Pediatricians issue policy warning about chemicals in plastics and food packaging

by Sandra Curtis

The American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) most recent policy statement recommends limiting exposure to chemicals for infants and children. The first two chemicals of increasing concern on their list are used in the manufacture of plastics:

  • Bisphenols

  • Phthalates

These chemicals are present in food containers, canned food, plastic bottles, and many other items that are used for food preparation and storage. They are the specific class of chemicals on which ReThink Plastic (2018) focused. The ReThink pilot study conducted by Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC) in partnership with Child Health and Development Services (CHDS), showed significant results with an intervention strategy focused on many of the same recommendations as the AAP in their new policy statement.

Infants and children are more vulnerable than other age groups to chemical exposure. Children may be particularly susceptible to the effects of these compounds because not only is their exposure relative to their body intake per pound is higher, but their metabolic systems are still developing and are less efficient at detoxifying what they ingest and are vulnerable to disruptions.

A lack of data on food additives exists stemming from the food regulatory system itself. First, neither the FDA nor the public have adequate notice or review new food additives. A system referred to as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) has become the standard by which all new food additives enter the market. However, this process was intended to be used only in limited situations. The Government Accountability Office conducted an extensive review of the FDA GRAS program in 2010 and determined that the FDA is not able to ensure the safety of existing or new additives through this approval mechanism.

The new policy recommends parents and caregivers:

  • Prioritize consumption of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables when possible.

  • Avoid processed meats, especially maternal consumption during pregnancy.

  • Avoid microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic, if possible.

  • Avoid placing plastics in the dishwasher.

  • Use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible.

To learn more about toxic chemicals in plastics and to get safe product recommendations download the free Healthy Baby Guide created by Plastic Pollution Coalition and Made Safe. 

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