Over the years, plastics have replaced eco-friendly materials such as glass, wood and clay in our homes. From kitchen to the bathroom, they are everywhere. Nowadays baby feeding bottles, food containers and even many utensils are made of plastics. While they’re convenient, sleek and even fun to use, it’s pertinent to ask whether they are safe for us and our children?
Many additives like adipates and phthalates are added to plastics of polyvinyl chloride origin to make them brittle and enhance their malleability, thus making it suitable for manufacturing toys and food packaging materials. These additives are highly toxic elements and many developed countries have already imposed ban on these.
In the USA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act has restricted the use of DEHP, DPB, BBP, DINP, DIDP, DnOP from children’s toys and child care articles.1 Similarly, the European Union has imposed restrictions on the use of DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate) and other phthalates.2 The world is slowly waking up to the health hazards of the plastic.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer has over the years evaluated the bad effects of certain chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastic on the health of both the workers involved in manufacturing and the end users.3
- One such chemical is Vinyl Chloride, which is used for manufacturing PVC, a very common plastic that occupies a total of 12% of the total market-share of plastics. This substance is highly carcinogenic (causing cancer).
- Another such chemical is Bisphenol A (BPA), used for hardening plastic, which when exposed to small children can cause obesity and early onset-puberty. Other risks associated with BPA include liver and heart diseases and Type II diabetes.
How to identify safe plastic?
The Plastics Industry Association has developed a Resin Identification Coding System, which describes the type of plastic resin used to make a container or bottle. These codes are mentioned on the packaging itself and range from one to seven, written within a chasing arrow symbol.4
Advice to Parents:
Here are some safety tips to remember when you use plastics, especially for children:
- Do not heat food or drinks in plastic containers. Heating plastic leaches harmful chemicals in the food. Do not store hot food in the plastics containers for the same reason.
- Use single use plastics only one time and avoid using old plastic containers with worn down surfaces. They can release toxic chemicals after multiple uses.
- Do not allow children to chew on plastic like TV remote, phones, etc.
Below are some safer alternatives available to be used instead of plastics:
- Use glass or BPA-free baby bottles for infants
- Use natural teethers like cotton cloth and uncoated wood
- Buy toys made of natural material like cloth, wool or natural wood
- Use ceramic or glass food containers
- Use stainless steel utensils
- Do not use vinyl sheets, go for natural flooring
- Use wooden/ceramic cutting boards instead of plastic ones
Be aware! Be safe!
- Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, USA
- Directive (EU) 2015/863
- International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization
- “Resin Identification”, ASTM International (American Society for Testing and Materials)