Healthy Kitchens for Safer Child Care
What to avoid, what you can do
We can pay attention to the food we eat: where it comes from, what it contains, and whether it is organic. Often we do not think about the household items that come into contact with our food. Unlike food ingredients, products that we use every day can contain chemicals of concern that are not listed on the label! Materials used for food packaging or during preparation may contain harmful chemicals that can interact with our food or drinks under certain conditions. The good news is that there are simple steps that you can take to reduce exposure to these chemicals.
What to Avoid
Bisphenols (such as BPA and BPS): BPA, the building block of polycarbonate (PC) plastic and food can liners, can harm hormone systems. BPA leaches from these materials when heated, scratched, or exposed to acidic food. Even low levels of BPA can lead to prostate and breast cancer, reproductive problems, diabetes, and obesity. BPA is no longer used in US baby bottles or sippy cups, but some replacement plastics are suspect. BPS, now sometimes used as a replacement, is more potent than BPA.
Spot it: In the lining of most canned food and drinks, plastic blender jars, food processor bowls, and ‘shatterproof’ plastic cups and pitchers. Look for #7 or PC in the recycling logo. Restaurant supply stores sell many items made of BPA.
Per- and polyfluoro alkyl substances (PFASs, which include PFCs): PFAS are used to make non-stick, greaseproof, and waterproof materials, including pans and bakeware, pop-corn bags, disposable dish-ware and fast food wrappers. Two common PFASs, PFOA and PFOS, may cause cancer and liver or kidney damage. PFASs do not break down easily and build up over time.
Spot ‘em: Frying pans, bakeware, cookie sheets or any other cookware advertised as non-stick or having a Teflon® coating. Microwave popcorn bags, disposable dishware.
Lead: Even small amounts of lead exposure can lower IQ, reduce learning abilities, and cause behavior problems. Older homes may contain lead water pipes, and builders commonly used leaded solder until the 1980s. Brass fittings for water pipes may contain 8% lead.
Spot it: Pipes or solder (used at joints) may be dull gray and appear shiny when scratched. The only way to know for sure is to have your water tested at the tap.
Phthalates: Pronounced “thal-ates,” these chemicals are commonly added to PVC to make it flexible and are used in fragrances. Phthalates can act like hormones, leading to a variety of reproductive problems, especially in baby boys.
Spot ‘em: Plastic wrap and food film, clear flexible plastic containers, and highly processed foods.
NYSP2I is dedicated to helping NYS residents and businesses find implementable and cost-effective sustainability solutions.
Funding provided by the Environmental Protection Fund as administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NYS Pollution Prevention Institute or Department of Environmental Conservation.
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