How plastic food containers could be making you fat, infertile and sick

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In previous articles here, here and here, I wrote about the dangers of an environmental toxin called bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA is a chemical that is found in several plastics and plastic additives. It’s in the water bottles some folks carry to gyms, the canned tomatoes and coconut milk they cook with, and in the baby bottles moms use to feed their infants.

We’ve known for decades that BPA has estrogenic activity. In vivo animal studies and in vitro cell-culture research has linked low-level estrogenic activity associated with BPA exposure to all kinds of fun stuff, like diabetes, ADHD, heart disease, infertility and cancer.

There is now significant evidence suggesting that even low levels of BPA-exposure can cause harm, and this is particularly true in vulnerable populations like pregnant women, infants and the chronically ill. (1)

Because of this research, and the growing public awareness that BPA should be avoided, a new crop of “BPA-free” plastic food containers and baby bottles has been introduced. However, a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives in July has shown that even BPA-free plastics have chemicals with estrogenic activity (EA), and can cause serious health problems as a result. (2)

What is “estrogenic activity” (EA)?

Chemicals with estrogenic activity (EA) are those that mimic or antagonize the actions of naturally occurring estrogens. These chemicals are capable of binding with one or more of the nuclear estrogen receptors in the body.

The best way to think of chemicals with EA is as a counterfeit key fitting into a loose lock. When these chemicals activate the estrogen receptor, they produce an increase in circulating estrogen, which in turn can cause problems such as early puberty in females, reduced sperm counts, altered function of the reproductive organs, obesity, increased rates of certain cancers and problems with infant and childhood development. (3)

As I mentioned above, vulnerable populations such as pregnant women, developing fetuses, infants and children are especially sensitive to even very low doses of chemicals with EA. (4)

BPA-free is not EA-free

In the Environmental Health Perspectives study, Yaniger et al. set out to determine the estrogenic activity of commonly used plastic consumer products.

They bought more than 500 plastic products at places like Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, and other major retailers. They selected from all categories of plastic, including tupperware containers, bags and wraps.

Then they cut the containers into pieces, put them into liquids that contain similar chemicals found in food and drinks, and subjected them to stresses that mimic normal use, like UV light (sunlight), microwaving, or moist heat (like boiling or dishwashing).

Their results showed that over 90 percent of the products leached estrogenic chemicals before they were even stressed, and after being stressed essentially all of the products showed estrogenic activity.

According to Stuart Yaniger, one of the lead authors of the study:

Baby bottles, plastic bags, plastic wrap, clamshell food containers, stand-up pouches: Just about anything you can think of that’s made of plastic that food or beverages are wrapped up in, we found this activity. It was shocking to us.

What plastics do and don’t have EA? It’s impossible to tell.

Perhaps the most troubling outcome of this study is that it’s currently impossible to determine which consumer plastic products are likely to have chemicals with EA, and which are not. The exact chemical composition of most plastic products is proprietary and thus not known, and a single plastic item containing many parts (e.g. a baby bottle) may consist of >100 chemicals, all of which can leach from the product.

In light of the researchers’ finding that nearly all of the 500 plastic products they tested leached when stressed, and 90 percent of them leached even without stress, I think it’s pretty safe to assume that most plastic products you can buy in the store have chemicals with EA.

It’s important to reiterate that this is true even with BPA-free plastics. In fact, the Environmental Health Perspectives study found that some BPA-free products had even more EA than BPA-containing products!

Should you be concerned about chemicals with EA?

There are still a lot of unknowns in the discussion of the EA of various chemicals in plastic products, such as the number of chemicals having EA, their relative EA, their release rate under different conditions, and their half-lives in human beings of different ages.

However, there are 3 strong arguments for being “better safe than sorry” when it comes to plastics and EA (5):

  • in vitro data overwhelmingly show that exposures to chemicals with EA (even in very low doses) change the structure and function of human cell types;
  • many studies present clear cellular, molecular and systemic mechanisms by which chemicals having EA produce changes in cells, organs and behaviors; and,
  • recent epidemiological studies strongly suggest that chemicals with EA produce measurable changes in the health of various human populations.

Perhaps the study authors summed it up best in their conclusion:

Many scientists believe that it is not appropriate to bet our health and that of future generations on an assumption that known cellular effects of chemicals having EA released from most plastics will have no severe adverse health effects.

I couldn’t agree more.

What you can do to reduce your exposure to chemicals with EA

Here’s a list of things you can do to reduce your exposure – and especially your baby’s and children’s exposure – to chemicals with EA.

  • Use glass containers and canning jars at home for food storage. Be aware that the lids of Mason and Kerr brand canning jars contain BPA and chemicals with EA. There are BPA-free lids, but they still may contain chemicals with EA, and I’ve been told they’re made with formaldehyde. Weck makes 100% glass jars that are a good alternative. Crate and Barrel sells them here.
  • Use stainless steel containers in the freezer instead of freezer bags.
  • Use a stainless steel water bottle (like the Klean Kanteen) instead of plastic bottles.
  • Don’t drink bottled water from plastic bottles, especially when they’ve been exposed to sunlight.
  • Parents: use glass baby bottles instead of plastic. Evenflo is a commonly available brand you can buy at Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, etc. and online at Amazon and other retailers.

Special note for Sous Vide users: After reading this study, I’m feeling very uncomfortable about the idea of eating anything that comes out of a plastic bag that has been sitting in a hot water bath for several hours. This is a crushing blow, as I love cooking with the Sous Vide. But in light of the evidence that even BPA-free plastics bags leach chemicals with EA even without added stress like a hot water bath, I think erring on the side of caution is probably wise.

UPDATE 10-28-11: make sure to read the comments section for some good recommendations.

UPDATE 11-7-11: check out this article on Nom Nom Paleo, one of my favorite Paleo food blogs. She did some homework and found some information claiming that re-usable silicon bags don’t have EA chemicals. However, Stuart Yaniger, one of the authors of the paper I referenced in this article, commented on her post (and below) that most silicon products do, in fact, leach EA chemicals. I’m also wary of the claim that FoodSaver bags don’t have any EA without 3rd party, independent testing. As Yaniger’s article demonstrated, we should assume all plastics have EA until proven otherwise.

Resources for those who want to avoid plastic entirely

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. D says

    Great information, thanks. This may have been previously addressed (limited time right now), however am interested in where one can buy toxic-free utensils in boxed sets, utensil covers for portability/hygiene, and where to recommend large-group events/businesses for bulk unit toxic-free utensil purchases. Thank you, in advance, of your reply and time.

  2. Sous Vider Wannabe says

    I am seriously considering purchasing a Sous Vide Supreme, but I do not want to use any plastic in my cooking and would like input on whether and why the following proposed usage of the appliance might be discouraged…

    Use case: lengthy ultra-low-temperature-poaching of unpackaged proteins

    Example: Fill a Sous Vide Supreme with water, heat it to 140F, drop in salted short ribs (not packaged in any plastic bag or any other container), remove them after 72 hours, and then separately consume both the liquid and the ribs.

    I have 3 questions about this proposed use case:

    (1) Would there be any food safety concerns in using the Sous Vide Supreme to perform lengthy ultra-low-temperature-poaching of proteins by placing the protein directly into the water bath, i.e. not first inserting the protein into any packaging or any other container whatsoever? (I acknowledge that some of the flavor and nutrients would likely migrate out of the protein and into the water, but I would plan to consume that cooking liquid as a soup/broth later, so that’s not a reason to discourage me.)

