January 26, 2011

The Case of Plastic in the Microwave

It's been a busy and strange last couple months where I've been doing a lot more reading than posting, but this topic didn't arise from anything I've read. It instead was brought up when I was working in a youths with disabilities program and it was lunch time.

Now, as one would expect, younger-ish males don't make up the majority of the workplace demographic where I work, so I felt a little out of place with the four 50ish ladies but they are friendly enough. It was around lunch time and because the program was away from the residence, our lunches were in microwavable containers, which caused a bit of an unanticipated stir, as I was told that, 'Warming up food in the microwave in plastic containers causes toxins to come out of the plastic and into the food causing the food to be really bad for you.' Now I'm sure that they were just trying to pass on some helpful and healthy advice that they had gotten in the past, but there was a problem.

Unfortunately, this put me in a slightly awkward position, as often happens when someone has a little knowledge, but not nearly enough knowledge. I knew that I had heard or looked at the issue of microwaving plastics in the past, and was 99% sure what they were telling me was a myth, but I couldn't remember any of the specifics.

That said, I thought about passively nodding, but I was confident enough that I didn't think that, that was a good option. I instead told them that I was pretty sure that microwaving microwavable plastics being harmful was a myth and despite their instance that it was, I stated that I was still pretty sure it was a myth.

As is often the case both of us were partly correct, but I was a little more on the correct side.  It took all of about 20 seconds to look up the information on the claim that microwave plastics are unsafe to microwave, and there were numerous good sources of information.

For instance the Harvard Medical School explained that, the people that were giving me the warming were right about a potentially dangerous chemical being leached into food, especially fatty foods. Diethylhexyl adipate can come out of the plastic and into food from the process of microwaving.

So if a dangerous chemical can be put into the food through microwave use, then why is it a myth? Well it's a myth because of the level of Diethylhexyl adipate that is leached into the food, as a life time of microwaving food would result in 100-1000 times less per pound of body weight than the amount shown to do harm to labiratory animals.

The article also points out the FDA knows about the problem of chemical leaching and all products intended for microwave use have to be tested and approved. Does the same process happen in Canada? The Canadian Cancer Society points out that it does, noting that, "The Consumer Product Safety Bureau of Health will investigate any concerns about the safety of this type of product and will ask manufacturers to remove any substances that pose a health risk." While it doesn't have the pre-sale testing, there is a mechanism for testing and removing anything that would be dangerous, like if the myth was true.

Yet, that doesn't stop sites like this, or people from spreading the meme that they have heard.

By the way I love the disclaimer that that site has, "Disclaimer: The information on this site should not be taken as medical advice. Opinions expressed are those of individual authors, unless otherwise stated."

Ohhh...your article on never using any plastic in the microwave wasn't medical advice, it was just someone talking about Bisphenol A, which has already been banned in Canada and has nothing to do with specifically with microwave containers which were the whole premise of the discussion in the first place.

Anyway, this just goes to further the understanding that if you hear something that seems like important news, like microwaving plastic is bad for your health, yet your hearing it first from someone you work with or something you got from an email it would probably be better to look it up and make sure their right.

I found out this the hard way after taking Vimax, Sinrex, Extenze, Vigrxplus and Prosolution because their emails looked so professionally done.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Yikes! You say platic in the microwave will give me cancer? Thanks for the warning. I did not realize it. Phew!

  2. Well actually I wouldn't mess around with using garbage bags, old sour cream containers or old Mr. Clean bottles...

  3. It's too late; it's all in the air by now. Trying to avoid all of life's toxins is probably worse for your life expectancy anyway. We need to start building an immunity to them--we ARE building an immunity to them simply through constant exposure, because the fact is, these harmful substances aren't going away. Not in this consummerist society... "I'm pretty sure it's a myth." Standing up against old ladies in the name of rationality, I like it.

  4. So I published my 3rd post. The second one didn't make the cut.