What are the best alternatives to plastic in the kitchen?
Phthalates are used in almost everything in our homes. Mostly because we’ve had a love affair with plastic over the last 100 years or so. It’s just so darn convenient! We wrap our food in it, microwave in it (!), sit on it, sleep on it, give it to our babies to suck on or chew on or play with. It doesn’t break, it’s lightweight and easily portable, it stacks easily as boxes, cups, food storage containers, or chairs, and it’s cheaper than wood, metal or glass.
But plastics affect our health because of the chemicals they’re made of which are being implicated as hormone disruptors when they enter our bodies. Maybe they aren’t so cheap, after all. Maybe they’re very, very costly.
Science Backs-Up the Fears
A study from researchers at the University of Adelaide and South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) found a correlation between the level of phthalates in the urine samples of 1500 men, and the incidence of type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease. The higher the phthalate concentration, the higher the incidence of these diseases.
Not causation, but correlation.
A study from the University of Rochester showed a link between phthalates and increased abdominal fat and insulin resistance in men.
Phthalates are categorized as endocrine or hormone disruptors, and there has been a long-time association between phthalates and fertility issues because of this. They also then, are being linked to breast cancer for the same reason.
A researcher, Emily Barrett, Ph.D., at the University of Rutgers found that even at “normal” urine phthalate levels in children, there was a correlation to obesity and altered development. In pregnant women, she has found that ingested, inhaled, or absorbed phthalates will cross the placenta to enter the baby’s circulation. Expectant mommies who have higher levels of phthalates, have more baby boys with altered reproductive development.
In a 2014 study that she was involved with, there was found to be a higher incidence of behavior problems in children 6 to 10 years of age, if their mothers had high levels of phthalate exposure during the 3rd trimester of pregnancy.
How Phthalates Enter Our Bodies
As phthalates leach out of the plastics inside our homes, they attach to dust particles and can enter our bodies through inhalation.
Perfume that is inhaled when applied.
Phthalates can enter the blood stream through the skin. Not everything that is on the skin, absorbs easily into the skin. The medications that we can put into patches, for example, must be fat soluble. The more fat-soluble the molecule is, the more easily it will be absorbed. Phthalates are a product of petroleum oil, so, easily absorbed.
Also, when they are in the air, they can attach to the skin and absorb from there.
Most of our topical absorption comes from body products: lotions, creams, nail polish and remover, lip stick, lip gloss, perfume, foundation, eye shadow, eye liner, mascara, baby products., hair spray, perfumes, shampoo, conditioner, soap, aftershave, shaving lotions, etc., etc.
Phthalates help to hold scent and color, as well as to make things softer or more pliable, which is why it’s in all of these body products (and more).
Most of our ingestion of phthalates comes from the food we eat. The more processed a food is, the more phthalates it will have because of coming into contact with conveyor belts, and plastic equipment used to process the food. The longer a food sits in/on a plastic container, the more chemical it has in it.
Phthalates also leach out of plastic water bottles and containers used to hold liquids.
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Ditch Fragrances Wherever They be Found
Perfumes, air-fresheners, body products.
If you see “fragrance” or “parfum” in the list of ingredients, it has phthalates.
Substitute good quality essential oils in a diffuser for air-fresheners, or some beautiful natural essential oils for perfume. My favorites right now: lavender, rose, black spruce. Oh, so many!
I use Young Living. You can read about why I choose them in this post if you’d like more info on that.
Phthalates are in pesticides.
Ditch the microwave
Food microwaved in plastic containers will have more plasticizers leached into the food. Any time you heat a plastic (or anything else), it increases the activity of the molecules, which allows them to leach out of the container or plastic wrap and into your food.
Drink Filtered Water
Refrigerator filters have carbon block filters that will clean out a good amount of the plasticizers in water.
Carbon block filters are better at removing impurities than Granulated Activated Carbon (GAC) filters. GAC filters are in most of the table-top type of water filtration pitchers.
If your refrigerator has a block filter, it’s much more effective than the GAC table-top types.
Plastic Alternatives in the Kitchen:
Replace Plastic Cups, Water bottles and Storage Containers
There are so many really nice alternatives to everything plastic. Stainless steel is lightweight and doesn’t break easily. These are some of my favs:
We’ve tried Finedine and Thermoflask. I love the Thermoflask. Liquids stay hot or cold for long periods of time, and they can be carried in backpacks or roll around the floor of the car without leaking. The Finedine are nice with tight, screw-on caps, but weren’t big enough of our needs.
Hot/cold travel cups
We have several Reduce stainless steel travel cups, and I use them everyday at work. Hot tea stays hot and ice cold water stays ice cold. Love these!
A friend bought a couple of these for us and had them engraved with a logo for our daughter’s volleyball team! Great gift idea!
These Suncraft toddler cups are wonderful alternatives to plastic toddler cups–insulated and durable. I really love these Kereda cups with stainless steel straws. Best for the kitchen table–not really good for “walking around with a steel straw sticking in your mouth” situation.
I’m old enough to remember when baby bottles were made of glass. You can still get them (like these glass Evenflo bottles), and they are a good alternative to plastic.
I really like these stainless steel Pura bottles. Some stainless steel bottles have a tendency to leak, but these have a seal that goes on before the lid screws down, and they have a good reputation for not leaking. They also have a sippy-lid that can be switched for the nipple as baby grows into toddler.
Stainless Steel funnels
These Norpro funnels are essential in my kitchen. I couldn’t do without them.
We’re tea drinkers. Couldn’t do without these stainless steel tea infusers. I gave a couple as gifts last Christmas with some nice teas. I like them more than tea balls which always have a tendency to open up on me.
Stainless Steel Sieves and Colanders
These stainless sieves are colander also in my kitchen. These kinds of kitchen tools are also really necessary if/when you start to make your own body products. I’ll be going into more of that in future posts!
Refrigerator Storage Containers
Glass storage containers seem a little scary at first. I love mine, though, and these Bayco containers are REALLY great. Glass containers with plastic lids and a silicon strip to seal the lid. Our kids have been using them to pack lunches to take to class or work. So far, no leaking or any damage at all. A couple of times the lid created a vacuum seal that was strong enough that I had to use the blunt side of a butter knife to pry the lid up! Microwavable bottoms, but I would recommend not putting the tops in the microwave. Of course, the containers are still glass, but shatter resistant (NOT shatter-proof!).
These are just a few of the products that can be switched out to replace plastic in your home.
Avoid plastics whenever and wherever possible. Wood, glass, and stainless steel are beautiful. Plastic is not. Switch and ditch.
What products have you used to replace plastics in your kitchen? Share your knowledge and experience!