    (2) Would it indeed be safe to consume this cooking liquid after that 72 hour period? Perhaps I should separately bring it to a simmer before consumption.

    (3) The only reason I can surmise this lengthy ultra-low-temperature-poaching of unpackaged proteins may be dangerous to our health is if, at such a low temperature (140F) for such a long period of time (72 hours), since the air above the water bath may cause the upper surface of the liquid to be at a reduced temperature, there may be bacteria or toxins multiplying on the surface of the water bath’s liquid or on small food particles that float to the surface. Is that a concern?

  3. BRIAN says

    great article keep up the great work we all need to spread the word and get this information out as fast as is possible!
    BRIAN

  4. Kathy says

    What about the plastic cups from Starbucks? I always order an Americana and the coffee is brewed to drip in the plastic.

    • Goldfish says

      Take away cups are one of the worst offenders. The hot, acidic liquid makes leaching of plastic from the lids and lining of cup very strong. Solution – take your own ceramic mug with you. I thought about buying one with a silicone lid, but it seems these might leach EA too. Somebody should manufacture a mug with a ceramic sip top!

  5. JudithAnn says

    What about our motor vehicles? They sit in the sun most of the time. There’s a lot of plastic inside which gets really hot and it must leach out a lot of chemicals into the air that we breathe. Maybe we should be winding down our windows as soon as we get in and blast out the contaminated air as quickly as possible. Still, we are driving for hours at a time sometimes and that’s a long time to be breathing in toxic air.
    We just can’t escape from our plastic worlds – vacuum cleaner, sewing machine, fridge, freezer, tv, dvd players, knife handles, utensils, heaters, exhaust fans, light covers, vitamin/medicine bottles, etc etc – the list is unending.
    I try not to use a microwave at all as it is so bad – I saw an experiment where microwaved (and cooled) water was used to water a plant. An identical plant was watered with ‘normal’ water. The microwaved water made the plant sickly, whereas the ‘normal’ watered plant thrived. What does it do to our food then?
    What are peoples’ thoughts on rainwater tanks instead of plastic filtration systems?
    At best, we can just eliminate as much plastic as we all individually can, and hopefully that’ll be enough to make a difference :)

    • nan says

      You’re correct about offgassing from cars and other consumer projects, including the computer you’re reading and writing with.

      That said I think you should take the video you describe of microwaved water with a very large grain of salt, and seek a great deal of corroboration before you believe the claim that microwaved water has been changed in a way dangerous to life. Which is to say, it’s nonsense, and if you’re going to accept claims like those in the article which are well-informed by chemical and physical science, you’ll also need to filter out pseudoscientific spectacle.

      There is still a risk to using a microwave oven if you’re near it while it’s operating – it’s not perfectly shielded (put one near a 2.8GHz Wifi gateway for evidence of this – not a newer 802.11n 5GHz though). The inverse square nature of radiation in space means that you can simply move away a few steps and lower that dose to the same ambient microwave radiation you already get from the sun-warmed atmosphere. Microwaves are literally everywhere in the universe; they’re simply faster-vibrating and more energetic radio waves.

      None of which undermines the point of the article – all plastics leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals, particularly when you subject them to heat, chemical stress, or other forms of energy. They’re just not especially stable materials.

  6. fleur says

    What about cutting boards for vegetables?? I assume those are not good either? Should we use stainless steel?

  7. Alex says

    There is just one problem with stainless steel containers: They contain nickel and chromium. Even food grade stainless steel does. Nickel is a carcinogenic. Of course, any food grade stainless steel producer says there is no leak – but if you use these products day in day out, there is going to be a leak.

    Plastipure supposedly is EA free.

    I would love to hear your take on this.

  8. Rachel A says

    In the wake of the recent mother jones article, I am trying to eliminate as much plastic from my family’s lives as possible. I have the following questions:
    1) Is leaching only a problem if the food/liquid comes in physical contact with the plastic or if you use a top that doesn’t touch it can it still leach in a closed container?
    2) Does it matter how long the food is in contact with the plastic (momentary versus days)?
    3) Weck jars have rubber rings for their glass lids. Are these problematic? Likewise, there are other glass containers with glass lids that use silicone or rubber to make an airtight seal. Is that still problematic?
    4) I am using stainless steel straw cups for my 3 year old and 1 year old. However, I cannot find any that do not use silicone straws. Is there an alternative?
    5) In general, if you have to use silicone or plastic is one better?
    6) Which is safest to use: wax paper, parchment paper or aluminum foil?
    7) Are there any concerns with stainless steel?
    8) Are store bought glass jars of applesauce, jam, pasta sauce, etc. safe or are there concerns about the tops used for these products?
    9) what about plastic baby toys (that are bpa free)?
    10) what about plastic products that are made from plants (like corn)?

    Please let me know if you have some answers. I appreciate your help.

  9. Melissa says

    Eastman has been found out; big coverup akin to the tobacco industry’s tactics. Their Tritan plastic is possibly worse than BPA.

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-free-plastic-safe

    No, you can’t eliminate all plastic, but certainly minimizing it on things we ingest has to be the most practical and highest return-on-investment, both money- and time-wise to potentially improve our health. So that means no plastic stress (micro, dishwasher, reusing easily squashable & thus probably weaker structure/more leachable to-go containers) and reducing time of contact and surface area in contact between food and plastic surfaces. I’m going to go with stainless tiffins & pyrex dishes probably with rubber lids, mason/Weck jars, etc., and not worry TOO much about non-liquids in contact with my OXO countertop vacuum storage containers (flour, etc.), mixing bowls used for only a few minutes at room temperature, and the like. Not giving up my CamelBak bladder for hiking, but may switch out my daily water bottle with stainless.

  10. Amanda says

    Ugh, this is so depressing! Where can I get safe drinking water then? The tap water has hormones in it, and most bottled water will have EAs, and I can’t find a solid answer on whether water filters will get the hormones out of my tap water, so now what? What the heck do I drink??

  11. says

    I noticed back in 2011 shortly after you wrote this article someone asked about freezing food in bpa free ziplock type bags and you indicated you were still researching that. When I do this I always put the food in once it’s cold or room temperature but am interested in what you’ve found out. I don’t want to keep storing food this way if there is hard evidence that even this can leech EAs and other chemicals into our food. Thanks!

  12. Rachel says

    I use klean kanteen spill proof cups for my girls! I thought they were safe, but now I’m nervous about the silicon spout??

  13. alan says

    Hoping to get a response from Chris on this. I had this nasty incident with this China made plastic coffee maker. It’s Kitchen Elite I believe. And that made me sick for like 3 days ,weird feel in stomach and all which did eventually dissipate.

    Any idea on what the most likely nasty chemicals in that and how serious the damage. I been doing a lot of lemon detoxing for some time after that incident.

    Nowadays, my diet is organic(to avoid pesticides) and non-GMOs and plenty of antioxidant from vegetables and the like.

    But I did developed indigestion that always happens after meals and I found curry soup to consistently help in relieving. A family doctor I saw tried to prescribe antacid and PPI but I refused after consulting different sources on GERD including your’s . Curry seemed a big help but I have dependency with that. What’s a good doctor to see to cure this without need for dependency no more. Is functional medicine or GI doctor the way to go. I don’t want to run into another doctor giving bad advice like antacid and PPI again. Even the GI doctor I was referred to for endoscopy recommended I go on meds the fd prescribed, so I find this to be coupling in bad advices. The endoscopy diagnosed GERD of mild inflammation.

