Don’t Use Plastic for Heating Foods in a Microwave Oven Because of Exposure to Dioxins-Fiction! & Unproven!
Heated Bottles of Water Are Dangerous and Caused Sheryl Crow’s Cancer-Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
There are a several versions of this eRumor.
The first to appear on the Internet was a message that says a Dr. Edward Fujimoto from the Castle Hospital (no location mentioned) appeared on television and said plastic containers should not be used for heating foods in a microwave oven. He said this is especially true if the foods contain fat. The message claims that the combination of fats and plastics will release dioxins into the food and into the cells of the body with a risk of cancer. The doctor recommended using glass, Corning Ware, or ceramic containers instead in order to avoid the dioxin. Prepared foods such as TV dinners should be taken out of plastic containers before heating.
The second version tells the story of a seventh-grade student who decided to do some experiments with microwave radiation on food wrapped in plastic. She is said to have enlisted the help of the National Center for “Toxicological” Research in Arkansas. The student allegedly found that not only are there carcinogens migrating from the plastic into food during microwaving, but other substances as well.
This eRumor also lists an article about Dr. Edward Fujimoto saying that he appeared on a TV station in Huntsville, Alabama.
Another version claims all this was in newsletters from Johns Hopkins University and Walter Reed Army Medical center.
Yet another version says that singer Sheryl Crow, who is suffering from breast cancer, got her cancer from drinking from plastic water bottles left in the sun and that got too hot and, as a result, were contaminated with dioxins.
TruthOrFiction.com has not been able to find any research that supports the fear that food can become contaminated with dioxins either from plastic wrap or plastic in microwave ovens.
It’s an understandable concern because dioxins are among the most poisonous chemical group known and steps have been taken by many world governments to reduce the amounts of dioxins in the environment.
Dr. Edward Fujimoto is real and is the Manager of the Wellness and Lifestyle Medicine Department at Castle Medical Center in Hawaii. (not Alabama). Part of this eRumor is the result of an interview he did on KHON-TV channel 2 in Hawaii on January 23, 2002.
TruthOrFiction.com contacted Dr. Fujimoto who said the eRumor quoted him fairly accurately. His concern was whether a combination of ingredients, especially plastics and food fats, could result in food being contaminated by dioxins when heated in a microwave. That is his observation and he claims to have research substantiating it.
TruthOrFiction.com has twice asked for him to give us that research but has never received it. He said that he is surprised about how little Americans know about dioxins in everyday life because in Japan, the majority of the population knows about them and the country has enacted regulations to protect its people. He explained that in his view, heating food in a plastic container will produce the release of dioxins and fat will absorb them. The amount of migration of dioxins to fat, he said, will be a function of the heat in the microwave, the type of plastic, the length of time of exposure, and the amount of fat that is in contact. Dr. Fujimoto pointed out that the amounts of dioxins in any given piece of plastic or food that is microwaved in plastic is very small, but that the problem is that dioxins get into the human body and accumulate. He sad that in Japan, there has been a complete change in the way foods are packaged so that plastic is avoided. They use more glass, for example.
In early 2004, a corrupted version of the eRumor started circulating that made it appear as though Dr. Fujimoto was also concerned about putting water in plastic bottles and freezing it, but he never addressed that. This version of the eRumor also made it sound as though the plastic itself was the problem, not the plastic in combination with food and heat. It says, for example, that the heat causes dioxin (sic) to “drip from the plastic” into the food but none of the researchers has claimed that.
A variation of the bottled water version said that was how singer Sheryl Crow got cancer, by drinking bottled water and that she appeared on the Ellen show or the Oprah show to tell the story. Crow has been treated for breast cancer but she’s never blamed it on bottled water.
Another version of eRumor about the seventh-grader has been a little more difficult to detail. We’ve confirmed that there is a Dr. Jon Wilkes at the National Center for Toxilogical Research who, along with a Claire V. Nelson, published a paper at a professional event in Orlando, Florida in 1998 and it was on the subject of food contamination from plastic wrap. We’ve not found the actual study, however, and have never received a response from Dr. Wilkes. The eRumor about Jon Wilkes and Claire Nelson appears to have come from the Options Newsletter published by People Against Cancer at www.peopleagainstcancer.com.
The folks who make Saran Wrap have responded to the eRumor. A statement by the SC Johnson company says the “plasticizer” in Saran Wrap is derivative of naturally occurring citric acid found in citrus fruits and is 100% dioxin free. The statement further adds that dioxins can only be formed with chlorine is combined with the kinds of high temperatures associated with waste incinerators, temperatures like 1,500 degrees F. Even the most powerful microwaves are not capable of those temperatures, according to the company.
SC Johnson says none of its products contains dioxins.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, dioxins are both natural and man-made. The man-made dioxins are released into the air from sources like waste incineration, from burning fuels (like wood, coal or oil), and certain types of chemical processing. Almost every person has been exposed to low levels of dioxins and the EPA says there is research that suggests that high levels of dioxins may be correlated with various health problems, although some of that is extrapolated from studies of animals, not humans.
The only reference we could find about dioxins and microwaves was from an FDA publication that was concerned about dioxins resulting from the bleached manufacture of paper goods including milk cartons and some paper containers for microwave dinners. That was not about plastics and high temperatures, however, and the levels of dioxins were described as safe.
The Food and Safety Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has published guidelines for safe cooking in microwave ovens and warns against using materials that are not regarded as microwave safe.
CLICK HERE for those guidelines. You’ll note that one of the guidelines is to avoid letting plastic wraps touch food. That is another issue, however, and not related to dioxins or high heat in microwaves.
The Food and Drug Administration has also issued a statement about plastics and microwaves.vCLICK HERE for that document.
The American Plastics Council has also posted a page on the subject.
CLICK HERE for their take on the dioxin question.
Somewhere along the way someone decided to add that all this information had appeared in newsletters from Johns Hopkins University and Walter Reed Army Medical center but neither has promoted the dioxin story.
Even though Johns Hopkins has not been the source of the eRumor, there have been enough emails that falsely attributed the story to them that the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health asked Dr. Rolf Halden, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Services at the school’s Center for Water and Health to address the concerns over dioxins. He said that the principal sources of dioxins are from various combustion processes including natural events such as wild fires and volcanic eruptions. Plastics do not actually contain dioxins, he said, but wastes that contain certain compounds can serve as dioxin precursors when incinerated. According to Halden, most people are exposed to dioxins when eating meat and fish rich in fat because dioxins that have been sent into the atmosphere become attached to particles that fall back to the earth and get concentrated and store in the fat of fish and other animals.
Halden said that the alleged danger or freezing water in plastic bottles is unfounded and an urban legend. First, because there are no dioxins in plastics. Second because freezing actually inhibits the release of chemicals. He said people should be more concerned about the quality of the water in the bottles, not the bottles themselves. He added that there is another group of chemicals added to plastics to make them flexible and less brittle that could disrupt endocrine functions in humans and animals and that heating up the plastics could increase their being released into water and food.
Regarding cooking with plastics, Halden said that whenever you heat something it increases the likelihood that chemicals could be pulled out. he recommends using heat-resistant glass or ceramics for microwave cooking, just to be safe.
Last updated 6/6/07 Note: At the time we reported on this the links were good. Many are no longer there.
For more information:
CLICK HERE for a summary about dioxins from the United States Food and Drug Administration.