The Danger Lurking In The Microwave May Hurt Men’s Health
Nuking your lunch in a plastic container is as common an occurrence as breathing these days. When you’re busy and on the go, it seems like a good solution. However, you may want to rethink this habit.
Obviously, plastic is not a natural material. If you routinely cook or store your food in plastic, you might be doing yourself damage without even realizing it. Together, though, plastic and microwaves become truly harmful.
Here’s a look at some of the most common questions surrounding plastic use and the microwave, and some alternatives to combining these potentially dangerous habits.
What’s In Plastic?
Plastic contains a host of unnatural materials. Exactly what a container contains depends on what type of plastic was used in its creation. For instance, plastic containers frequently contain BPA, which is linked to hormonal changes, cancer growth, and changes in gender traits - meaning it can make you less manly. It may also cause damage to brain structure, increases in hyperactivity and aggression, and obesity.
Another common additive to plastic is phthalates. These can disrupt gender traits, cause behavioral problems, and more. They may also damage the genitals of wildlife, causing infertility and low sperm counts in many of the higher mammals.
Plastic contains other carcinogens as well. Examples include PVC, dioxin, and styrene, all of which have been linked to cancer. Many other types of plastic disrupt hormones in the body and leach chemicals. Where possible, it’s a good idea to keep your food as far away from plastic as you can. But as we’ll see, it’s heated plastic that is the real problem. So don’t fret too much about plastics used in food packaging that you buy at the store. There’s not much you can do about that. But how you choose to cook and store your food can make a huge difference.
What Happens When You Heat Plastic?
The troublesome truth is that heat transfers the chemicals in plastic very effectively into your food.
When you heat a container of food, the food touching the plastic receives the chemicals leaching out of it. You then eat those chemicals, bringing them into your body where they can increase the risks of cancer and other diseases and wreak havoc on the normal functioning of reproductive systems and your brain.
While heating in a microwave can substantially increase the transfer of chemicals, even leaving plastic containers in the sun or letting them come to room temperature can result in leaching. That’s why ideally you should just keep food away from plastic whenever possible.
What About “Microwave-Safe” Plastics?
The short answer is that no plastic is microwave safe. Some plastics use “safer” chemicals reputed to limit the dangerous effects found in studies on traditional plastics. For instance, Diisononyl phthalate (DINP) and diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP) have been used to replace other toxic phthalates in the hopes of reducing reproductive damage.
Even these, however, have been linked to bad side effects. DINP and DIDP, for instance, have been linked to high blood pressure. Blood pressure, in turn, is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, among other diseases. This is hardly a good tradeoff.
It may be tempting to assume that the containers microwavable food comes in (such as macaroni and cheese in a plastic tray) are automatically safe. Don’t. These containers are no safer that containers you might store food in yourself. Even popcorn packaging can have terrible side effects. It’s always better to make foods on your stovetop or in your oven than to cook them in plastic in the microwave.
Is Microwaving Safe?
This begs the question of whether the microwave itself is a safe tool. This is a contentious issue that hasn’t been settled just yet. But one thing is certain: you should keep a distance from microwaves when in use. Research shows that they leak harmful radiation for several feet when in use. So stand back.
But what isn’t clear is whether cooking or heating food in a microwave is harmful. Most evidence shows that it probably is not. However, as we’ve seen, the containers that you use in the microwave can make a huge difference. Use the wrong containers and you’re harming your health.
If you’re going to use a microwave, then at the very least stop using plastic in it. Change your habits so you’re no longer using plastic wrap, plastic food covers, containers, or food packaging. And of course you can use the stovetop or a toaster oven to heat food, when possible. It might not be as easy, but the food is usually more delicious.
What Can You Do Instead?
For many people microwaves are part of their routine. If you are one of them, try to pack your food in glass containers instead. Glass doesn’t transfer chemicals the same way as plastic, and is much safer for heating your meals in. Glass containers usually have plastic lids, however, which you should remove before heating. Alternatively, you can bring your food in a plastic container and transfer it to a plate before heating. Or you might just eat your food cold, depending on what it is.
Keep in mind, whatever you choose to do, that ladling hot food into a plastic container has the same leaching effects as microwaving in plastic. When you pack food to go, wait until it cools before putting it in plastic.
Modern society encourages a lot of conveniences that unfortunately aren’t very good for you. While it’s understandable you don’t want to interrupt your workflow or schedule, it’s worth taking time out to make sure you’re not poisoning yourself or your body.