    How much do you think that China coffee maker incident contributed to this GERD. I was perfectly healthy before that period. Now I also have food allergy as well to some but not too many foods.

    Appreciate some helpful advice!

  14. Emi says

    I would like to know more about silicone. Even glass or stainless steel baby bottles use silicone nipples. I was hoping to
    use silicone lids too. One person said that the dyes were the only problem with silicone, although I read that food grade silicone (FDA & EU) can’t contain dyes w/heavy metals. Is silicone just as bad as plastic?

  15. Brian says

    Hi Chris,
    So this only exposes the tip of the ice burg. Plastics are like a plague on our health as you already know.
    With the over 40 male crowd not only is there an increase in male infertility but (and fairly recently discovered and now just starting to get attention) there is a huge increase with the male population around the world having problems with increasing levels of S.H.B.G (sex hormone binding globulin)
    This is is what regulates our testosterone in our bodies.
    Plastics wreak havoc on our hormonal health and to add insult to injury many men that are having symptoms of low testosterone that are tested for low testosterone still show normal levels and are then misdiagnosed as having depression or some other psychological problem and treated for something that they don’t have.
    This is not being studied that much and most general practitioners know nothing about it but it is going to be epidemic in the near future.
    Increased S.H.B.G lowers free testosterone by binding to serum testosterone and rendering it useless to the body. This allows the body to be estrogen dominant so that combined with the estrogen’s we get from plastics is devastating to men. This opens up a whole other world of health risks as a man ages. Hormone replacement will do nothing for it because the body just keeps binding the testosterone as it is added. S.H.B.G. is the bodies own way of regulating our hormones but with all the environmental intrusions on our bodies our natural systems no longer know what to do. Food for thought, we ain’t seen anything yet!!

  16. Michael says

    Hi Chris,
    Any new recommendations regarding Sous-Vide ? Do you still use it ? Do you use the silicone bags ?

    Thank you,
    Michael

  17. Annabelle Hogan says

    But what I want to know is how quickly food and drink is contaminated?? I understand chemicals leaching into a water bottle that had been left out in the sun, but what about food stored in a plastic container for a few hours or over night? Is the risk much less?

  18. lucinta says

    Hi Chris,

    I too use a silicone menstrual cup, but after reading this article (and comments) I may have to rethink this.

    My question is – Do you know if natural latex is safe? There is an Australian brand that make menstrual cups from this – would this be a safer alternative or should I ditch them altogether?

    Thanks!

    • Kealani says

      I’ve been wondering about the same thing recently. I’ve been using a diva cup for over a year and it occurred to me recently that it might be an issue. It’s in intimate contact for approx 25% of my life and you have to boil it every month to sterilize it so it’s exposed to high heat regularly.

  19. Brendan says

    Reading this as a father of 2 young girls (4mo and 4yrs) gives me a horrible gut-clenching stress :(

    I’m huge on convenience around my cooking and storing of food. I cook big batches and often store them in old ice cream containers or take-away containers (often still fairly warm but never hotter than I’d eat). We never put plastic in the microwave and have BPA-free infant bottles but still we use a lot of plastic and now I’m feeling quite worried that there’s very little solution for us without significant changes.

    I did find that Eastman, the company behind a lot of “BPA-free” resins used in products are engaged in a legal battle with the company behind PlastiPure and CertiChem that tests for EA. On the surface it smacks of goliath trying to squash inconvenient truths, but it would be good to have other studies to back this one up.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/07/30/157592882/legal-battle-heats-up-over-whose-plastic-consumers-should-trust

  20. janknitz says

    Just do the best you can.

    We store as much as possible in our fridge and pantry in glass canning jars–they come in many sizes. I have a hand-held vacuum sealer with jar attachments, so I can seal the jars pretty well. I carry my lunch to work in canning jars–I’ve knitted little sleeves so they don’t knock together in my lunch bag. Even a leftover lemon half goes in a little jar instead of a baggie in the fridge.

    I also use metal “tiffins”. These are divided metal boxes or stacking metal boxes (usually stainless steel) for carrying food outside the home, but they are not good for liquids (hence the jars). They would be good for small servings of the homemade granola bars, but they can’t be vacuum sealed. (Hint: Cost Plus has tiffins for good prices).

    For larger amounts, I use the old fashioned cookie tins (stock up at Christmas time–I buy the tins and toss the cookies when they are cheap–we have quite a collection now. I also have a set of graduated glass bowls with lids (yes, plastic) for storing food in the fridge. I’ve also been buying some of those small round and square pyrex containers with the plastic lids for fridge storage–as long as the food isn’t in contact with the lids, I’m OK with it. Same with the jars, there’s BPA in the lids.

    You can’t help that some things come in plastic or BPA lined cans, except to limit the processed foods that you buy. I make what I can myself (yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, mayo, sometimes even butter), but I get it that some things you just have to buy. I often transfer things to glass containers as soon as they are opened. I even have some old fashioned milk bottles for the milk–much nicer to pour from than a plastic container.

    I don’t think the mainstream will ever go back to glass containers for dairy, nut butters, etc. It’s just too expensive to transport all that glass, and expensive to recycle it, too. It has to be done on an individual basis in your own home.

    • Kris says

      Thanks very much for the reply! I appreciate your time and the good suggestions. I have been changing over to the Pyrex glass containers for leftovers, but when you look in the fridge at all of the other stuff it makes you think it is a waist of time. Some of the stores in my area have glass bottles of milk with recycling and trade in programs, but with 2 teenage boys in the house it doesn’t seem feasible. We can consume 2 gallons of milk in a day. I will try to switch other things over though, so that was a good idea. I need to look into orange juice containers….I know I should stay away from plastic, but what about the cartons–aren’t they lined with something? It seems endless. We really need the government to step in here and get rid of these chemicals. Thanks again!

  21. Kris says

    I just ran into this article while trying to figure out how to store homemade gluten free granola bars for my son to take to the Boy Scout National Jamboree–him not being able to eat wheat is going to be a huge challenge there.

    First does anybody know a product that you can vacuum pack those in something that isn’t hazardous to his health? Next what about most of the stuff in our refrigerator–everything comes in plastic. Will getting ride of zip locks for leftover half-onions and not storing our frozen meat in baggies really made a difference when the milk, juice, ketchup, mayo, mustard, butter, sour cream…..well everything in the fridge, comes in plastic? Uggg the whole thing is very frustrating. We need the government to outlaw containers with these chemicals, because there are so few ways for us as consumers to speak with our wallets and purchase alternatives. We all don’t live within a hour of stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

  22. Stuart Yaniger says

    Re: copolyesters, if memory serves, the one used for blenders/mixers and more permanent applications were typically Eastman Tritan. I can’t comment on their potential for EA because Eastman is apparently suing anyone who dares show test results different than the ones they bought and paid for. So given that I’m a poor guy who can’t afford to hire an expensive defense attorney, I’ll say “no comment” let you draw your own conclusions. Other copolyesters like Eastar are generally used in disposable applications because of their limited temperature range.

    Re: temperature, leaching does slow at lower temperatures, but it’s not insignificant. Many plastics tested positive after extraction at body temp (37 C) and no prior stressing.

  23. Matt says

    This is a relatively old post, but I’m wondering if someone can answer if the items must be heated in order to leech these chemicals. For example, storing cold vegetables (uncooked) in plastic bags / tupperware. Or nuts / seeds in similar (supposed BPA-Free) type containers?

