Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Throw away your coffee pot!

Hi Jen,

My daughter in law and I were talking last evening about food safety and plastics. She brought up a great question. Is it safe to use such things as the plastic coffee makers ( I have a white Black and Decker brand) and kettles (I also use a white Proctor Silex quick heating kettle for when I boil water for tea). The water receptacles in both products are plastic. The kettle is a #5 plastic. I could not find a number for the coffee maker. After repeatedly heating /boiling water in these products I was wondering if unsafe chemicals are leached in to the water.
Thanks for your time!! I find your web site and reports very informative!


I think this is a very good question. I have been reading and posting about the dangers of plastics since this blog launched last January. So I found Professor Frederick Vom Saal-a biology professor at the University of Missouri and a leading expert on the harmful biological effects of bisphenol A. He says his research is funded by the National Institutes of Health and he gets no money from any of the companies who are trying to come up with "safer" chemicals to be used in plastics.

When I asked Professor Vom Saal whether we could be drinking the harmful chemical bisphenol A(BPA) every morning in our cup of coffee, he shocked me by saying absolutely you are! He said coffee is a double whammy and there are more chemicals than just bisphenol A to be worried about. He said the combination of acidity and heated plastic is, "a bad thing. You don't want to do that with poly carbonate. The hotter it is, the more it breaks down." Is there any safe way to drink coffee? He said not unless you can find a coffee maker made of glass!

So my next question was about plastic in general. Should we just avoid it all together? He said there are some things to keep in mind:

1. Don't put plastic in the microwave. If you eat a frozen dinner, take the frozen food out and place it on a glass plate before heating it. Vom Saal said, "Anything in the packaging of food is going to get into your food."

2. Don't ever put plastic in the dishwasher. If it says dishwasher safe that means it has a harmful chemical in it.

3. If you have kids and want something durable, only use BPA free plastic products and don't heat them!

"What's happening is the public is essentially waking up before the regulatory system in the U.S. People are saying I don't like this. I am worried about this and rightly so. This is something that is related to heart attacks and diabetes. It's a carcinogen. When exposure occurs during early life, this is a bad chemical it should be off the market," said Vom Saal.

I wondered how these companies that make plastic could be selling something that Vom Saal says is so harmful to the public. He said plastic has been falsely advertised as durable. "That's false. That is what is going to cause the companies that make this chemical to get into a lot of trouble. Sooner or later they're going to hit the wall on this," he said.

Vom Saal is hoping the new presidential administration will create a regulatory agency to oversee food safety. He says right now food safety is controlled by several different agencies and none of them have the funding they need to do the job right. He says the Japanese industries got together and stopped making products containing BPA about 10 years ago and the U.S. is way behind on this safety issue. He wants everything used to package food to include a list of ingredients. He says right now there is no way to tell if the container that holds your soup, cereal or snacks is loaded with bisphenol A and other harmful chemicals. His research has shown those chemicals do leak into the food they are carrying, and it happens to an even greater extent when they are heated. He says plastics also contain flame retardant, which is a known neuro-toxin. Vom Saal said, "There are about 75 thousand people who get sick a year from food related illnesses 4-thousands die every year from food illnesses. There are products that contain bisphenol A in them that are used to package food. That's crazy."

So where are we right now with the safety of plastics? The Science Advisory Panel told the FDA to immediately do another report after they received mis-information a few months ago. The Panel explained the scientific evidence has been done, it just wasn't included in the original report. Vom Saal said, "The FDA said we'll think about this some time in the future."

I don't know about you, but this really opened my eyes! I do try not to use plastic plates to warm up the kid's food. However, I didn't think about the dishwasher. Duh! I am sure my family thinks I am being overly paranoid, but it won't hurt me to be more cautious about what I put in the dishwasher and microwave! Vom Saal also said as more people realize the dangers of BPA and other chemicals, the landfills will be full of this dangerous stuff. Right now, there is no solution to this problem either!

Do you have plastic plates/cups in your home? Do you eat microwavable meals?

-NewsAnchorMom Jen


Coach Dave said...

We have heard the same thing, and have switched to using pyrex to warm up leftovers or "lunch" in the microwave. You can get good containers for that at walmart or target.

Not sure about the coffee pot though, that could be problematic :)

Jenny said...

Interestingly enough, I was thinking about this last night as I was loading my dishwasher with all my plastics. Over the past couple weeks, this has been weighing on my mind too. Lately, I have been giving my kids regular dishes and glasses and they think it is something very grown up for dinner. I don't like feeling like I can't trust those agencies..etc. that are supposed to protect us. It feels like a lot of uncertainty is all around us. I am not clear what my plans are or if I have any definitive plans on my plastics. grr.

jayme said...

I checked my plastics last night as I was doing the dishes and discovered that most of the ones my son has been using for a couple years now are either a "5" or say they are dishwasher safe. I am about a breath away from just getting rid of these plastics all together. Clearly these agencies that are designed to protect us are more interested in protecting their money and reputation. Folks have enough to worry about in life as it is...I don't want to have to worry about one more thing every time I serve a meal. Thanks for posting the info, Jen! I find your site to be very informative!!

Shannon said...

I can't believe I had been heating my drinking water on such a thing! I have one, not a coffeepot though, it was a water heater. I also read about BPA a few weeks back and I think malls and some companies initiated a recall and exchange for baby bottles in some states.

I was a bit wary about getting my heater before and now this confirms it. I was rationalizing for a bit before I bought it. I thought since plastic has a lower melting point it has got to be unsuitable for repeated heatings, but then again there it was on the store shelf so it has to have passed some safety test.

Makes me think that people or kids have to get sick first before agencies get their act together.

Great blog btw, you have a new follower :)


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