4

votes

In what context is plastic not safe?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 03, 2012 at 7:46 AM

I use a steamer very often. The baskets are made of plastic. Is that safe or not?

D5a4ff096a452a84a772efa0e6bc626e

(2486)

on February 04, 2012
at 04:10 PM

I've had (admittedly, chinese-made) silicon bakeware discolor in spots and get oddly tacky after a few rounds through the oven. Perhaps it was user error, but that was the end for me with unknown provenence silicon and heat. Temperatures inside the body are much more moderate.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:43 AM

It means "safe for the container," ie. it won't melt :P

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:42 AM

Probably also wall paints.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:40 AM

I wish they made a smaller version.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:40 AM

I'm glad you brought this up. I found out about this just a few weeks ago myself, and needs to be raised more often so people become aware.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:38 AM

What's wrong with silicone? It's safe enough to be inside a body for decades.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 04, 2012
at 08:18 AM

I think excalibur has stainless steel ones... God I'll have to replace so many things :D

6b365c14c646462210f3ef6b6fecace1

(1784)

on February 03, 2012
at 09:03 PM

ehhh, I can't say I agree with that - it depends on too many variables. However, plastics are the least of my worries right now due to the fact I can probably spontaneously combust in my lab...

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 03, 2012
at 07:57 PM

Egads! I've been phasing out BPA plastics in our house, but I'm thinking maybe I'll start getting rid of as many plastics as possible.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 03, 2012
at 07:24 PM

I have no idea what they mean by indoor decoration, but for some reason I'm thinking things like plastic flowers, photographs, decorative pots, and cast resin figurines.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 03, 2012
at 06:42 PM

Wow! And I just started using plastic cups... Do you happen to know what they mean by indoor decoration? I mean, that could be anything...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 03, 2012
at 06:04 PM

Agreed. Fats and acids definitely leech plastisizers into food. But a plastic steamer basket for a few minutes of cook time? Minimal.

6b365c14c646462210f3ef6b6fecace1

(1784)

on February 03, 2012
at 05:27 PM

btw, hi fellow chemist :-)

6b365c14c646462210f3ef6b6fecace1

(1784)

on February 03, 2012
at 05:21 PM

I think the problem is that not all the food we handle with plastics is low or non fat. Therefore lipophilic compounds in the plastics ARE of concern.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 03, 2012
at 09:10 AM

I use a metal steamer basket for this very reason in my rice cooker, instead of the plastic one that came with it.

Ef089e1180f240aa9fd2d089f7f38b45

(279)

on February 03, 2012
at 08:19 AM

It's a good idea - the users leaving comments on Amazon confirm this is of interest if you want to go phthalate free.

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10 Answers

7
Ebb10603524dd22621c1155dd7ddf106

(19150)

on February 03, 2012
at 04:41 PM

When heated -- especially in the context of moist food -- plastic has the most estrogenating material released. In this context, I would never consider it safe. Definitely get a stainless steamer as suggested.

When storing dry goods temporarily - e.g. some nuts in a ziploc bag -- I usually don't worry much at all. I do carry my work-lunch in a glass/pyrex container with a plastic lid, but I do not reheat the food with the lid on.

Plastics are everywhere - minimize exposure when you can, but don't fret when you cannot.

4
510bdda8988ed0d4b0ec0b738b4edb73

(20888)

on February 03, 2012
at 05:24 PM

It's not just BPA, just about all plastics contain estrogenlike compound. But rather than ramble on, here's Chris Kresser's article on it that's better than anything I could write.

http://chriskresser.com/how-plastic-food-containers-could-be-making-you-fat-infertile-and-sick

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 03, 2012
at 07:57 PM

Egads! I've been phasing out BPA plastics in our house, but I'm thinking maybe I'll start getting rid of as many plastics as possible.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:40 AM

I'm glad you brought this up. I found out about this just a few weeks ago myself, and needs to be raised more often so people become aware.

4
D5a4ff096a452a84a772efa0e6bc626e

(2486)

on February 03, 2012
at 05:10 PM

I stay away from plastic that will be heated, plastic water bottles that may have languished in a hot warehouse before getting to me, nonstick pans, and silicon bakeware/mats. There are glass or plastic or metal or parchment alternatives for almost every use of 'durable' plastics.

That said, I buy milk in plastic jugs, will use ziplocs or plastic wrap for short term storage, and I would not be above condom use if needed. Approaching zero exposure in the current world we live in is exponentially difficult; just minimize everywhere it's feasible for you.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:38 AM

What's wrong with silicone? It's safe enough to be inside a body for decades.

D5a4ff096a452a84a772efa0e6bc626e

(2486)

on February 04, 2012
at 04:10 PM

I've had (admittedly, chinese-made) silicon bakeware discolor in spots and get oddly tacky after a few rounds through the oven. Perhaps it was user error, but that was the end for me with unknown provenence silicon and heat. Temperatures inside the body are much more moderate.

