LIFESTYLE

Plastic Containers Could Be Damaging Your Health, Warn Experts

11/11/2014 12:52 GMT | Updated 11/11/2014 13:59 GMT

Hands up if, after an Indian takeaway, you save some of your curry, store it in tupperware and microwave it the following day?

If the answer is yes, then you might want to take note of a new cause of concern which has been flagged up by experts in Brussels.

Scientists have warned that our increasing reliance on a group of chemicals present in almost everything we use, from plastic water bottles, drinks cans and paints to clothing, cosmetics, toothpaste and hairspray, is potentially dangerous.

plastic containers

These chemicals, also known as ‘endocrine-disrupting chemicals’ or EDCs - comprising BPAs and phthalates - are capable of interfering with the way our glands produce hormones, which govern virtually everything our bodies do.

This includes the way we reproduce, grow, sleep, heal, develop mentally and burn energy.

Researchers suggest that EDCs can be especially dangerous if taken in by very young children or unborn babies.

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Due to the number of chemicals present in everyday objects, EDCs are entering the environment through waste water systems, agricultural run-off and the burning of waste.

A report published in 2013 by the World Health Organisation and the UN Environment Programme states that these chemicals are exposing us to dangers through "the ingestion of food, dust and water, inhalation of gases and particles in the air, and skin contact".

The report notes that there are associations between exposure to EDCs and problems including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, diabetes, early puberty, obesity, autoimmune disease, asthma, heart disease, stroke, ADHD and other learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

It calls for urgent research into synthetic materials and the disrupting effects they might have on the hormone system, as well as health implications.

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Dr Steve Ball, head of endocrinology at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospital's NHS Foundation Trust, tells The Daily Mail: "I avoid heating plastics as several studies have shown this raises the risk of chemicals such as phthalates leaching into the food.

"If I am microwaving something, I always take it out of the plastic tray first and put it on a plate."

Meanwhile Alastair Hay, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of Leeds, says he is less concerned.

"With a lot of these substances there are huge differences between the concentrations shown to disrupt hormone behaviour and the amounts to which we are exposed, even with children," says Prof Hay.

"I don’t do anything directly to control my exposure, though, like most people, I wash food carefully so any pesticides or bacteria are removed."

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So what's the solution?

Most chemicals used commercially haven't been tested for their impact on hormones - a startling fact, particularly if they could eventually cause cancer, heart disease or other serious illnesses.

Regulation seems to be the main answer, especially as there's greater evidence to suggest that EDCs might be behind health problems including infertility and obesity.