What is Bisphenol A (BPA) & how good or bad it is for our health?

BPA – Bisphenol A, often known as BPA is a chemical found in hard plastics and the coatings of food and drinks cans. BPA is used to make many products, including water bottles, baby bottles, dental fillings, dental devices, medical devices, eyeglass lenses, DVDs and CDs, household electronic and sports equipment.

Health Effects - Scientists have linked very low doses of bisphenol A exposure to cancers, impaired immune function, early onset of puberty, obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity.


  • Use BPA-free products. Manufacturers are creating more and more BPA-free products. Look for products labeled as BPA-free. If a product isn't labeled, keep in mind that some, but not all, plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.

  • Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.

  • Avoid heat. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, advises against microwaving polycarbonate plastics or putting them in the dishwasher, because the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.

  • Use alternatives. Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers.

How does food contaminations occur?

Your food is contaminated with toxic chemicals from plastics. These chemicals you are eating and drinking are changing you on a cellular level, altering your chromosomes in ways that can lead to infertility, obesity, and cancer. 

What’s PET (polyethylene terephthalate) & Polystyrene? Ill effects on human health?

It's a plastic resin (SPI code#1) and the most common type of polyester. Many beverages, food items and other consumer products are delivered in bottles or packages made from PET. Manufacturers like it because it's safe, strong, transparent and versatile. Customers choose it for its safety, lightweight, reseal ability and recyclability. Up to 100% of a PET package can be made from recycled PET, and the material can be recycled again and again.

Common Use:

Water bottles, food packages etc

Health Effects:

As with any material used to package food and beverages, consumers should be aware of any limitations on the use of PET indicated by the manufacturer. These will be clearly indicated on the label of the product.  For example, most PET microwave trays are intended for single use and should not be used to store or prepare foods other than those for which they were intended. 

What is PVC (polyvinyl chloride)? Ill effects?

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is also known as vinyl. PVC is the second most common plastic, but is the least recycled of all common plastics. It is considered to be toxic plastic that causes damage to our health and environment. When manufactured, disposed of, or subjected to high heat, the chlorine in PVC can chemically combine with organic materials, producing deadly byproducts known as dioxins. Secondly, the additives used in PVC plastic products can also be toxic.

Common Use:

Food packaging, plastic wrap, containers for toiletries, cosmetics, Toys

Health Effects:

Can cause cancer, birth defects, genetic changes, chronic bronchitis, ulcers, skin diseases, deafness, vision failure, indigestion, and liver dysfunction


  • Do not buy PVC/vinyl products

  • Keep in mind that most of our personal exposure to dioxin comes through animal fats such as beef, cheese, eggs, etc. Eat low-fat meat and dairy products, preferably certified organic.

What are the short-term and long-term effects of plastics on human health?

Toxic chemicals contained in plastics cause neurological problems, cancer, birth defects, hormonal changes, thyroid problems and cardiovascular disease. Plastic bottles may leach cancer-causing chemicals, which can affect the hearts of women and can permanently damage DNA. Find alternatives to plastic products whenever possible. Some specific suggestions:

  • Buy food in glass or metal containers; avoid polycarbonate drinking bottles with Bisphenol A

  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap.

  • Do not give young children plastic teethers or toys

  • Use natural fiber clothing, bedding and furniture

  • Avoid all PVC and Styrene products

  • Buy food in glass or metal containers

  • Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap

  • Do not give young children plastic teethers or toys

  • Use natural fiber clothing, bedding and furniture

  • Avoid all PVC and Styrene products

Through food contamination, how does plastic affect men, women and children?

Food contamination refers to foods that are spoiled or tainted because they either contain microorganisms, such as bacteria or toxic substances that make them unfit for consumption. Food poisoning occurs after eating food contaminated by bacteria. 

Your food is contaminated with toxic chemicals from plastics. These chemicals you are eating and drinking are changing you on a cellular level, altering your chromosomes in ways that can lead to infertility, obesity, and cancer. 

Health Effects:

  • Women - Can cause breast cancer, heart disease & type 2 diabetes

  • Men - These chemicals cause prostrate cancer, low testosterone. These threats are not hypothetical. 

  • Children – Childhood obesity


Avoid eat/drink canned foods and drinks unless the label says it is BPA free.

How does it affect expectant mothers and unborn babies?

As I said our food is contaminated with toxic chemicals from plastics. Pregnant women who are exposed to bisphenol A called BPA, a chemical commonly used to make plastic, may be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later on. Many studies have explored the effects of a mother’s exposure to BPA from drinking and eating out of BPA-lined bottles and cans on a developing fetus. Mothers exposed to enough BPA tend to gain more weight and increased insulin resistance. Both are risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Therefore it is must to avoid BPA-lined plastic bottles and cans during pregnancy. Very young and unborn humans are more susceptible to BPA exposure and its effects than adults. Studies have found higher BPA concentrations in children than adults. Bottle-fed babies are the most exposed & hence should be avoided.

