Warming food in plastic containers in the microwave can cause chemicals that harm children’s health to seep in, according to a new policy statement published in the journal Paediatrics. It cautions that some currently allowed chemicals may best be avoided.
Such chemicals can interfere with a child’s hormones, thereby affecting his or her growth and development, and predisposing the child to obesity, among other health risks.
Children are particularly sensitive to chemical exposure because they eat and drink more relative to body weight, than adults, and because they are still growing and developing.
In the report, paediatricians expressed concern that there were significant gaps in data on the health effects of the chemicals on infants and children, and called for stronger food safety requirements to limit exposure to the chemicals used to process, package and preserve everyday foods, but are not adequately proven to be safe.
“There are critical weaknesses in the current food additives regulatory process, which doesn’t do enough to ensure all chemicals added to food are safe enough to be part of a family’s diet,” said lead author Dr Leonardo Trasande.
While some additives are put directly into food to modify the taste, appearance, texture or nutrients, others like chemicals from plastic, glues, dyes, paper, cardboard and different coatings used for processing and packaging, enter food indirectly.
A group of chemical compounds called bisphenols, such as BPAs, which are used to harden plastic containers and line metal cans, can disrupt hormones, affecting the timing of puberty, increase body fat and causes problems in the nervous and immune systems. Other chemicals, such as phthalates and PFC can affect male genital growth, cause cardiovascular disease and affect the thyroid system.
Additionally, dyes, glues, and plastics used in food packaging have been linked to other serious health problems including problems with brain development, obesity, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Therefore, doctors recommend using alternatives such as glass or stainless steel to warm food in the microwave.