3
518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on February 03, 2012
at 04:50 PM

Situations to minimize exposure to BPA/plastic components: Don't heat plastic, store acidic food in plastic, or high-fat food in plastic that is NOT BPA free. Check the bottom of any new containers, it will brag that it's BPA free if it is. Check if your brand of canned foods is BPA free- this is where it is really hairy. Coconut milk, tomatoes, and other acidic vegetables/fruits are the ones you want to be most careful that the cans are BPA free.

For your steamer, the stainless steal one are pretty cheap. If you have an old plastic electric kettle, consider updating to a stainless steal one. Consider replacing old plastic containers (especially ones that have cycled through microwaves over the years) with BPA free plastic, metal, or glass. Look into BPA free brands of canned coconut milk, tomatoes etc; you can order them off amazon if there's none in your local area.

2
6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 03, 2012
at 06:30 PM

Good question, I'd flip it around though and ask in what context is plastic safe?

Just having more decorations in one's home has been linked to PCOS, and that doesn't even involve food preparation.

"...from Nanjing Medical University in China evaluated 108 women with PCOS and 108 women free of the disorder.

They found that risk factors for PCOS were: occupation, education, disposable plastic cups for drinking, cooking oil fumes and indoor decoration. The strongest risks factors were disposable plastic cups for drinking, cooking oil fumes and indoor decoration."

http://www.ovarian-cysts-pcos.com/pcos-news136.html#sec3

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on February 03, 2012
at 07:24 PM

I have no idea what they mean by indoor decoration, but for some reason I'm thinking things like plastic flowers, photographs, decorative pots, and cast resin figurines.

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 03, 2012
at 06:42 PM

Wow! And I just started using plastic cups... Do you happen to know what they mean by indoor decoration? I mean, that could be anything...

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:42 AM

Probably also wall paints.

2
32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 03, 2012
at 04:40 PM

Plastisizers have limited volatility, so you're not going to have problems with vapors. They're lipophilic molecules, so water/steam shouldn't extract high amounts either. I'd say the risk is very minimal.

6b365c14c646462210f3ef6b6fecace1

(1784)

on February 03, 2012
at 05:27 PM

btw, hi fellow chemist :-)

6b365c14c646462210f3ef6b6fecace1

(1784)

on February 03, 2012
at 09:03 PM

ehhh, I can't say I agree with that - it depends on too many variables. However, plastics are the least of my worries right now due to the fact I can probably spontaneously combust in my lab...

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46

(41747)

on February 03, 2012
at 06:04 PM

Agreed. Fats and acids definitely leech plastisizers into food. But a plastic steamer basket for a few minutes of cook time? Minimal.

6b365c14c646462210f3ef6b6fecace1

(1784)

on February 03, 2012
at 05:21 PM

I think the problem is that not all the food we handle with plastics is low or non fat. Therefore lipophilic compounds in the plastics ARE of concern.

1
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on February 03, 2012
at 08:16 AM

Ef089e1180f240aa9fd2d089f7f38b45

(279)

on February 03, 2012
at 08:19 AM

It's a good idea - the users leaving comments on Amazon confirm this is of interest if you want to go phthalate free.

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:40 AM

I wish they made a smaller version.

1
Ef089e1180f240aa9fd2d089f7f38b45

(279)

on February 03, 2012
at 07:57 AM

I asked myself the same question. What needs to be figured out is the type of plasticizer (phthalate or not) found both on the plastic tray and on the bottom of the steamer -- usually steamers come in with a sticky-free shell. I believe this sticky-free matter is usually plasticizer based.

It's one thing to know which type of plasticizer is found there (some types of phthalates are worse or more prone to leaking than others), it's another to determine the amount which leaks into food. Steaming is otherwise healthy, I'm inclined to believe this outweighs the plastic issue. However it is true that heat promotes plastic leaking, so it's a valid question to ask for a steamer.

0
Medium avatar

on February 03, 2012
at 08:15 PM

I cringe when I read the phrase "microwave safe" on labels for various plastics. Safe, by what standards, according to whom, based on what research? I don't doubt that such claims often are "tested" but who oversees veracity and validity of claims put forward by companies with a proprietary interest in convincing consumers "our stuff is safe."

9f54852ea376e8e416356f547611e052

(2957)

on February 04, 2012
at 10:43 AM

It means "safe for the container," ie. it won't melt :P

0
78972387772c994caa78513a83978437

on February 03, 2012
at 08:11 PM

my dehydrator is plastic... are there any alternatives?

B0fe7b5a9a197cd293978150cbd9055f

(8938)

on February 04, 2012
at 08:18 AM

I think excalibur has stainless steel ones... God I'll have to replace so many things :D

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