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As if we needed another reason to ban BPA
Feb 17th, 2012 by Nancy

Most cans have BPAA new study about BPA hit the presses recently, indicating links between it and the obesity and diabetes epidemic. It’s very worthy of a read, but if you’re pressed for time, I’ll cut to the chase: researchers in Spain believe they have shown that BPA, by mimicking estrogen, compels the body to release almost double the insulin needed to break down food.  Previous research by others indicates that increased insulin production may lead to weight gain and the onset of type II diabetes.

I’m glad to see such a finding making its way into the popular press, I’m a bit disappointed to report that the rest of the article is more editorial than scientific by mentioning implications and suggesting some thinly supported conclusions.  It’s conjecture, not science.

I struggle, furthermore, with some of the comments, mainly those that do more to reveal ignorance than shed light on the topic.   Should we just just eliminate plastic from our lives because of this report?  Well, notwithstanding that the bulk of our BPA exposure comes not from plastic, but through canned foods and cash register receipts, I’m afraid eliminating plastic would be an overreaction to this research.  Yes, this is further evidence that BPA has some very serious issues that warrant a cold hard look at whether any benefit that BPA might offer is outweighed by its cost.

To wit: recall that canned foods are a major culprit for BPA in our diets.  Would you rather have home-grown tomatoes that are canned in glass jars (but the only lids available to seal the jars have BPA), or organic tomatoes packaged in tetrapaks that are BPA-free BUT aren’t recyclable?

In all honesty, I do not have an answer for that – not for myself, not for you.  maybe the only answer is “don’t eat tomatoes out of season.”  Sigh.

Not all plastics have, or are produced using, BPA.  Polycarbonate is the resin of concern, and even then many polycarbonate items have removed BPA from its production.  Polyethyene (#2 and #4) and polypropylene (#5, the plastic used for the food containers in Lunchsense) do not contain BPA.  What’s more, the alternatives to plastics have their own issues that should not be ignored.

Returning to BPA and this most recent finding, you may ask, “Just how much research do we need to convince everybody that this is nasty stuff and it shouldn’t be used?”  Great question, and one that scientists grapple with all the time.  Here’s a recent interview with a researcher who has strong opinions (supported with research) about the dangers of BPA; others draw different conclusions from similar research.

It begs the bigger question still:  ”Can the scientific method, in light of the extraordinarily complex network of causes and effects we have created in our modern life, even adequately examine these relationships and draw meaningful conclusions?”

I’m just chock full of questions.  No answers here today, I’m sorry to say.  Whether we’ve chosen to do so or not, we all have to live with uncertainty brought about by our modern living.

So NOW what do we do?

Avoid BPA whenever possible: Personally, I feel that there’s enough evidence to steer clear of it whenever possible.  I strongly encourage you to read this excellent summary of BPA sources (part one and part two).

Be informed: Just like our food intake should be varied, so also should be our information intake.  Please don’t allow one report dictate your every move, but do give several reports undertaken by independent facilities that reach similar conclusions a measure of credibility.  Furthermore, give yourself permission to think long and hard about these topics.  If there were simple answers we might have found them already.

Help inform others: Share the links.  Discuss, civilly.

p.s.  I chose to title the post as I have because it does indeed reflect my stance on this chemical.  However, I also have another opinion which I feel passionately about, but it makes a really lousy post title: “Living with Ambiguity.”  It’s what we do, so we should learn to abide with it.  Embrace it, even.

The Plastic Files: Episode One
Nov 5th, 2011 by Chris

The Truth Is Out There …

We’re about to embark on a gripping adventure.  A confounding mystery has thrust itself into the offices of Lunchsense World Headquarters, and we, driven by an unyielding determination to shed light on any dim corner of obscurity, feel obligated to inveDetective-with-smoke-flippedstigate.  It’s a bewildering complexity that involves multinational corporations, government agencies, public health groups, environmentalists and possibly even mad scientists.  The wellness of the planet and the sustenance of our species could hang in the balance.

The story begins with the kind of woman you cross the floor and light a cigarette for (if people still smoked).  “Hey, I kinda like your lunchboxes,” she says off-handedly before shooting me one of those straight-to-the-gut stares that suggests more than it delivers.  “But,”—there’s always a hangnail, a stickler, some pain to snap me out of it—“are these plastic food containers safe?”

Ah, there’s the rub; the stopping point for many potential lady-friends and forward-thinking fellas alike.  It seems plastic has recently transitioned from its gilded, “better living” period to a much darker phase of skepticism and mistrust.  Who crashed the Tupperware party?  Do we have good reason to be afraid?  Is plastic another asbestos—a toxic substance that surrounds us, masquerading as modern convenience?  Or has public anxiety been heightened egregiously by the rampant spread of misinformation via nefarious, unqualified sources?  Who can be trusted?

Since selling plastic food containers is a part of our business, and since we’re human and live here too, Lunchsense has decided to put our considerable resources (this blog space) toward determining exactly where the truth lies.  Combining Nancy’s scientific/research background with my own journalist’s instincts (shaded by a gumshoed-sleuth persona), we’re certain to crack the case.  We’ll leave no stone unturned in our quest to discover what is known and unknown about this seductive, synthetic substance.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be featuring a series of blog posts related to the safety of plastic food containers, and we’ll be looking at the most viable alternative (for our purposes), stainless steel.  We’ll outline and weigh their environmental impact, both in the manufacturing process and in the post-consumer period.  We’ll also examine any health risks involved with using plastic (or stainless) food containers.  Finally, we’ll discuss what qualities consumers use to determine “good” from “bad,” how those impressions are influenced, and where (we think) our food containers rate on that scale.

It’s sure to be a heart-pounding thrill, so stay tuned for our next installment, a short, historical primer entitled: Plastic Fantastic? We’ll explain what plastic is and how it’s produced.  We’ll describe the different types of plastics and discuss the chemicals used in the manufacture of these types, including their toxicity and any associated health risks.

The truth is out there, so don’t you dare miss a single upcoming episode of our revealing series: The Plastic Files!

Plastic: too good to throw away?
Mar 31st, 2011 by Nancy

book_plastic_greyI came across this article at the grow and make blog, and just had to bring it to your attention.

It echoes a sentiment of mine that’s been growing and developing with this lunchbox biz, which goes like this: Plastics are a useful, valuable resource created from another useful, valuable, infinitely malleable resource – oil.  We’ve all heard that plastics are going to be around for hundreds or thousands of years, which is why I’m appalled that we are churning out items of plastic that are meant to be used once and disposed – plastic packaging, for example.  According to the author Susan Freinkel, half our plastics production is for single-use “disposable” items.

Please read the article, and if you can find the time, read the book, which comes out April 18.

Plastics – a Toxic Love Story – I can’t wait to get my hands on it!

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