.