carlyn yandle/for metro vancouver
I had to wonder: why will my cat wait all day for me to come home to let her out on the deck to drink rainwater, rather than drink tap water out of the plastic bowl inside?
Is it the chlorinated water? Or something about the plastic? I switched the plastic to glass and she’s back to drinking from the bowl.
Maybe she’s my canary in a coalmine. I got on the computer and Googled ‘plastic,’ ‘food’ and ‘safety’ and soon I was swimming in a lot of frightening information (and misinformation) about phthalates — the plasticizing agent injected into PVC (polyvinyl chlorate) — that ends up in flexible plastics including containers and food wrap. It can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems when absorbed through the skin or inhaled.
The Canadian Cancer Society website states that it “is most concerned about ... the lack of information about which phthalates are used in common items.” It also notes that plastic containers designed to hold food but which do not contain food when sold in Canada “are not tested before they are brought to market and there are no guidelines to govern what substances are put in the plastic.”
Maybe Miss Kitty’s instincts are correct.
Considering that European nations have said no to phthalates in many consumer products, including cosmetics, I’m unconvinced by North American manufacturers of phthalates who assure us that there’s no danger in the phthalates in PVC food wrap. I opened a drawer and looked at my roll and was dismayed to find no indication of what the stuff is even made of. In short, we do not have the full plastics picture, so I’ve decided to take a cue from the cat and avoid it where I can. It’s easy to switch from plastic wrap to parchment paper and from plastic containers to tempered glass bowls. I’ve even switched to Avalon for the glass milk jugs because they’re returnable.
Food-safe glass holds no danger of leaching substances into the food it contains; does not absorb colours or odours; and can withstand both high and very low temperatures, unlike many plastics that degrade and warp.
Bonuses: glass containers look good on the shelves and in the fridge; I can also see everything from soup to nuts at one glance; and glass lasts, but also recycles efficiently and cleanly.
Carlyn Yandle is a Vancouver journalist with her own room-planning business,Home Reworks. She dwells on urban-home issues every Thursday in Metro.