Can plastics cause food poisoning?

Yes, plastics can cause food poisoning. Your food is contaminated with toxic chemicals from plastics. These chemicals you are eating and drinking are changing you on a cellular level, altering your chromosomes in ways that can lead to infertility, obesity, and cancer. 

Many people eat hot foods from plastic plates or foods parceled in hotels. Is this advisable? 

The number of people suffering from kidney and throat ailments, cancer and infertility has been increasing in India. The rise in such cases is largely to people eating hot foods carried in plastic bags. The plastic bags used for packing food are very dangerous as they contain polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, and polystyrene. Not all plastics are safe so, we should avoid plastic plates, containers as much as we can. If you are health conscious, eating quick food that comes in a plastic container and is microwaved should never be an option. Fresh food is always the best option.

Some microwave food while it is still in plastic containers/boxes. What does this do to the food?

When certain types of plastic are heated in the microwave, the substances and chemicals used in the manufacturing of the plastic can leak into your food. Therefor it is must either to avoid using plastic container/box in microwave & use glass containers instead. Else, use only those plastic containers, which are labeled as microwave-safe. Still remember that food should not be heated for longer time.

What is the maximum shelf life of a plastic container or bottle, if it had to be used because of no other option?

It totally depends on chemical compounds used during manufacturing. Usually it is not recommended to keep the food for longer period of time in plastic container/bottles. If there is no choice then take the food out of container/bottle as soon as you can. Also, it is not at all advisable to heat the food in these containers as it might lead to contamination with toxic chemicals from plastic.

Through diet, how to detoxify the body from plastics that may have accumulated in the body?

It’s impossible to completely avoid chemicals, but there are things you can do to reduce your exposure and the level of toxicity in your body.

  1. Drink lot of water - great way to flush the toxins out of the body. Men should aim to drink 3.7 liters a day, and women should try for 2.7 liters.

  2. Choose organic fruits, vegetables, pulses to reduce your exposure to nasty pesticides and hormones.

  3. Hit the gym - one of the most effective ways to break down the fat cells and flush the chemicals out is through regular exercise.

  4. Cut the saturated fat - A lot of toxic chemicals are attracted to fat. Try avoiding saturated fats found in some meat and other fried foods.

  5. Avoid plastic and nonstick pans - Choose glass instead of plastic when storing food to avoid exposure to BPA and never heat plastic in the microwave, as this can cause BPA to seep into your food. Choose stainless steel or cast iron pans over nonstick.

Drinking water from plastic bottles or ready-made bottled waters. Is this advisable? Explain the effects.

Unfortunately, bottled water safety remains questionable. If bottled water manufacturers adhere to these standards, bottled water is considered safe to drink. We should avoid using plastic bottles from local manufacturers as much as we can. However, if its not feasible, make sure that you are buying bottled waters with ISI mark & it should be sealed. Also, once opened, make sure it is used within 2-3 hours time & we should never reuse these bottles.

The 'single use' water bottles that you typically buy are usually made from polyethylene terephthalate (abbreviated to PET or PETE), an inexpensive and lightweight plastic. Its recycling code (the number in the centre of the triangle of arrows found on most plastics) is 1. #3 (PVC) and 6 (styrene) plastics pose health risks and should be avoided. 

How safe are the water coolers, which also dispenses hot water?

One big issue with water coolers is the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A (BPA), as explained earlier. Since BPA can leach into water, office and home water cooler users thinking they’re getting a clean cup of water might be getting a little extra BPA in their diets, too. As long as you routinely disinfect your large water bottle, you can refill it with tap water or water that has been filtered or treated. Dirty water coolers may be putting people’s health at risk,

Storing foods in plastic containers pouches and boxes in room or cold temperatures. Is this fine? 

Try to avoid plastic as much as you can. Only put plastics in the freezer if they have a freezer-safe label. Freezer temperatures can cause plastics to deteriorate, which increases the leaching of chemicals into the food when you take containers out of the freezer to thaw or reheat.

When plastics accumulate in the body, how are they stored? For how long? Are they excreted?

In form of fat which leads to Obesity. In case of pregnant women, it leads to type2 diabetes & for unborn kids, it may lead to Obesity in future.

Which foods must be completely avoided being stored or eaten from plastic wares?

  • Fresh fruits sandwiches wrapped in clear plastic (made of PVC)

  • Takeaway sandwiches wrapped in clear plastic (made of PVC)

  • Vegetables etc packed in clear plastic in restaurants /food joints etc

  • Some Soft drinks bottles if not recyclable

  • Yogurt & soft drinks stored in cups made by Polystrene

Plastics need high temperature to melt and contaminate. But can it actually leach into food at room temperatures? 

