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Plastics Cancer Link Email - Freezing Plastic Bottles - Plastics In the Microwave or Car

Summary:
Email claims that freezing water or microwaving food in plastic containers or plastic wrap can lead to the consumption of cancer causing chemicals (Full commentary below).



Status:
False

Update:
June 2007: A new variant of the hoax warning claims that drinking water from plastic water bottles that have been left in a car can cause breast cancer (details in commentary below).

Example:(Submitted, February 2005)
FW: Cancer News from John Hopkins

No plastics in micro

No water bottles in freezer.

No plastic wrap in micro

Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in their newsletters worth noting... This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Dioxin Carcinogens cause cancer, especially breast cancer. Don't freeze your plastic water bottles with water as this also releases dioxins in the plastic.

Dr. Edward Fujimoto from Castle hospital was on a TV program explaining this health hazard. (He is the manager of the Wellness Program at the hospital.)

He was talking about dioxins and how bad they are for us. He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers.

This applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination fat, high heat and plastics releases dioxins into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Dioxins are carcinogens and highly toxic to the cells of our bodies. Instead, he recommends using glass, Corning Ware, or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results, without the dioxins.

So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen and soups, should be removed from the container and heated in something else. Paper isn't bad but you don't know what is in the paper. It's just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc. He said we might remember when some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons.

To add to this, Saran wrap placed over foods as they are nuked, with the high heat, actually drips poisonous toxins into the food, use paper towels.

Pass this on to your family & friends & those that are important in your life!




Commentary:
An earlier variant of this hoax referred only to the freezing of plastic water bottles. This later version has added on spurious information about using plastics in microwave ovens as well. Both versions contain false and misleading information.

Rolf Halden of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has expertly debunked the rumour linking plastic bottles to cancer. According to Halden the claim is an urban legend. He explains that:
Freezing actually works against the release of chemicals. Chemicals do not diffuse as readily in cold temperatures, which would limit chemical release if there were dioxins in plastic, and we don't think there are.
Experts also contradict the claim that using plastics in microwaves can cause dioxins to leech into the food. According to Edward Machuga, Ph.D, of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), "The FDA has seen no evidence that plastic containers or films contain dioxins and knows of no reason why they would". The general consensus is that using plastic containers or plastic wrap in microwaves is not dangerous, so long as microwave safe plastics are used and manufacturers guidelines are followed. The FDA article does admit that substances in plastics can leach into food. However, the FDA does not consider this to be a significant risk to humans. The FDA article maintains that:
The agency has assessed migration levels of substances added to regulated plastics and has found the levels to be well within the margin of safety based on information available to the agency.
The email also claims that Saran Wrap "drips poisonous toxins" into the food when used in a microwave. SC Johnson, the makers of Saran® plastic wrap has strongly refuted this claim and has released the following statement.
Response to Hoax Email About Alleged Dangers of Using Plastics in the Microwave

RACINE, Wis., May 4, 2009 – In 2002, SC Johnson became aware of a hoax e-mail that was being widely circulated, which warned consumers about the alleged dangers of using plastics in the microwave. This e-mail, which suggested that it originated from Johns Hopkins Hospital, claimed that the combination of fat, high heat and plastics, releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body, thereby increasing the risk of producing cancerous cells. Unfortunately, this email has continued since 2002 and has recently increased in circulation.

SC Johnson takes very seriously the responsibility of providing products that families can use with confidence, and we researched these claims in 2002. We quickly discovered that the claims in the email about dioxins leaking from plastics into food is not only misleading, but also unnecessarily alarms consumers. Additionally we contacted the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, and spokeswomen Vanessa Wasta reiterated their previous statement which says, "The Internet is flooded with messages warning against freezing water in plastic bottles or cooking with plastics in the microwave oven. These messages, frequently titled 'Johns Hopkins Cancer News' or 'Johns Hopkins Cancer Update,' are falsely attributed to Johns Hopkins and we do not endorse their content." (Links to the official statement from Johns Hopkins and other sources of information on this issue, including the American Cancer Society, are included at the end of this release.)

When used in the microwave, there is no trace level migration of dioxins from any Saran™ or Ziploc® brand product. This is known because these products are 100% dioxin-free. You also should be aware that dioxins can only be formed when chlorine is combined with extremely high temperatures, such as the temperatures generated in waste incinerators. Those incinerators produce temperatures of more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, an extreme temperature that even the most powerful consumer microwave ovens are unable to produce. In addition, SC Johnson's food storage products, including Ziploc® brand bags and containers do not contain bisphenol A (BPA).