    Also Dehydrators are exclusively plastic (from what i’ve seen) but the temps are relatively low, would that be a problem?

    Would be interesting to see if this includes wine casks as well as i’m pretty sure those pretty silver bags are some kind of plastic and wine would be reasonably reactive I would have thought :-[

    Here’s hoping someone has an answer!

    Cheers

  24. Rachael says

    Excellent. More things to worry about. More things I can do very little about.

    I avoid heating plastic and that is simply the best I can do for now.

  25. John S says

    Chris, the Yaniger study says that EA are leached “once items are exposed to boiling water, sunlight and/or microwaving.” For sous vide, does that make you any more comfortable in using PE bags in water well below the boiling point? Thanks, JS

  26. David says

    Many of us use VitaMix blenders in the kitchen, I believe previously these containers were made of polycarbonate, and the new ones are currently made out copolyester. What do you think about this? Are there any good blender containers made out of glass?

    • Bryan says

      I’m also concerned about mine. My pitcher has already begun to develop a large amount of deep scratches, in less than a year of use (I use it twice a day). I’m of the mind to dig out my old Kitchen Aid with a glass pitcher to do light duty or hot liquid blending, at least as a stop-gap solution. I’m going to write them a letter pointing to this study; if enough of their customers do this maybe they’ll take notice.

  27. Jake salisbury says

    Hmmm this sucks… I buy my meat from a farm near me and it all comes frozen in vacuum packed plastic…

    Absolutley nothing i can do about this.

    So it got me thinking… Surely chemicles leach from almost anything.. Ok maybe not EA but other chemicals that you really dont want in your body…

    And then theres a question of how much you absorb through your skin… And think of the amount of chemical based stuff we come in contact with..

    Im just gonna try limit the amount of plastic exposier but plastic wraps all food products so its just not doable to stop this…

    Omg its just like gluten!!, its everywhere!!,

    Is there any supplement or food that can help combat against these chemicals or are we all just fighting a losing battle….. Maybe…

  28. Kim says

    I’ve been congratulating myself for quitting processed foods and making all my own food myself. However, my method involves freezing lunch portions in convenient, easily portable, 2 cup plastic Ziploc-type screw top jars. *sigh*

    I checked out the alternative containers mentioned in this post and comments, and WOW they are expensive – especially given how many I’d need. I think I’m going to try standard canning jars despite the plastic lid linings. I figure my exposure to leached estrogenic chemicals is reduced in proportion to the surface area of the food in contact with plastic. I estimate I can reduce the plastic surface area by over 80% if just the lid is plastic compared to the entire jar interior. PLUS, when stored upright and frozen, the food doesn’t actually touch the lid lining of a canning jar (much, if at all).

    Hopefully this new strategy is enough to provide meaningful reductions in exposure to BPA and related chemicals along with meaningful reductions in anxiety over it. If there’s some flaw in this logic, I’m eager to hear about it!

    • Catherine T says

      If you need glassware, visit the Salvation Army or Goodwill. The shelves are loaded with it.

  29. Pam says

    What is known about possible EA or other issues of compostable plastics? We are now able to get water bottles and other items made of compostable “plastic”…. Thanks.

  30. Mike says

    I was curious what about supplement containers? I dont think u would have much choice, would you think the BPA or EA could contaminate supplements?

  31. Teresa Myers says

    Thanks for the detailed research! I looked around and found some (expensive) all-cloth lunch and snack bags for my daughter’s school lunches. Some of them are lined with nylon, are there any data about leaching from nylon?

    • Heather R says

      Wow! I did not expect an answer that fast! Thank you VERY much for the information, Mr. Yaniger; I appreciate it and will keep digging!

  32. Heather R says

    Thank you for the well written article! I have already started eliminating plastics from my kitchen months ago. (In fact, my cats were plastic free YEARS before due to feline acne. You think that would have been a clue for me!)

    However, the comment by Mr. Yaniger that even medical grade silcone can leach EA is a little frightening to me because I use a menstrual cup (Diva), and I’m worried that it could be just one more thing keeping me infertile. I’ve done a quick search online to find out which types of silicone can leach EA, but haven’t found anything definite one way or the other (no true references – just comments that solid medical grade silicone doesn’t leach things in the body from websites selling the cup or other comments mentioning statements from this very page). I would appreciate it anyone could point me to some studies on this topic!
    Other than that, I look forward to reading through the archive of posts! Thank you!

    • Stuart Yaniger says

      Heather, there’s not much published data (I think we had a few mentions in our EHP paper), and certainly no published data on which brands are safe and which aren’t. Medical grade is no guarantee- the levels at which EA is detectable and possibly biologically significant are much lower than the FDA limit on total migrant.

      Dow-Corning did some work a few years ago on the EA of two common contaminants. I’ll see if I can dig up the reference for you.

  33. Liane says

    Seems like comments have tapered off a bit, but I thought I would add my thoughts. As a first step, I am no longer heating foood in any plastic containers, like ziplock and glad food storage. I used to have an ancient set of glass food storage containers made specifically for the refrigerator, but they all broke over time. At this point I am far more concerned with the interaction of glass and ceramic tile under the influence of gravity. I have had bad gashes in my feet over the years from glass on beaches, and things that broke alongside my pool. In fact we have a rule no glass in the yard. So, I invested in some melamine and lexan type polycarbonate stemware for outdoor use. I am not going to stop using those but do not heat food in them anyway. The bigger issue is that most produce from my CSA comes in poly bags. As does grocery store stuff. And trader joes puts everything in plastic. I send my husband to work every day with two meals. Most of the protein is pre cooked and just needs heating so I guess he can empty his baggies onto paper plates and keep some tableware in his drawer. It is absolutely unfeasable to carry two meals a day in glass and metal is not suitable for reheating in. It’s a real challenge, also since he totes his water to work. So we have decided to start with the most obvious exposure, not reuse any sour cream or yogurt containers, not heat in plastic and not store leftovers or planned overs in plastic. Other than that, I cannot see what else to do. I already pitched all my Tupperware that I had all my grains in, when the contents hot expunged. But all our nuts, seeds, dry fruit is in plastic. Clearly one can get obsessed or one can use common sense.

  34. L says

    I have used Evenflo glass bottles for my 4yo and 2yo and have been very pleased. I did breastfeed them 13 months and 22 months, but supplemented with pumped milk and even pumped right into the Evenflo bottles with a Medela pump. I am the only one to ever break one, by dropping them in the kitchen. I used the silicone sleeves on the outside, and some padded plastic water bottle covers that also fit the 8-oz Evenflo bottles. I used both the 8 and 4-oz bottles. We still use them, since I don’t want to use the plastic sippy-type cups when they aren’t using a regular glass or cup.

