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Expert issues warning over hidden danger of heating food in a microwave: 'People certainly should care about it'

Although the chemical makes these products more durable, it has come at the expense of human health.

Putting leftovers in a Tupperware

Photo Credit: iStock

Most people don't think twice about putting their leftovers in a Tupperware and popping the container in the microwave. However, the "microwave-safe" label on these containers may be misleading — potentially putting us at risk. 

What's happening?

For years, plastic companies used a chemical called Bisphenol A, or BPA, in a range of products, including shatter-proof windows, bottle tops, and baby bottles. Although the chemical makes these products more durable, it has come at the expense of human health, causing a range of complications, including congenital disabilities, infertility, and increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). 

Tupperware phased out the use of BPA in its American and Canadian products in 2010, but that doesn't mean people don't still have pre-2010 containers around in their homes. They are durable, after all. 

As consumers use their Tupperware and put it through the damage of cutting, dishwashing, and washing, they may remove some of the protective coating that prevents plasticizers and chemicals from leaching into their food — especially when food is heated in the container.

"Every single time that they're used, they're leaching small amounts of BPA out of them," Laura Vandenberg, a professor of environmental health sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, told CNN. "Even the low levels of BPA that leach from consumer plastics, canned food linings or other consumer goods … have been shown to be associated with harm, and people certainly should care about it."

"So we totally advocate that you transfer your food from a plastic container into a glass bowl and microwave it that way," she further said

Why is it important? 

The number one way people come into contact with BPA is through food and food containers. Populations that are particularly at risk for complications from this endocrine disruptor are pregnant individuals and children. 

This is because the BPA mimics estrogen, a sex hormone that also plays a role in muscle-building and fertility. Even small doses of estrogen via BPA can have numerous complications on development, fertility, and overall health and well-being. 

What's being done to protect consumers? 

Consumers are urged to dispose of food containers once they notice any discoloration, which may indicate micro-holes or micro-tears in the plastic layer. Several consumer advocacy groups align with Vandenberg and also recommended heating food in inert containers like glass. 

Plastics labeled with numbers three through seven or those with the "PC" (polycarbonate) labels are most likely to contain BPA.

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