All Ziploc® Containers and microwaveable Ziploc® Bags meet the safety requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for temperatures associated with defrosting and reheating food in microwave ovens, as well as room, refrigerator, and freezer temperatures. In addition Ziploc® Zip'n Steam™ products meet the safety requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for temperatures associated with cooking food in microwave ovens.

As a family company, nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of the families who use SC Johnson products. That's why it is so important for us to set the record straight and reinforce that when used according to label directions, consumers can continue to use Ziploc® brand bags and all SC Johnson products with confidence.
I have labelled this email forward as false for the following reasons:
Therefore, in my opinion, the information in this email forward should not be taken seriously. The misinformation contained in the email clearly identifies it as just one more among the many bogus warnings that continually circulate around cyberspace.

However, while the claims in this email forward are demonstrably untrue, alarmist and highly misleading, it is important to keep in mind that not all plastics are necessarily safe to use in microwave ovens. As stated earlier in the article, plastics are considered by experts to be safe to use in microwave ovens so long as microwave safe plastics are used and manufacturers guidelines are followed. However, some plastic containers - such as those that hold meals from fast-food outlets, or cold food receptacles such as margarine tubs - may not be suitable for microwave use. The American Plastics Council has information and resources about safely using plastics in the microwave oven on its website.

Update: June 2007:
During 2007, a new version of the warning message began circulating. According to this version, drinking water from a plastic bottle that has been left in a car can lead to breast cancer. Like the earlier version discussed above, the message claims that heat can result in cancer-causing chemicals leaking into the water. It also claims that singer Sheryl Crow contracted cancer in this way.

Sheryl Crow did appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show in October 2006 to discuss her experience with breast cancer and share preventative tips with viewers. She also posted an article on her website in which she lists the following cancer prevention tips, among others:
Don't drink water from a bottle that has been sitting in your car. Heated plastic will bleed toxic substances that can be carcinogenic.

Don't heat or freeze in plastic for the same reason. Heat in glass.
According to the article, Sheryl was given this information by her nutritionist and was no doubt passing on the information to her fans in good faith. However, it seems that the nutritionist was simply perpetrating the same old totally unsubstantiated cancer myths that are discussed above. Again, there is no credible scientific evidence to back up the nutritionist's claims that heating or freezing plastic will leak toxins into the container's contents. Mayo Clinic dietitian Katherine Zeratsky also refutes the claims.

An example of the new variant is included below:
Subject: Bottled Water Kept in Car

I will stop this habit, because I do this all the time.

This is how Sheryl Crow got breast cancer she was on the Ellen show and She said this same exact thing. So please be very careful ladies.

.....a friend whose mother recently got diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor told her: women should not drink bottled water that has been left in a car. The doctor said that the heat and the plastic of the bottle have certain chemicals that can lead to breast cancer. So please be careful and do not drink that water bottle that has been left in a car and pass this on to all the women in your life. This information is the kind we need to know and be aware and just might save us!!!! The heat causes toxins from the plastic to leak into the water and they have found these toxins in breast tissue. Use a stainless steel Canteen or a glass bottle when you can!!!


These "warning" emails are not the only chain letters that makes bogus claims about the dangers of plastic containers. Another email forward falsely claims that simply reusing plastic bottles can lead to the ingestion of cancer causing chemical agents. In fact, there are a number of myths and rumours associated with the use of plastics. For more information about plastic related myths, visit plasticsmythbuster.org.

References:
Response to Hoax Email About Alleged Dangers of Using Plastics in the Microwave
Rolf U. Halden
Researcher Dispels Myth of Dioxins and Plastic Water Bottles
Don't Use Plastic for Heating Foods in a Microwave Oven Because of Exposure to Dioxins
Microwaving with Plastics
The Ellen DeGeneres Show: Sheryl Crow/Christina Applegate *Breast Cancer Awareness* Microwave Madness: The Dish on Dioxins
Dioxin Doubletalk
Microwaving with Plastics Mayo Clinic:Freezing or microwaving plastic: Does it release dioxins?
Plasticsmythbuster.org: Heard Something About Plastics? Get the Facts Here


Last updated: 15thth May 2009
First published: February 2005

Write-up by Brett M.Christensen

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