As per research plastic bottles leach BPA into room-temperature water. That’s bad enough, but if boiling water is put into these bottles, the rate of BPA leaching goes up by quite a bit. So definitely, it is going to affect the food & finally our body if food is stored for longer period of time in plastic containers.

Supermarkets are full of foods stored and sold in plastic packages and containers. They are unavoidable. How to reduce this contamination?

Avoid foods covered in local plastic packages as much as you can. Agree that many foods are packed & sold in containers. At the same time, definitely you can find many alternatives e.g. fruits, pulses without any packaging. In fact, so many steps have been taken to ban plastic bags in supermarkets, shopping malls etc that is really a good initiative. Avoid buying packaged foods from local manufacturers as they may/may not follow guidelines required for plastic & its usage. Most of reputed manufacturers do the labeling how/where to keep food e.g “store at room temperature”. Etc. Each food is marked with expiry date. While considering expiry date for any food, this point is always taken into consideration that after certain days plastic used might leach into food.

Can plastics plates and food containers be washed in hot water or dish washers?

Have you ever accidentally opened your dishwasher in the middle of a cycle? It’s like an instant facial. The steam and heat emitted are enough to make you jump back and close the door quickly. The water is hot so your dishes are cleaned with minimal elbow grease. Plastics are more likely to leach toxic chemicals when they’re heated or exposed to light. Repeated wear and tear on plastic, including running plastic through the dishwasher, could cause BPA, Phthalates and other chemicals to leach out of the plastic when heated. Therefore, we should never wash plastic plates in dishwashers. Suggest to wash plastic plates with your hands only & water should not be too hot.

Can coffee or hot beverages be consumed in plastic or paper cups? Explain if there are any ill effects.

Definitely we should avoid plastic cups as most of plastic cups are made of Polystyrene. It contains the toxic substances Styrene and Benzene. Hot foods and liquids actually start a partial breakdown, causing some toxins to be absorbed into our bloodstream and tissue. The longer the liquid or food is in contact with the plastic, the greater the risk some BPA contamination will have occurred. 

Disposable paper cups have become quite popular in office pantries due to the convenience it offers. These paper cups are coated with a tiny layer of wax, which is essential to prevent water from seeping into the paper. When very hot liquids are pour over this cup, the paper cups wax may disintegrate and a little may come off, which will promptly be sent along with the drink into our stomachs. While our body can discard minor amounts, over the long-term, it does become a problem.

As a conclusion, you can try to bring your own glass or ceramic cups & njoy your coffee without any health concerns.

How to identify if plastic has leached into the food/drink? Visual cues?

If appearance of plastic is not normal e.g in case of non-stick pans, coating got broken because of high temperature, it got old etc, chances are that plastic has leached into the food/drink. Also, if any plastic container with food got heated which is not safe, chances are high that plastic has leached into food/drink.

Tell us about non-stick pans or tawas. How safe are they?

Non-stick surfaces are metal pans (such as aluminium pans) coated with a synthetic polymer called Teflon. If you are not overheating pan then its relatively safe however, if pan is overheated, it causes their coating to break down, which can result in the release of surface particles and/or toxic gases. Generally it takes 2 to 5 minutes time for the pan to get overheated.  For 100% safety, nonstick pans with ceramic coating can replace non-stick pans coated with Teflon. If non-stick pans are used then it is important to consider points like:

  1. Use pans on low or medium heat only

  2. Cover a majority of the pan’s surface with whatever you’re cooking

  3. Only preheat nonstick pans on medium or low

  4. Don’t use nonstick pans over “power burners”

  5. Use high quality nonstick cookware

  6. Don’t put your nonstick pans in the dishwasher

  7. Avoid scratching or chipping your nonstick pans

  8. Replace moderately used nonstick cookware every three to five years.

Some containers claim BPA-free or safe. How reliable is this? Can they be used?

  • Check for BPA- free Sticker

  • Determine if Bottle Contains Polycarbonate - a shopper can best determine if BPA is present in a plastic bottle by turning the bottle upside down and viewing its recycling symbol, stamped on the bottom of the container. Plastic recycling code numbers 1-6 do not indicate plastics that contain BPA, so they are BPA-free.

  • If a customer sees a white coating inside the container, the bottle should be free of BPA. A golden-orange coating may indicate that the bottle contains a material that is capable of shedding BPA, so a purchaser may avoid the product.

What are the best alternatives for plastics?

  • Glass along with metals e.g. Copper Jugs instead of plastic water bottle at home

  • Glass canning Jars

  • Glass storage containers

  • Silicone containers

  • Stainless Steel

  • Reusable shopping bags

In case of any query or to book an appointment with Dt. Silky Mahajan please send us a mail at info@foodsandnutrition.in.