There are multiple ways to store foods and liquids, and most commonly used are single use plastic containers or reusable plastic Tupperware containers. Tupperware is popular for a variety of reasons. It cheap, reusable, easy to clean, hard to damage, microwavable, and stackable. Plastic tupperware has a dark side though.
The more plastic materials are studied, the more research is published supporting the fact that certain compounds found in plastic are potent endocrine (hormone) disruptions. Why does this matter?
Plastics Linked to Declining Hormone Health
Hormone health has been on the decline in 1st world countries for decades now, and a large contributor to this is believed to be from plastics. For decades testosterone levels in men have been declining steadily (1, 2), and the onset of puberty has been rapidly decreasing in women (3, 4). In 1860, the average age of the onset of puberty in girls was 16.6 years. In 1920, it was 14.6; in 1950, 13.1; 1980, 12.5; and in 2010, it had dropped to 10.5 (4). Similar sets of figures have been reported for boys, albeit with a delay of around a year (5).
Many factors are believed to be contributing factors to this precipitous decline in properly functional population wide endocrine health, such as increasing levels of obesity, as body fat exerts an estrogenic influence upon the body. Environmental factors such as hormones in the food supply and plastics are also contributing factors. Dangerous compounds found in plastics such as Bisphenol A (BPA) and its related compounds BPS and BPF, phthalates, and more have known endrocrine disrupting properties (6, 7). In fact, it is the metabolites of BPA and other known endocrine disruptors that are especially dangerous, exerting 100 to 1000x a stronger influence on estrogen receptors throughout the body (8, 9). Okay so what, our hormones are disrupted, what does that actually result in? It means heavy plastic use can decrease reproductive success (10), decrease testosterone for men and women (11), and lead to increased levels of body fat (12), plus so much more.
How are Endocrine Disruptors Released from Plastic?
Simple, heat. As the plastic is heated up, the chemical bonds that make up plastic weaken, and if food is in the container, some of these newly freed compounds such as BPA leech into the food. Unfortunately, even extremely small concentrations such as 1 part per million (PPM) are required to have an effect. When measured by the CDC, they found that 93% of the 1400 people they tested contained BPA in the urine, indicating active absorption (11), and that’s only one of many known plastic based endocrine disruptors.
Use Glass, Not Plastic
Glass is a fantastic alternative that is chemically inert and leeches no known endocrine disruptors, or anything else for that matter. Glass is composed of SiO2, is highly heat resistant, and just like Tupperware is microwave safe, stackable, easy to clean, reusable, and inexpensive. Glass containers are more expensive than plastic, but with their increased durability they are a better investment financially in the long run, and they are certainly a better investment for your health.
I personally use these Snapware Glass Tupperware Containers from Pyrex.
Switch to glass Tupperware containers and your endocrine system will thank you!
Travison TG, Araujo AB, O'donnell AB, Kupelian V, Mckinlay JB. A population-level decline in serum testosterone levels in American men. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92(1):196-202.
Andersson AM, Jensen TK, Juul A, Petersen JH, Jørgensen T, Skakkebaek NE. Secular decline in male testosterone and sex hormone binding globulin serum levels in Danish population surveys. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007;92(12):4696-705.
Herman-giddens ME, Slora EJ, Wasserman RC, et al. Secondary sexual characteristics and menses in young girls seen in office practice: a study from the Pediatric Research in Office Settings network. Pediatrics. 1997;99(4):505-12.
http://www.mum.org/menarage.htm (This is the best source available for proof of these historical trends)
Herman-giddens ME, Steffes J, Harris D, et al. Secondary sexual characteristics in boys: data from the Pediatric Research in Office Settings Network. Pediatrics. 2012;130(5):e1058-68.
Rubin BS. Bisphenol A: an endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2011;127(1-2):27-34.
Colborn T, Vom saal FS, Soto AM. Developmental effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in wildlife and humans. Environ Health Perspect. 1993;101(5):378-84.
Baker ME, Chandsawangbhuwana C. 3D models of MBP, a biologically active metabolite of bisphenol A, in human estrogen receptor α and estrogen receptor β. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(10):e46078.
Shin'ichi Yoshihara, Tohru Mizutare, Misako Makishima, Noriko Suzuki, Nariaki Fujimoto, Kazuo Igarashi, Shigeru Ohta; Potent Estrogenic Metabolites of Bisphenol A and Bisphenol B Formed by Rat Liver S9 Fraction: Their Structures and Estrogenic Potency. Toxicological Sciences, Volume 78, Issue 1, 1 March 2004, Pages 50–59
Fisher JS, Macpherson S, Marchetti N, Sharpe RM. Human 'testicular dysgenesis syndrome': a possible model using in-utero exposure of the rat to dibutyl phthalate. Hum Reprod. 2003;18(7):1383-94.
Meeker JD, Ferguson KK. Urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with decreased serum testosterone in men, women, and children from NHANES 2011-2012. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014;99(11):4346-52.
Feige JN, Gelman L, Rossi D, et al. The endocrine disruptor monoethyl-hexyl-phthalate is a selective peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma modulator that promotes adipogenesis. J Biol Chem. 2007;282(26):19152-66.