Debra Lynn Dadd

paper cups and plates

QUESTION:

I frequently use the Dixie brand "to-go" coffee mugs (our cafeteria provides these). I realize that these may not be the most environmentally sound mugs, but I do reuse the same one throughout the day. I have assumed because they are made for hot products that they are microwave safe, however, I am now concerned they are made with a plastic or bleach of some sort that is not safe.

Likewise, our cafeteria at work serves us food on paper plates and bowls (the ones that are white or sometimes have designs). Are these safe to eat off of? Or are they chemicals on these plates I should be concerned about?

I have been eliminating paper goods at home, but at work, where I am on the go, I rely on our cafeteria.

Thanks!

POSTED BY KK :: MAINE USA :: 06/02/2008 12:03 PM


DEBRA'S ANSWER:

White paper products are mostly bleached with chlorine.

The Minnesota North Star chapter of the Sierra Club describes the problems with bleached paper:


Bleaching is done using the gas form of chlorine; therefore, it produces a lot of unwanted emissions. During the process, naturally occurring chemicals called dioxins in the wood react with added chlorine, producing a residue with dangerous and toxic dioxins. As this residue is then released into rivers, lakes, or other water reservoirs, it has a tendency to accumulate in sediments where it stays until it gets picked up by fish or any other organisms. Dioxins have a really long decomposition period and therefore they bioaccumulate in the organisms that accidentally ingest them. Dioxins have a tendency to move upwards in the food chain. Therefore, first accumulating in food products like milk and fish, they can fast travel to humans and other mammals. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the health consequences of being exposed to dioxins can result in development of cancer, damages in developmental and reproductive processes, immune system damages, diabetes, etc. For more information on dioxins please visit the Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) web site: Dioxin (pdf).


So it's better to use unbleached paper products, for both health and environmental reasons.

Debra :-)


COMMENTS:

I spoke to an oncology nurse at the Sylvester Cancer Research hospital in Miami and asked her, what did she think was causing cancer.

Her list was a real eye opener for me. One of those products was paper plates and cups.

They are coated. If they have a design, they have dye in them, in addition to other harmful ingredients.

Avoid them at all costs. She said cold food MAY be ok, as long as you don\'t cut on them.

She said not to use them in a mircrowave EVER.

Her recommendation was to bring my own mug for coffee and NEVER use styrene or styrofoam (popular at picnics) for hot beverages or food.

The hard plastic plates are still plastic.

If it is possible, bring your own plate and mug. Who knows, you may help others from exposure to harmful products.

BTW, be sure to use a GLASS mug and plate if possible. Coffee mugs are painted inside and break down from the acid.

Painted, decorated plates from Pfalzgraf are the best, since they are known not to have lead. Other decorated plates may be harmful.

You should be proud of yourself for wanting to decrease your exposure.





POSTED BY TERRY :: FLORIDA USA :: 06/16/2008 11:32 PM


Terry and Debra (and of course anyone else who may know)

Why is that you think the nurse said paper goods are so toxic? It seems that there would be a lot more harmful things. For example, lead. Terry, I would be interested to know what the other key elements the nurse felt were the main causes of cancer.

Are unbleached paper goods safe or are those too cancerous, just less so. Thanks!

POSTED BY KK :: MAINE USA :: 06/22/2008 12:16 PM


To KK,

I appreciate your willlingness to learn more information from the nurse, who I call "angel." Her remarks did not represent the Sylvester Cancer Research Hospital, but were her personal opinions. I trust her over any expert, especially the ones online, that dispute some of her comments.

Taken from my notes on April 16, 2007:

PAPER/PLASTIC GOODS:

No paper plates or cups due to the toxic chemicals to make the product and the 'coating' on the surface or interior. No hot food on paper or plastic plates. Do not cut on paper plates, it breaches the seal of the coating.

No styrene/styrafoam for HOT or even cold drinks. Use your own glass mug. She brings her own dishes/mug to the hospital. Transfers her food onto her own plate.

She did not discuss 'non-bleached' but did mention just because it isn't bleached, doesn't mean it is safe.

Do Not microwave anything in a plastic container or use the plastic film. If item is in a so-called microwavable plastic container, remove it to a glass plate.

