Plastic is a synthetic or semi-synthetic material that’s durable, lightweight, and flexible.These properties allow it to be made into a variety of products, including medical devices, automotive parts, and household goods like food storage containers, beverage containers, and other dishes.
However, you may wonder whether you can safely microwave plastic to prepare food, warm up your favorite beverage, or reheat leftovers.
Plastic is everywhere. It’s in bowls, wraps, and a host of bottles and bags used to store foods and beverages. But in recent years more people have been asking whether exposing our food (and ourselves) to all of this plastic is safe.
Studies have found that certain chemicals in plastic can leach out of the plastic and into the food and beverages we eat. Some of these chemicals have been linked to health problems such as metabolic disorders (including obesity) and reduced fertility. This leaching can occur even faster and to a greater degree when plastic is exposed to heat. This means you might be getting an even higher dose of potentially harmful chemicals simply by microwaving your leftovers in a plastic container.
Is it safe to microwave plastic?
The main concern with microwaving plastic is that it can cause additives — some of which are harmful — to leach into your foods and beverages.
The primary chemicals of concern are bisphenol A (BPA) and a class of chemicals called phthalates, both of which are used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastic.
These chemicals — especially BPA — disrupt your body’s hormones and have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and reproductive harm.
BPA is found mostly in polycarbonate (PC) plastics (number 7), which have been widely used since the 1960s to make food storage containers, drinking glasses, and baby bottles. The BPA from these plastics can leach into foods and beverages over time, as well as when the plastic is exposed to heat, such as when it’s microwaved .
However, today, some manufacturers of food preparation, storage, and serving products have swapped PC plastic for BPA-free plastic like PP.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also prohibits the use of BPA-based materials in infant formula packaging, sippy cups, and baby bottles .
Still, studies have shown that even BPA-free plastics can release other hormone-disrupting chemicals like phthalates, or BPA alternatives like bisphenol S and F (BPS and BPF), into foods when microwaved .
Therefore, it’s generally a good idea to avoid microwaving plastic, unless — according to the FDA — the container is specifically labeled safe for microwave use .
Other ways to reduce your exposure to BPA and phthalates.
While microwaving plastic accelerates the release of BPA and phthalates, it’s not the only way these chemicals can end up in your food or drinks.
Other factors that can increase chemical leaching include :
▪️ placing foods in plastic containers that are still hot.
▪️ scrubbing containers using abrasive materials, such as steel wool, that can cause scratching.
▪️ using containers for an extended period of time. exposing containers to the dishwasher repeatedly over time.
As a general rule, plastic containers that are cracked, pitting, or show signs of wear, should be replaced with new BPA-free plastic containers or containers made from glass.
Today, many food storage containers are made from BPA-free PP.
You can identify containers made from PP by looking on the bottom for the PP stamp or a recycling sign with the number 5 in the middle.
Plastic food packaging like clingy plastic wrap can also contain BPA and phthalates .As such, if you need to cover your food in the microwave, use wax paper, parchment paper, or a paper towel.
What are some simple things you can do to reduce your risk?
▪️ Never heat food in plastic containers in the microwave.
▪️ Use glass or stainless steel water bottles.
▪️ Reduce take-out and fast food.
▪️ Eat more fresh food.
▪️ Use glass or ceramic bowls or dishes to heat food or drinks in the microwave.
▪️ Use glass, ceramic, wood, or stainless steel containers for storage.
▪️ Use cloth or canvas bags for shopping.
▪️ Let food cool to room temperature before putting it into plastic storage containers.
▪️ Whenever possible, use glass or ceramic containers.
▪️ Buy prepared soups, sauces and condiments in glass jars. Wash and save them for reuse.
“Is plastic a threat to your health?”, harvard
Gavin Van De Walle (4-6-2020), “Can You Microwave Plastic?”، healthline
“10 Ways to Avoid Plastic Chemicals in Your Food”, plasticpollutioncoalition