The real risk of chemicals in food hurting your children
Are we aware of the chemicals leaching into our food?
Over the years and for ease of convenience we have started to use more and more plastic in our daily life. We also rely on prepackaged goods or food in cans for convenience. It might even be our children's snack boxes or food takeouts – these make our lives easier too.
However recent studies on the effects of chemical leaching from everyday plastic containers as well as chemicals found in canned food might give you good cause for alarm. Especially when a trusted paediatricians' group like The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is raising concerns by issuing new guidelines.
Chemical Leaching and Chemicals that Lead to Health Problems
However growing scientific evidence is now showing that chemical leaching, as well as chemicals used to preserve prepackaged and canned food, are tied to health risks such as obesity and hormone disruption.
Some of these chemicals are even said to accelerate puberty, decrease fertility, cause immune and thyroid problems, as well as certain types of cancer.
In their recent statement, AAP expressed concerns over the health of babies, children and foetuses in pregnant women – groups who are most vulnerable to the effects of such chemicals. If you think it doesn't affect us think again. How do you explain the dozens of chemicals found in the bloodstream of pregnant women in a study done by scientists at the University of California, San Francisco?
Among the chemicals found was bisphenol-A, which is already known to cause cancer and other health risks. Other chemicals detected included those used in food-related plastic products, plastic pipes and water bottles. Also found was a compound banned by the FDA!
Chemicals We Should Avoid
Despite the need for more research on the risks involved, Dr Trasande, lead author for AAP's statement said that there is no need to wait until all evidence is in before doing something.
As parents, we really need to think about what we're feeding our children. If you compare the amount of food against their body weight, children actually eat way more than adults. Which, in turn, means the effect of chemicals in their body is so much more. And it doesn't take much to cause some long-term damage!
"Even low-level exposures to endocrine disruptors can contribute to disease," added Laura N. Vandenberg, an assistant professor in the department of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts.
According to her, several paediatricians have outlined in a report how chemicals interfere with normal hormone function "by mimicking or blocking the actions of hormones that are responsible for brain development, development of the sex organs and normal metabolic functions."
Here is a list of chemicals with the greatest potential risks:
- Nitrates and Nitrites - meat preservatives
- Phthalates - used to make plastic packaging
- Bisphenols - used in the lining of metal cans for canned food products.
- Perfluoroalkyl chemicals/PFCs - used in grease-proof paper and packaging
- Perchlorates - an anti-static agent used in plastic packaging
How to Reduce the Risk of Chemical Leaching
AAP is calling for new requirements for toxicity testing. All products need to be retested for chemical leaching before they can be deemed safe for consumers. However, it will take a while for this process to materialise.
For now, AAP can only urge families to limit their use of plastic food containers and to choose wholesome fresh food while cutting down on processed food. Here are some simple ways to reduce the risk of chemicals in our food:
- Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables over processed or canned ones to avoid chemical leaching.
- Cover food with wax paper in lieu of plastic wraps.
- Avoid processed meats, especially during pregnancy.
- Avoid microwaving food or beverages in plastic containers especially infant formula and pumped breast milk. There are right ways to warm up your baby's milk.
- Do not put plastic food containers in the dishwasher.
- Use alternatives to plastic, like glass or stainless steel, whenever possible.
- Check the recycling code on the bottom. Avoid plastics with recycling codes 3, 6 and 7, which may contain phthalates, styrene and bisphenols.
- Thoroughly wash all unpeeled fruits and vegetables.