No #7 water bottles Use glass or stainless/Avoid plastic bottles

Do not clean plastic containers in the dishwasher

No plastic toys for children OR pets

WATER:

Get a water purifier

Do not buy Aquafina or Dasani brand

FOOD:

No red meat/No cow's milk/Buy organic chicken if possible

Better to buy a whole chicken since the USDA can sell off parts, even if some of the chicken is contaminated

No Tilapia, it may not have mercury but it is farmed and given hormones to ensure male fish over female fish

Avoid high mercury fish like Grouper and Swordfish/Avoid FARMED

Do not use teflon coated pots and pans

Avoid drinks with any dyes in them or additives

Organic fruits/vegetables if at all possible, especially ones where pesticides go directly on the skin-green peppers, lettuce, grapes, apples, peaches, etc

PERSONAL CARE/COSMETICS:

No dark hair dye-coal tar derived

Use products without synthetic, toxic ingredients, linked to cancer:Parabens, Phthalates(any acronym ending in "P"), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, any of the AMINES:ie triethanolamine TEA or DEA or MEA, cocamide MEA, PEG,polyethylene glycol,PVP, formaldehyde, lead, toluene, Fragrance (can contain over 200 chemicals)

She referred me to Skin Deep because there are so many harmful products, most of them are name brands

She discussed the deception of marketing "All Natural" especially for children's products. The mix of synthetic ingredients and the process used such as ethoxalation, releases formaldehyde and/or 1,4-dioxane, linked to cancer

X RAYS

Limit exposure to X rays, CT scans She told me to research mammograms and request digital mammography

No Dry Cleaning

HOUSEHOLD:
No scented sprays like Fabreze or Lysol spray, No LEMON scent, linked to formaldehyde formation in air

Use baking soda/vinegar for cleaning

No 409 or similar products

Avoid name brand laundry detergent, if possible

Use Baking soda/Borax

No clothes softner

MISC:

Limit cell phone usage, use ear piece

Avoid most name brand SUNSCREEN containing oxybenzone

Badger is ok

Since our meeting,I buy more organic food, I have learned how to read labels on products, do not trust the FDA to protect me and have become informed, not frantic, on how to take control of products that she personally feels are linked to cancer.

She expressed concern over the lack of funding for PREVENTING the cancer. Early detection and drugs are not curing cancer. Some of the treatments for cancer, cause other forms of cancer.She said less people may be dying from the cancer, but there are more types of cancer occurring, especially in children, who obviously don't smoke nor are they living a bad lifestyle.

She did not have optimism for eliminating the causes of cancer, due in part to society's need for convenience, low cost and a 'quick fix' to image issues such as weight loss and aging.

WE are really the ones who can make changes in the products that are made. As long as the industry can get away with it, and we say and do nothing, harmful products will continue to be on the market.

She was a kind and honest person, who made a difference in my life forever. I hope her information will be of help.

There are numerous resources available on the internet.

Articles by Devra Davis were recommened.

Please, learn how to select products that do not contain synthetic, toxic ingredients. You may pay more for them but it is worth the cost.

Thanks for reading.

POSTED BY TERRY :: FLORIDA USA :: 06/23/2008 11:02 PM


Debra,

I don't know if you know what webmd is, but it is a website in which doctors of different specilities will answer people's questions. The website it known for its trustworthy information. Anyway, I asked the oncologist, my question and would like to know what you think of the answer. I asked him if he felt chlorine used in paper goods and the chlorine wash in prepackaged salads is a carcinogen, and if these products should be avoided. "That is an interesting idea, but I am not aware of any data that chlorine or bleach in paper products cause cancer."

Since he's a doctor (md), it made me feel better, but I wanted to hear if you think he's response is true. I rely on bagged/prewashed lettuce so, this issue is a serious concern of mine!

Thanks so much!

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: I think this doctor is not up to date on this subject. He's an oncologist?

There are two issues here: chlorine in water and chlorine in paper.

