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paper or plastic

Paper or plastic? NEITHER!

By Stewart Lonky, MD

Author and toxic exposure specialist Stewart Lonky, MD reminds us to limit our toxin intake over the holidays. Paper or plastic? NEITHER! Dr. Lonky recommends breaking out the fine china for your family’s health.

How we eat, reheat and what we eat with are significant choices as we gather with friends and family over the holidays every year. Beware of paper plates:   Most people aren’t aware of the fact that those white paper plates contain a bunch of chemicals, including numerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like dioxin and polystyrene.   Many VOCs can become concentrated in neural tissues, like the brain, and can cause problems with memory while others can act as hormone emulators and contribute to obesity, diabetes, and even breast cancer. Polystyrene containers and plates are made from petroleum products, and actually never break down inside the body.   The chemicals from these plates and containers can leach into foods and are associated with health effects like low platelet counts, and neurological effects such as nervousness, trouble sleeping, and fatigue. Dioxins are a class of chemicals that are carcinogenic, and are also persistent; they never break down, at least not for many years.  Heating foods on these plates is even worse than eating from them since the high temperatures contribute to food contamination with these compounds.   Avoid paper and foam plates and, for heaven’s sake, DO NOT reheat those holiday left-overs on them.  Whenever you can, use your china or glass plates for serving and reheating.   Limit plastic: This is the time of year when so many gatherings and so much food leads to the age old “leftover” issue.   Turkey and ham sandwiches a few days after the “big” dinner are commonplace, and that stuffing, yams, and cobbler are just too good for the trash bin.   The problem is, we frequently use various shapes and sizes of plastic storage containers for these leftovers and plastic containers have major problems.  Plastic containers have Bisphenol A (BPA) BPA is a hormone disrupter, mimicking estrogen and resulting in growth and reproductive problems in children and developing fetuses.

  • The CDC has shown that nearly 90% of us have BPA in our bodies, most concentrated in children.
  • High levels of BPA is associated with diabetes and behavioral disorders.

Look for the triangle with number 7 on the bottom of plastic containers, this denotes polycarbonate and is rich with BPA. Since BPA plastic lines the inside of cans, try making your own gravy rather than buying canned, and use fresh cranberries rather than canned cranberry sauce. Heating inside polycarbonates containers dramatically increases release of BPA. Phthalates (pronounced Thalates)

  • Look for the number 3 on the bottom.
  • Found in PVC type plastics, making them softer.
  • Increased release with heat.
  • Reasonably suspected as being carcinogenic.
  • Emulates and disrupts hormones.
  • Affects reproductive health (fertility in women and men).
  • Affects liver and kidney health.
  • Particularly toxic to “developing” organisms, like a fetus, where it is concentrated and not eliminated. 

Store food in glass and DO NOT reheat in plastic containers. Take food out and heat on a real plate (china/glass). Plastic eating utensils are usually polypropylene and polystyrene. Both chemicals leach out of the utensil onto food. Each is a potential carcinogen and each is a hormone disrupter. Finally, turkey. Eating organic turkey avoids the hormones used in poultry farming. Also, avoids the antibiotics and arsenic containing chemicals added to the feed used in almost all poultry farming. “We all carry a toxic burden, and every day we add a little more to the toxic soup in our bodies.  Oh, it’s only a little, that’s true, but a little every day eventually turns into a lot. Anytime you can give your body a bit of a reprieve from the constant barrage, it’s a good thing. So, with the holidays approaching these are a few steps that can help each person decrease his or her toxic burden, and give the liver and kidneys a bit of a vacation from the job of metabolizing (breaking down) the daily barrage of chemicals and heavy metals and excreting them in the urine.” – Dr. Stewart Lonky, author of Invisible Killers: The Truth About Environmental Genocide   paper or plasticStewart Lonky, MD paper or plastic Dr. Lonky is board certified in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. As a National Institutes of Health postdoctoral fellow and as a full-time faculty member at the University of California, San Diego he spearheaded a research team studying the cellular and biochemical mechanisms of lung injury. His practice involves the evaluation and treatment of patients with toxic exposures as well as patients with lung disease. In addition, he has served as the Chief Medical Officer for a diagnostic device company that developed technologies for the early diagnosis of certain epithelial cancers. His practice is located in Los Angeles, California.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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