Friday, November 16, 2007

Plastic Smile

I swear I feel like we are all trapped in the Batman movie where the deodorant chemicals interact with the shampoo chemicals which interact with the room deodorizer and lock the poor unsuspecting victims into a Joker smile....

You've read all about plastic stabilizers leaching out of baby bottles and sippy cups aka the Bisphenol-A fiasco of the summer. In case you're needing succinct recommendations, my favorite resources are Z Recommends' extensive research on bottles/sippys and the old Green Guide basic guide to plastics. We recently went cold turkey on CBoy's pacifiers (poor guy), in part bz the plastic shield on his preferred binky was made of #7 plastic, um, yes, the shield that he chews on cavalierly to make a clicking sound while he bounces and grooves. That and the fact that his one true pacifier love was discontinued due to The First Years' fears of latex lawsuits (bad allergies in some kids) and therefore I'd only been able to stock up for the past 6 months via EBay auctions filled with sleep-deprived parents. But I digress....

You can check your own plastics to see what you should keep and what you should toss. Altho skipping plastic altogether may be the safest bet, supposedly safer plastics are labeled #1,2,4, and 5. Look on the bottom for the recycling symbol. If something isn't labeled with these numbers, don't use it for eating/drinking. Do not use plastics #3, 6 and 7 for food consumption and don't reuse items for food consumption not intended for reuse (like sport water bottles, takeout containers or yogurt tubs, much as that hurts my Depression-era sensibilities). That doesn't mean you should chuck these items into the landfill, just use them as plant pots and sandbox toys, not as food containers. Or tuck them away until small humans who ram everything in their mouths stop DOING THAT.

Yes to 1, 2, 4, 5
No to 3, 6, 7
Don't use recycled plastic containers (like takeout containers) in the microwave or let acidic/fatty foods sit in them.
Do remove cling wrap from items you buy at the store asap (it's almost all PVC which is bad news) and put it into another storage container.
Make sure the containers and plastic wrap you do use (even glass and ceramic) are microwave safe (should be labeled).
Don't let plastic wrap touch your food while it's being heated (or just use a paper towel).
Skip the Nalgene bottles (they may leach Bisphenol-A too).
Classico jars make awesome storage containers.

On a related note, check out the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep report as it ranks beauty care products (think baby shampoo) in terms of safety (the FDA isn't the strictest regulatory agency so even though you'd think that anything labeled baby shampoo has to be safe, well, read the report). Things to avoid: phthalates, which are commonly found in perfume and nail polish remover as well as plastics and may be linked to male reproductive disorders among other issues -- they're banned in the EU, and inexplicably still here in American products (like the iPhone). You can find phthalate-free nail polish/remover at Whole Foods. It's also worth avoiding parabens, which are a preservative in most shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, even though the jury's still out on safe levels of these chemicals. They are a potential carcinogen and may mimic estrogen (high paraben levels were found in a breast cancer study). The 365 brand of beauty products is pretty cheap, believe it or not.

Interesting thread on raising an eco-conscious baby at this WashPost online discussion transcript basically urges us just to buy less stuff. Which is certainly not going to be your takeaway from my lunchbox suggestions, which are more along the line of investments you'd make to avoid creating a pile of disposable lunchstuffs like juiceboxes and the like. But then again, I don't just want a green baby, I want a green healthy baby. Heck, I want a green, healthy baby who actually eats her lunch!

In terms of avoiding plastics in your kid's lunchbox (I don't know about you but that's what almost all of our kidgear to date was made of until recently), check out Sigg (aluminum, though, which has raised health concerns in the past) or Klean Kanteen (stainless steel, but make a chirpy noise) bottles, Thermos Foogo storage jars, Reynolds Cut Rite wax paper sandwich bags (looove these! hardly ever available at Whole Foods, grab em when you can -- I'm going to try this online vendor), sandwich wraps, and Built NY lunchbags (go leadfree on the reusable lunch sacks). I really love the efficiency and food variety you can cram into Bento lunchboxes but wish they weren't filled with plastic tubs. And while we are talking kidlunch, do check out the archives of veganlunchbox for awesome ideas. If you want to buy any of this expensive enviro lunch packaging, check out Lunch in a Box and see if their coupon code/link to Reusable Bags -- can get you 20% off your order.

Speaking of bags, the Washington Post ran a phenomenal comparison of the enviro cost of paper vs. plastic bags recently. Bottom line tho: forget paper, forget plastic, we should all bring our own durned bags. In case you don't have 1,001 political/tech conference tchotchke bags already floating around your front hall closet, there are lots of clever reusable grocery bags out there. Makes me smile thinking back to college when roommates L and S and I used to wear our sweatshirts to the grocery store, take them off, and wrap up our food purchases in the zipped hoodies. I bet hoodies don't have crazy chemicals in them....

4 comments:

MamaBird said...

From DCUM this morning...helpful links and tips re: phthalates.

Shop at one of the stores that have pledged to stop selling heavily mouthed baby products with phthalates, including Kmart, Sears, Target, Toys "R" Us, and Wal-Mart.

http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Baby-Bottles-CU21apr99.htm

Here's another helpful article about companies that say they don't use pthalates:
http://www.ehow.com/how_8956_stay-away-phthalates.html

Original post: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071105/schapiro

This article is about "pthalates", a chemical used to make plastic soft (or something like that), that is apparently common in toys sold in the US. It's been banned in Europe since about 2002 because of research that finds a link between reduced testerone levels and exposure to pthalates. The article goes into a fair amount of detail about all this.

Susannah said...

One of my favorite sites is ReusableBags.com! They just donated a nice selection of reusable lunch items to our preschool auction -- a Sigg bottle, a sandwich wrap, and a couple of lunch bags to hold all the stuff. Sadly, it seems that not many of my fellow preschool parents are as obsessed as I am with the number of plastic bags used every week by kid lunchers -- I won the item in a single bid.

My revelation came when I had to start packing two kids' lunches and found myself using 4-6 snack bags per DAY to hold all the raisins, turkey roll-ups, goldfish, and other (hopefully) tempting items. Can you do a post about what you put in those Bentobox lunches? I need new ideas and I'm disheartened by what I see when I stop by school at lunch time: marshmallow spread sandwiches on white bread, soda, and a large Ziploc of peanut M&Ms... and that was just one kid's lunch!!

MamaBird said...

Susannah, so cool that you won the auction! We totally love reusablebags around here. And yes, scary lunches abound...and it's starting to rub off on my Pre-K-er (she came home and asked me to cut the crusts off her sandwich one day -- poor kid has a MamaBird who actually knows for a fact that the most nutritious part of the bread is in those crusts...), argh! Anyways, great idea for a post, maybe we could make it more of a conversation as we could always use more ideas for good lunches.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the crust contain exactly the same ingredients as the rest of the bread? Just wondering... Thanks for the link to the waxed paper bags, by the way. I just bought some!