Chlorine, when combined with the wood pulp in paper, produces dioxin, one of the most toxic of chemicals. Here's an excerpt from the Seventh Generation website, in which they descibe the issue by way of explaining why all their paper goods are unbleached (bold mine):

Of particular concern is a class of chemicals called organochlorines, which are created when chlorine is combined with carbon-based substances like the hydrocarbons in petroleum. Organochlorines are classified as persistent organic pollutants, or POPs. POPs, like organochlorines, share a number of common traits. They persist in the environment for long periods of time and are highly efficient travelers capable of naturally migrating thousands of miles from their source. They also accumulate in animal fatty tissues, and once loose in the body many of them tend to behave like hormones.

There are thousands of different organochlorine compounds being produced for a nearly equal number of purposes. And if you were to look at the whole list, you’d be struck by the fact that most of the world’s most notorious toxins are among them. CFCs that eat the ozone layer. DDT that inspired Rachel Carson to write Silent Spring. PCBs that have been banned for 25 years but are still causing problems. And last, but not least, dioxin, the mother of all toxins and one whose mere mention recalls notorious places like Times Beach and Love Canal.

Interestingly, dioxins are not intentionally manufactured. Instead, they are pollution by-products of industrial processes, predominantly waste incineration and (wait for it) paper bleaching.

Paper mills bleach their product with chlorine to make it white. Approximately 10% of this chlorine reacts with organic molecules in the paper pulp to create organochlorines, including dioxins, a family of about 75 closely related compounds. The typical paper mill produces about 14 lbs of organochlorine pollution per ton of paper bleached. That may not seem like much until I tell you that organochlorines and dioxins are some of the most toxic substances ever created. In particular, the dioxin known as (and you’ll want to take a deep breath before this one) 2,3,7,8-tetra chlorobenzo-para-dioxin, or TCDD, has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the EPA as a known human carcinogen. Linked not only with cancer but with birth defects and other maladies, TCDD is the most dangerous compound in the most hazardous family of chemicals around, a family whose members are often harmful at levels hundreds of thousands of times lower than most other chemicals. Given a choice between sitting in a room with 14 lbs. of organochlorines and 14 tons of almost anything else, I’ll pick the anything else every time.


Just search on "bleached paper and cancer" and you'll get more results than you want to read.

Now, in water, chlorine combines with other chemicals to make by-products that are carcinogenic. Here's just one article from the UK that describes this: Daily Mail: Chlorine in the bath water is linked to cancer.

Search on "chlorine and cancer" for more.

Now, how much of this chemical is on prewashed lettuce? I don't know. My rule of thumb is to live as nontoxically as I can at home, because I do go out in the world and travel and then I just eat anything that's available, including lettuce washed in chlorinated water. But at home, everything is washed in chlorine-free water.

I know prewashed lettuce is convenient, but, c'mon...how long does it take to wash lettuce? A minute. Personally, I think it's worth it to take a minute to wash your lettuce in chlorine-free water.


POSTED BY KK :: MAINE USA :: 07/08/2008 4:02 PM


Debra,

Thanks to your blog, I made the switch from plastic containers to glass bowls (Pyrex). Here's my question, the Pyrex bowls have a plastic or rubber-like top. When I microwave food in the bowls, I keep the top on. Is that okay? Or should I be using wax paper to cover my food? Your advice is appreciated.

Thanks,
Danielle
Chicago, IL

COMMENT FROM DEBRA: Those plastic tops can outgas plasticizers in the microwave. Wax paper is coated with paraffin, a product of crude oil. And I don't recommend microwave ovens. Better to cook your food in an oven or on a stovetop, or eat it raw.


POSTED BY DANIELLE HIRSCH :: ILLINOIS USA :: 07/22/2008 7:15 AM


:: POST YOUR COMMENT

Return to Q&A Blog

Debra's List ~ 100s of links to 1000s of nontoxic, natural & earthwise products
Debra's Free Newsletters ~ website update, natural sweetener recipes, words of wisdom
Debra's Bookstore ~ recommended reading on health and the environment
MCS Recovery ~ resources for recovery from multiple chemical sensitivities
Sweet Savvy ~ how to choose and use natural sweetners (lots of recipes)
Talk With Debra ~ call for a personal consultation (fee)

Copyright ©2004-2007 Debra Lynn Dadd - all rights reserved.