  35. says

    Two persons mentioned that they use a Brita plastic water filter; anybody has suggestions about that?
    I also use one at home and I’ve been looking for alternatives but didn’t find any. I think Brita filters are BPA-Free, but from what I know now seems unlikely that they are EA free. Your help would be greatly appreciated :)

  36. Lisa Simons Kross says

    Hi Chris,
    Our office has been drinking water from the Arrowhead 3 gal. water dispenser for over 15years. In trying to eliminate BPA exposure, I look for the #7 on the plastic container. Much to my disappointment, I went to pour a glass of water today and saw a #7 on the plastic jug on top of the dispenser. I wrote Arrowhead and decided to follow up with a phone call today. I spoke with a customer service rep initially who told me they are aware of this issue and are in the process of converting #7 containers to #1. When I asked when I might get a #1 container to my office, she could not answer that and transferred me up to a higher authority. The woman I next spoke with, said that they are aware that their container does have a very small trace amount of BPA in it (comparable to 1:1Billion) and that the BPA does not leak into the water. I told her that was contrary to everything I had been reading about BPA leaking into food and liquids. She held firm and I suggested she e-mail the research and resources that support her assertion. She will be emailing me that information tomorrow. I emphasized that California along with 10 other states will be banning BPA from baby bottles/feeding containers the concern is so prevalent. She began to say that the baby bottles in the news are of a higher BPA. She also could not tell me when (if they are in fact in the process of converting to #1) that I could get my #7 bottles exchanged out. She also said (contrary to the previous rep) that they were not converting the bottles to #1 due to the BPA issue but that they were converting it to #1 as an easier recycling option.I wanted to share this with you to see what you thought/call on a higher health power to possibly analyze this. What do you think? In the meantime, I will be transporting my water from home in a stainless steel container. Thanks, Chris!

  37. says

    How would one check to see if exposure to chemicals with EA is too high? I recently did a hormonal test and found my testosterone to be at an optimal level. Would excessive exposure to chemicals with EA manifest itself as depressed testosterone, elevated estrogen, or something else measurable?

  38. John Galt III says

    Diethylhexyl phthalate (aka dioctyl phthalate) is everywhere, in much larger quantities than BPA. For example, in all of the power cords and network cables on our computers. Fortunately, it isn’t as potent as BPA, but the exposures may be larger. When I was a kid, chew toys were made out of it. I think that it would bear mention in this article.

  39. frink says

    what is good to microwave in then? What about pyrex glass and the like, it’s not totally clear, but wikipedia says pyrex can be anywhere from 38 to 80% silicone, can this be a problem in this form?

    • Stuart Yaniger says

      Glass does not contain silicone- it does have silicon (a very different thing). If it’s microwave safe, I’d go for it. If there’s any question about microwave safety of a glass container, microwave it empty for 30 seconds or so. If it gets very hot, you probably shouldn’t use it.

  40. says

    Do this also apply for storing food in plastic container (already cold) as well? I never microwave anything in plastic container and always waited the food to cool down completely before storing them in plastic containers.

  41. rowlin says

    I have a water purification system under my sink, all the pipes are plastic, the filter housings are plastic, and the holding tank is metal with plastic lining. I called a company that sells them and he said they are all like that, you are basically drinking out of a plastic bottle. I thought about getting an ionizer, but they are plastic coated on the inside. Seems ridiculous that for over $2k you can’t get an ionizer made of stainless. I guess the good thing about the ionizer is the water is flowing through it rather than sitting in it for days like the systems with a holding tank.

    • Jim says

      The distribution pipes inside my house and most new houses today are plastic. Not much I can do about that except move. I live in Colorado too, so I need a radon mitigation system also.

      Somewhere there is a post about composite fillings containing BPA. I already got rid of the lead ones as I had high lead levels and replaced them with the composite.

  42. walter says

    What if you live in an Asian country where you must drink bottled water because normal water is undrinkable even to locals, food storage is always plastic because glass is unavailable or too expensive, cooking oil comes in plastic bottles and never glass, and everything comes wrapped in plastic ‘for safety reasons’?

  43. Jim says

    One challenge my family is having is finding a way for storing emergency water long-term. We were able to acquire some food-grade 55 gallon drums used from Mountain Dew syrup or similar, but I think they probably have BPA in them. We do have town water at our home but we just want to have 150 gal +/- for any disruption/short-term contamination in the distribution from the municipal system.

    Again Chris, another great topic.

  44. Amanda says

    I am having a hard time thinking of a good water solution. Yes, I can switch from my nalgene to a kleen kanteen, but the multi-gallon jugs of spring water I buy (to avoid the fluoride and other bad things that can’t be filtered out of tap water- which may come through plastic PVC pipes anyway) are made of plastic. Any suggestions?

  45. Kirill says

    So, this also ties in with the bromide toxicity via computer keyboards and mice. We should all start wearing gloves! :)

  46. Janknitz says

    I found some nice glass storage containers with glass lids on the Container Store website. Look for “Vintage glass food storage”. Prices seem reasonable, too.

    Seems to me that Ikea used to carry some glass canisters with glass lids, but I don’t think I saw them there recently.

  47. says

    Informative post! I have been plastic storage free for two years now. I know plastic is convenient for storage but with that convenience comes health repercussions.

  48. chad says

    Good question, re: Brita.

    I use Brita to filter my tap water at home, as the house was constructed in the 1920s and I am concerned about lead and copper in the pipes. Not sure what options are really available here.

  49. says

    I did give up (a while back) reusing water PET bottles in favor of a stainless steel thermo-like container. It’s handy if a bit awkward and it is easy to wash.

    Still, I know this is not fixing anything if there is a true, real, significant danger inherent to using plastic. We need to remain calm. Plastic containers are everywhere. Plastic is everywhere. If we are going to damn the material, we need more information than “just stay away”.

  50. lolo says

    ok, lots of questions… so now im storing my Brie / Camembert inside some big ass glass jars @ glass lids, the temperature is perfect, but thy are def not airtight… so how do i keep my cheeses mold free? im thinking wax paper? or should i just seal the top with some plastic film? Also what about the meat… rib eye steaks? ( Polystyrene tray out) also wax paper? + glass or stainless steel trays? and the milk? i drink milk from plastic bags… glass bottle? this is a pain…

    • Janknitz says

      I was looking around my house for glass containers I already have and I found that I have some glass jars with lids that look sort of like stylized apothecary jars with wide openings. They have a glass lid with a seal that fits pretty snugly. I’m not sure of the seal material, but it’s on the outside of the inner portion of lid, so not much (if any) contact with the food inside. They seal pretty tightly.

      They were inexpensive, and attractive, and come in a variety of sizes. They would work in the fridge or the pantry, but I’m not so sure about the freezer. I bought them recently at Walmart, so I think I’m going to go back and buy more.

      I love glass milk bottles! But they’re expensive. I put my cream in a mason jar–the lid never touches.

      I’ve been looking for a good glass pitcher with a sealing lid all summer for ice tea that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. You can really see the plastic deteriorate–probably from the acid in the tea–when you store iced tea in a plastic pitcher. This summer I ended up making ice tea concentrate (cold brewed) and storing it in a glass mason jar, because I couldn’t stand the plastic pitcher.

  51. John says

    Well Chris, you’ve opened a real can of worms. I’ve been wondering when this topic would reach the blogs.

    The problem is not plastic containers. It is plastics, period. We’ve surrounded ourselves with it. We eat, drink, and breathe it. We absorb it through our skin. Little is known of the consequences of long term exposure to it. It permeates the land, sea, and air.

    Where do we go from here? Anybody care to venture a guess? Read all you can about resins and hardeners, polymers and plasticizers. Then think about it.

  52. Steve says

    Have you got any idea what options are best for dental fillings? Amalgam is supposed to be bad, but the composite fillings all contain plastic! I’ve been putting off getting needed fillings because I don’t know what would be best — or least bad.

  53. Kia says

    @Mallory.

    I went to Dr. Mercola’s site and was deeply sad reading through comments that so many people were living their totally scared of everything around them. Some of them were talking about depression, crying every day, isolation, social problems. They were scared of electricity, radios, tvs, plastic, paper, food, metals, clothing, water, and have molded their lives around these fears. As long as you are living optimally as possible (not eating 12 twinkies a day, not taking drugs or alcohol, exercising), I think the human body is vary capable of adapting to and handling the chemicals and toxins it is exposed to. You can take measure to lessen exposure to these things but I wouldn’t build my life around and live in fear.

