Sunday, 10 June 2007

Microwave plastics a health threat?

Meeky recently received an email flier warning him not to use microwaveable plastic containers in microwave ovens and not to put plastic bottles of water in the freezer. The flier purportedly originated from a newsletter from John Hopkins Hospital, USA. So he decided to verify the contents and discovered that another version containing essentially the same information was already in circulation since Feb 2004. The flier he had received:


1. No plastic containers in micro.
2. No water bottles in freezer.
3. No plastic wrap in microwave.

Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in its newsletters. This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as well. Dioxin chemicals cause cancer, especially breast cancer. Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies. Don't freeze your plastic bottles with water in them as this releases dioxins from the plastic.
Recently, Dr. Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital , was on a TV program to explain this health hazard. He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers.

This especially applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Instead, he recommends using glass, such as Corning Ware, Pyrex or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, only without the dioxin.So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen and soups, etc., should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper isn't bad but you don't know what is in the paper. It's just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He reminded us that a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons.

Also, he pointed out that plastic wrap, such as Saran, is just as dangerous when placed over foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous toxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food. Cover food with a paper towel instead.

This is an article that should be sent to anyone important in your life. Hope you found it to be informative.

May be, he thought, he could devise a small test so readers can gauge their level of awareness of foods and of food preparation that can cause cancer. This was what he came up with:

Read the statements below and state whether the statements are TRUE or FALSE. If you aren't sure, abstain from answering.

1) Cancer feeds on sugar. By removing the supply, we cut off one important food source for the cancer cells.

2) Cancer feeds on milk. Casein, the main protein found in milk promotes the growth of cancer cells. By cutting off milk, we cut off one important source of food to the cancer cells.

3) Cancer cells thrive in an acidic environment. A diet rich in meat is acidic. By reducing meat intake, we reduce the risk of contracting cancer.

4) Eating more vegetables, whole grains and fruits puts the body in an alkaline environment.

5) Avoid coffee and tea. They cause cancer.

6) Avoid using plastic containers in microwave ovens. Toxins from plastics can leach into the food.

7) Eating salted fish and preserved vegetables can cause cancer.

8) Avoid putting water bottles in the freezer. Toxins from the bottles can leach into the water.

9) Avoid using plastic wrap in microwave ovens. Toxins from plastics can leach into the food.

10) The plastic wraps should not touch the food during microwave cooking or reheating.


1. True. However, there are bad and good sugars. Bad sugars or simple sugars, are found in foods that do not offer any health benefits. Examples: fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes and refined grains( like the rice commonly consumed in Malaysia). Good sugars or complex carbohydrates are found in foods that contain vitamins, minerals, protein, and fibre. Examples: fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. So the message is clear: avoid or reduce taking bad sugars.
2. Not Sure. Drinking more cow’s milk than we need can promote cancer growth, according to Dr. T. Collin Campbell, Emeritus professor from Cornell University, US. Dr. Campbell’s studies showed that safe proteins from plant foods such as wheat and soybeans are a better bet. Even at high doses, plant proteins will not cause cancer. From his epidemiological study in China, he concluded that the traditional Chinese diet of a little meat or milk and plenty of vegetables and fruits help to stave off cancer. He suggested that the intake of milk and meat products be reduced. (
However, the issue is not so clear-cut. According to a US consumer group, which has launched a campaign against the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for suppressing vital information, there has been indirect evidence that BGH (bovine growth hormone), a genetically engineered drug that has been given to 30 percent of U.S. dairy cows over the last five years to make them produce more milk, might contribute to breast and prostate cancer in humans. ( Do we give our cows here the same stuff, Meeky wondered.

3. True. Eating too much red meat is linked with damage to the DNA which raises the risk of cancer. The risk of consuming too much meat with its attendant fat is well documented. (


4. True. They have the ability to help prevent cancer and some can even help inhibit cancer cell growth or reduce tumor size. ( (

5. False. DRINKING coffee might have at least one health benefit: reducing your risk of liver cancer. Tea is known to contain antioxidants which prevent cancer cells from multiplying. Recent research even suggested that gout sufferers could benefit from coffee drinking as it lowers the uric acid level. (


6. True. The consumption of salted fish and other salt-preserved foods, including eggs, leafy vegetables and roots, in early childhood has been found to increase the risk having nasopharyngeal cancer, commonly known as nose cancer (The cancer develops in an area in the back of the nose toward the base of skull) in Malaysian Chinese. Similarly, salted-fish consumption in early childhood has been associated with an unusually high occurance of this cancer in the boat communities of Hong Kong's harbours.


7, 8 and 9. False. Most of the plastics in wrapping or packaging foods do not contain the harmful dioxin toxins. Dioxins are only released at very high temperatures, usually above 371 degrees Celsius; they cannot be formed at room temperature or in freezing temperatures, says Machuga, Ph.D., a consumer safety officer in the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. He further added, “The FDA has seen no evidence that plastic containers or films contain dioxins and knows of no reason why they would.”

10. True. Microwave-safe plastic wrap should be placed loosely over food so that steam can escape, and should not directly touch your food. "Some plastic wraps have labels indicating that there should be a one-inch or greater space between the plastic and the food during microwave heating," says Machuga.
However, he admitted that substances used in making plastics do leach into food, but the levels are well within the safety limit.


If there is anything to be learnt from this health scare, it is that half-truths are more dangerous than lies for they wear many disguises, Meeky concluded. As for eating habits it is wise to heed the advice of a Hindu proverb: Even nectar is poison if taken to excess.

Photos: Salted fish:

Microwave oven:

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