    • Martin says

      Yes, this cannot be stressed enough, especially in the health conscious community. Remeber that about 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. If you eat a healthy diet, are physically active, get quality sleep, you are already helathier than probably 90% of the population. You will do more harm than good fretting about every little detail.

  54. says

    it seems impossible. to run a typical day…

    i wake up and put in my contacts, stored in plastic contact case, and contact cleaner in a plastic bottle
    – drink coffee from a plastic coffee maker, brush my teeth with a plastic handle brush and my tooth powder comes out of a plasctic container. i throw my lunch in a plastic container and put on my plastice sunglasses and go to work. all the water i drink during the day comes from plastic bottles as the tap water makes me throw up.i write with plastic pense, my mouse is plastic, my condiments for food are plastic, my salad is in a plastic bag and my meat a plastic container. i shower and my shampoo/conditioner is in a plastic bottle, i eat dinner and quick cook potatoes in plastic wrap in the microwave and top them with sour cream from a plastic container. 99% of my spices are in plastic containers. my silverware is platic as are my serving dishes. some of my jewelry is plastic. hell…tampns are plastic covered!

    i feel like i should be dead

    • Moe says

      LOL, Mallory, that’s one heck of a list!

      You can find alternatives, though. I’m mildly allergic to some plastics, and I don’t have most of those items. The only major plastic items I can’t replace are computer pieces and they don’t seem to bother me much. Maybe because they don’t taste that good microwaved. ;-)

    • says

      Half of what you describe are plastics that are not ingested….! I get depressed too, and then I realise that there are many measures we can take to at least get started and reduce our exposure substantially – starting with avoiding the use of plastic in the microwave would be one good start.

  55. Pat says

    Now I am happy that I decided against a Keurig system. Although I have enjoyed using an Aeropress, I will now consider getting a Chemex or Hario.

  56. SBarracuda says

    Ouch, this article rather made me cringe. I already use a stainless steel water bottle. But as far as I know, these always have polypropylene (PP; plastic #5) caps, which I thought was as safe as plastics come. This is probably the only plastic I use that’s ever subjected to heat (hot beverages). Should the new presumption be that that’s unsafe? If so, what’s the alternative? Thanks.

  57. David Millett says

    Chris,

    What about polyethylene? It’s a plastic that is used widely across the United States and Europe for hot/cold water supplies for residences. I am not sure what type of water filtration, osmosis?, would remove the EA if it does in fact leach from polyethylene?

  58. Susan says

    What about sliced bread? That is always sold in big plastic bags? What is being done on a grander scale in the country to help EA go the way of BPA? Has Europe curbed EA?

  59. Juliana says

    What about plastic bottles of body wash, creme, and cosmetics? Does it get into our beauty products and travel in through the epidermis too??

  60. Robert Cuthbert says

    This information is all well and good, but relative to what?

    How many years of life will I lose by using plastic? What’s the percentage increase of my chances of developing cancer? How much plastic storage can I be exposed to before I am affected? Will I be safer if I stop using plastic or stop crossing the street? How is it people live well into their 90’s when all their lives they stored and ate food in plastic?

    Just wondering.

    • Chris Kresser says

      I prefer to do what I can to optimize my health and protect my daughter from chemicals that have been shown to increase the risk of premature sexual development, cancer, metabolic syndrome and other conditions. As the authors of the study said, there are still al lot of unknowns, but it’s foolish to bet our health and the health of future generations on the idea that these chemicals are safe. You’re free, of course, to do whatever you want.

      • says

        This was a thought provoking blog post and I will try to think about ways to minimize my exposure.

        But I also agree with the parent poster, there is need for a cost benefit analysis. Plastics are everywhere. What are the worst offenders? And what are the practical solutions that are easiest and cheapest to implement? At this point guess it really difficult to estimate because there seems to be very lite data on contamination from different sources.

        I would speculate that temperature, exposure time and surface area are good indicators of contamination. I would also speculate/guess that hard plastics are better than soft.

        I will need to do some reading on this. Thanks for the extra resources; they seem to be a good starting point. I would love a follow-up post with the most important and easiest practical steps to minimize exposure.

        My first step will be to never put any thing plastic like in the microwave oven, or anything coming out of it :)

        Thanks for a great blog post

        • Greg says

          I agree Ole.
          One possible reaction is to put everything in stainless steel. But you could be opening yourself up for hemochromatosis as this article illustrates. http://www.irondisorders.org/african-hemochromatosis

          EA is real, and the article poses some interesting questions (hypotheses). But this is only answered with experiments relevant to personal use. In my case I prefer not to cut my containers and soak them in ethanol but to put meat & vegetables in them and freeze them.

          Never the less it is thought provoking.

          • Chris Kresser says

            I’ve never seen any studies suggesting stainless steel leaches iron. I have seen sporadic reports that some U.S.-made stainless steel products leech nickel.

    • says

      People who are currently in their 90’s didn’t eat food stored in plastic all their lives. I don’t know when it became more common to use plastic containers but probably not until the 50s or 60s. So it’s the baby boomers who have been exposed all their lives and rates of obesity, infertility, cancer etc. have all risen dramatically over the years since I was born.

      The other thing to keep in mind is that no one is really testing the overall exposure we’re getting from ALL sources of plastic we come in contact with throughout our lives. Manufacturers might test a product individually and find that whatever exposure comes from that product is within tolerable levels but we don’t use just one chemical-containing product in a day. It’s not just exposure through food stored in plastic that we need to worry about but also exposure through shampoo containers etc. It would be nice if we could quantify the risk. But given that different people have different sensitivities, I doubt we could ever really get an accurate assessment that’s worth anything.

      The problem is that it is very hard to avoid chemicals in our society. It takes a lot of work and a lot of money.

      • Chris Kresser says

        Yes, exactly. In addition, how do we know chemicals with EA aren’t contributing significantly to the increase in morbidity we’ve seen over the past few decades. It’s certainly plausible. Increases in estrogen activity can increase cardiovascular disease risk in men. When a man goes to the doctor and is found to have heart disease, it’s assumed it’s because of his “high cholesterol” or that he’s eating too much saturated fat. But what if it has at least something to do with chemicals and toxins? We’re just not checking for that now, and there’s no easy way to check for it.

        The precautionary principle applies here.

        • says

          My father has a heart flutter and also has far too much estrogen floating around and not nearly enough testosterone. Even the endocrinologist warned us about BPAs (she strongly believes it contributes to the increasing incidence of younger women developing breast cancer). It’s interesting when you hear it from a conventional medical practitioner rather than an “alternative” practitioner.

    • says

      Perhaps the overuse of plastic is akin to stepping in front of a car – a risk we shouldn’t be taking if we care about our health. You choose not to step in front of a car, why not choose to err on the side of caution in the case of plastics (within reasonable limits of course) ?

  61. Amber says

    The Tattler BPA free canning lids are plastic so why are they better than other BPA free plastic that you talked about. Wouldn’t they also contain EA?

  62. Jeremy says

    You worry about your soaked bag? Don’t forget to cut it up into pieces-since this is how we all use these products, LOL!

  63. Paul Lee says

    Thanks, Chris. Very helpful article.

    Would you say that foods sold in plastic bags (e.g. frozen vegetables) or plastic bottles (e.g. some milk and kefir) raise similar concerns about EA?

  64. Sylvka says

    I had my braces taken off and now my teeth are held together with retainers…similar to Invisalign.
    I guess I know the answer about the plastic on my teeth every day but I am so very much hoping that there is minimal leaching…..
    I will get an exact composition analysis of the plastic they use.

    • Jan says

      And most dental composites contain BPA too. I should have replaced my ancient filling already, but I can’t decide what to have them replaced by.

      • Karen says

        As I stated earlier in reply to @Steve, maybe porcelain fillings are a good alternative. You have a kind of ceramic fillings (Cerec), more expensive, but free of BPA.

        • Dino says

          That’s only half of the truth and blinding the people!

          Every single piece of dental ceramic will be “glued” to the tooth by an adhesive system (in most cases this will be “unfilled” composite material). This will be the same like used with composite filling (“bonding agent” e.g. “OptiBond FL”/Kerr etc.). The amount of used composite in ceramics will be smaller than with composite fillings, but for sure there will be a liner of composite between tooth and ceramic and therfore a contact zone to salvia etc.

          Best regards

  65. Janknitz says

    My daughter started puberty at 7 years old. Even though the doctors tell me this is NOT unusual nowadays, it is unusual for our family (most of the females on my side had LATE onset puberty at 14 to 15 years of age). We don’t use a lot of chemicals in our home because of my allergies, so the only thing I can think of is that I bottle fed her (medical issues prevented me from breastfeeding) and used plastic bottles I’m pretty certain contained BPA (Advent brand in the year 2000). If only I had known.

    I’m devastated by this and worried about whether she will be predisposed to other sequelae like reproductive cancers because of this exposure. We are phasing out all of the plastic in our kitchen (love canning jars but now will have to find BPA-free lids!) . We avoid most processed and commercially canned food for this reason as well. But, it is sadly too late for my daughter.

    • Chris Kresser says

      It sounds like you’re already doing a lot of the right things now. Just monitor her health and get help if she starts to show signs of hormonal imbalance or other difficulties. Human beings are both fragile and resilient, and given the right conditions (good diet, exercise, etc.), we can repair ourselves pretty well.

  66. Anna says

    Excellent article! I have Hashimoto’s, and strongly suspect that exposure to plastics plays a role in autoimmune illnesses & cancers. I am making a conscious effort to use non-plastic food & water containers as much as possible.

  67. Erica says

    Hi Chris,

    Most butchers I know wrap meat in plastic instead of paper. What would you do if you were in my situation?

  68. Susan says

    “Conclusions: Many plastic products are mischaracterized as being EA free if extracted with only one solvent and not exposed to common-use stresses. However, we can identify existing compounds, or have developed, monomers, additives, or processing agents that have no detectable EA and have similar costs. Hence, our data suggest that EA-free plastic products exposed to common-use stresses and extracted by saline and ethanol solvents could be cost-effectively made on a commercial scale and thereby eliminate a potential health risk posed by most currently available plastic products that leach chemicals having EA into food products.”

    The above is the conclusion to the abstract of the cited article. Since plastic is everywhere, and generally unavoidable, perhaps the best plan would be to start publicizing this news as widely as possible, and hope for a public outcry similar to the one that helped free us of BPA in food related plastics. But frankly, the greatest amount of exposure we all have to BPA is the coating on the receipts we get at every store. You can refuse them, but half the time I forget. Plastic, like junk food, seems to be everywhere.

  69. DancinPete says

    Hi Chris,
    What about the fact that new houses are plumbed with plastic PVC piping rather than copper? are there any studies showing whether anything leaks into your tap water?

  70. Krasi says

    What about BPA free breast milk stuff – pump, tubes, freeze bags? What could those be replaced with – to use/freeze?
    And in general – would it be safer to use breast pump to provide your baby with breast milk, or better not, due to the danger of BPA/EA contamination?
    Which would be the healthier choice?

  71. Pat says

    Thanks for this article. Now this has me thinking. I was considering buying a FoodSaver system and a chest freezer so I would be able to buy meat in bulk and try to save money in the long run. Now I am not so sure what the best way to store large cuts of meat would be. Will need to research further.

  72. miana says

    I have a favorite plastic cup I have been using for years. Does the EA activity or BPA content eventually dissipate from the plastic item if used/washed enough?

    • labbygail says

      You probably aren’t watching this thread anymore, but maybe my answer will help someone else.

      My husband has a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and does research on the biological applications of various chemicals. This includes the rates of dissipation of chemicals from an underlying substrate in drug delivery systems.

      When I told him about the plastics issue, the first thing he said is that the chemicals with EA will eventually stop leaching out.

      The problem is that we don’t know when, because the plastics have not been thoroughly characterized. “Characterized” is a technical term for describing all of the relevant chemical properties of a material.

      In short, the answer is “yes,” but that does not give us any useful information about how long it takes or how much stress to the material it takes for the chemicals to completely dissipate.

  73. says

    I butcher our own game meat and I also help out with butchering on a friend’s farm. I have always used paper to wrap our meat. I was dismayed to find out, a couple of years ago, that the butcher paper is lined with either soy oil (hello GMO) or a petrochemical wax derivative. There really just isn’t a great option. Even the wax paper that is sold as unbleached and a healthier alternative is lined with soy instead of a petroleum base (not much better).

    I use glass jars with glass lids. I was luck to inherit many, but they can still be found at vintage shops. Aren’t the ones you linked to still made with plastic? Our glass storage containers all have glass lids as well. Easily found at any thrift store and so well made compared to anything on the market now. You can see my glass jar and lid setup here: http://www.tribeoffive.com/2009/10/fermenting-veggies-for-happy-tummy.html

    • Chris Kresser says

      I agree, there isn’t a perfect option. I think I’d prefer the risk of soy oil leaching into my food than chemicals with more significant EA, though.

        • Stuart Yaniger says

          Chris, this is not correct. Silicones can be formulated to be free of EA, but most of them are not. We’ve seen even expensive, high-purity medical grade silicones leach easily detectable amounts of estrogenic chemicals. The low molecular weight silicones (e.g,, the ones used for parchment paper) can be highly estrogenic.

          • Chris Kresser says

            Thanks for clarifying, Stuart. It’s great to have your input here. Admittedly, this is somewhat confusing as there is a lot of conflicting information out there. I’ve seen claims elsewhere the Jarden’s Food Saver bags don’t have any EA, but I’m hesitant to trust them after reading your paper – especially without any independent verification. Did you happen to test the Food Saver bags in your study?

            • Stuart Yaniger says

              To be honest, I didn’t know about the silicone sous vide bags until today, though it’s a clever enough idea, functionally, that my first reaction was, “Of course!” So, no, we haven’t assayed them.. Haven’t tested Jarden, either, but one other popular brand (often seen advertised on TV) showed really high levels of EA. We tend not to publish brand names, but NGOs who have contracted us will be doing so more and more.

              I’m tempted to try to make my own sous vide bags- it’s a technique I’ve always found interesting (I love cooking!) and we have a little film extruder and a vacuum heat sealer…

              • Chris Kresser says

                My take after all of this discussion is that it’s safest to assume that all plastic has EA unless proven otherwise, by an independent lab. Is that how you approach it at this point?

                • Stuart Yaniger says

                  Exactly. Recycle number (often touted as a guide) means nothing. To make things worse, you also have to consider the independent lab- are they using current methods (e.g., BG-1 or MCF-7 in vitro assays) or older, less reliable methods (e.g., uterotrophic assays). There’s at least one product we’re aware of that advertises itself as EA-free, but they don’t disclose any details about how the testing was done other than the name of the lab. When we looked at the product, the EA was anywhere from 60% to 120% of that of human estrogen. Not encouraging, to say the least.

      • Janknitz says

        Not all parchment paper is coated with silicone. Some are coated with “Quilon” which contains chrome and may leach heavy metals, according to this site: http://www.ifyoucare.com/Baking%20products.htm
        I like the If You Care baker’s parchment, but it’s not great for wrapping because the silicone makes it very slippery! It’s not too expensive either–even at Whole Foods a roll is cheaper than a roll of bleached, toxic Reynolds baking parchment you buy at the grocery store. And you can use the IYC parchment at higher temperatures than the Reynolds brand.

        I was thinking of perhaps using squares of this paper under the lids of my canning jars. Most of the time, the lids don’t physically contact the food anyway–I don’t use them for canning, only storage.

        • Janknitz says

          Re Stewart’s reply:

          Oh, oh, so that paper isn’t OK either??? Yikes!

          I have pretty severe asthma, and when I bake (I still bake breads for others even though I don’t eat it myself anymore) I used the baker’s parchment because the flours and meals used to help slide dough from the peel to the stone burn during baking and irritate my lungs.

          Nothing is safe (maybe the universe is trying to tell me to stop poisoning others with bread???).

  74. Susan says

    Thanks for this. I just started replacing plastic food containers for glass, but will now speed up the process. I almost always freeze meat in the wrapping from whole paycheck, and was congratulating myself for that until I remembered that the meat has a plastic film around it. Oh, well. Butcher’s paper and then a plastic bag sounds like the way to go. It is difficult to freeze things like chicken parts in a stainless container without getting freezer burn. Blech. Does waxed paper contain plastic? It occurres to me that I don’t know how they make that.
    As for the sous vide, I was eager to buy one, but was always put off by the continual need for and cost of the bags. I seems to me that anything you can do in a sous vide you can do in a slow cooker or even a decent cast iron pan in a low and slow oven.

    • Elenor says

      “I seems to me that anything you can do in a sous vide you can do in a slow cooker or even a decent cast iron pan in a low and slow oven.”

      Oh, I don’t think that’s true! (I’ve had my Sous Vide Supreme since they came out two-plus years ago, and I use it all the time.) I’m going with Mark Sisson’s 80%. I do use glass in the fridge for everything — but give up my Sous Vide Supreme?! Not for love or money! (Or health!) If I’m saving it (I often cook several meals at a time), I do take the meat out of the sous vide bag (after icing it for a hour), and store it in glass in the fridge. But some things I will spend the time and energy to manage, and others? {shrug} There is no perfect life, only a better one.

  75. says

    Does the plastic wrap or lid (BPA or no) need to be touching the food or liquid it is containing in order to allow leaching of chemicals? If so this seems impossible to get away from as very few containers on the market are made with glass lids! I already store everything in the fridge and out in glass containers (generally Pyrex and Mason jars) and use plastic lids which don’t rust and aren’t touching the food/liquid inside — is that good enough?

    Also, freezing broth and raw dairy for longer storage is extremely difficult in glass. Any suggestions for that?

    • Chris Kresser says

      I’d assume if the lid isn’t coming into contact with food, it’s not a problem. However, I think getting the BPA-free lids I linked to in the article is a safer choice. We have them at home.

      For the freezer, you can use stainless steel or maybe wrap food in freezer paper before you put it in a bag.

      • Moiz Ahmed Siddiqui says

        Dear Chris,

        Thank you for some valuable piece of information. what is your opinion about Composite CANs for packing of different products??? These CANS are basically a composition of Kraft Board, at the bottom and Top we have Tin and inside we have aluminium foil as protection against moisture. Do you recommend this packaging for food packing against plastic and Tin???

  76. Molly says

    If meat is thoroughtly wrapped in freezer paper and then put in a zip style plastic bag do you think that would avoid any problems?

    • Melanie says

      I’m glad this topic came up just as I’ve been making plans to go deer hunting soon-maybe I’ll be able to figure out another way to process the meat; I think I’ll try your idea, Molly.

      For saving meat long-term, I always thought I had to get my packaging as airtight as possible to prevent freezer burn.(?) This seems especially important with fish-although now that I think of it, one year I froze all my salmon by putting the piece of salmon in a ziplock, and then filling the ziplock with water. It’s certainly more labor-intesive than a vacuum-sealer, you kinda have to prop it up in the freezer until it freezes, and it does take up more space, but the fish came out tasting just fine, with no change in texture.

  77. says

    Hey, I solved that problem a couple of years ago–I purchase the wide-mouth Mason or Kerr bottling jars, both small and large, and use them for storage in the fridge, or elsewhere! I use the silver lids, so it gives a vintage look, but there are other advantages: better storage size in fridge, you can see what’s in the jar and the amounts you are saving are great for another meal (when I fill up the quart, I dispose of the rest, because my family will only eat it, maybe, one more time!).

    Question: what about those “seal-a-meals” and the plastic they use in sealing food inside–what are they made of and are they safe?

    • Chris Kresser says

      The tops for Mason and Kerr jars have BPA. So either you need to make sure the food in them is not coming into contact with the food inside, or use BPA-free lids. I don’t know about “seal-a-meals”, but as the article suggests, you pretty much need to consider all plastic food storage containers as having EA.

            • Thia says

              Folks might want to know that the Tattler lids are made with formaldehyde. I’d recommend Weck jars. They have glass lids.

              Also- “Tupperware” is a brand name, and I don’t think they make glass containers. (?)

          • antaya says

            So using my old fashioned bailer lid canning jars with the ball rubber rings, are allot safer. These jars are not reccomended by the USDA. However they were my grandmothers then my mothers then passed down to me.Been using them for 50 years now.
            Will be looking for more at antique stores.

            • Matt says

              How about using the rings + a small piece of rectangular aluminum foil. A bay-area yoghurt company currently packages their yoghurt using this method.

          • Laura says

            You can flip the flat lid over, so the plastic side faces up. That works for Kerr jars, although I don’t can for shelf storage, so I don’t know if it will work for that use. Thanks for sharing the Weck jars.

  78. says

    Great summary, I’ve been researching the effects of BPA and the conundrum that arrives is the idea of a “dose-response” curve, meaning different things happen at very low and very high doses, and seemingly nothing happens in the middle where industry likes to point to for safety and recommended intakes. Nature does this naturally with how our food interacts with our gene expression, but when hijacked by man-made chemicals, the effects may not be so subtle and kind – especially when you’re dealing with a pregnant mother and growing child.

    Appreciate your work!

  79. Melanie says

    What about wrapping foods for long term storage in the freezer? I wrap up game meat in saran wrap or ziplocs to get all the air out, then freezer paper. And I’ve also eaten lots of vacuum-sealed salmon…can you recommend any good alternatives?

  80. Pam S. says

    Good to know. I sometimes do get bottled water here at my office which is supposedly in a BPA free bottle, but I did wonder if it was still safe. Looks like I’m going to be donating my old plastic tupperware as well!

      • anon says

        or, re use them in different ways, to store crayons, or playdough, or things that will not be ingested. Might be a better solution?

        • Bryan says

          Agreed. Even if your local recycling program accepts (some) plastics, much of it doesn’t actually get recycled anyway, ending up in a landfill or incinerated, further poisoning the environment.

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