Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Something new to freak out about: Plastics edition

When we were in Dallas my mom had some cute plates for Charlie's meals. They were colorful plastic, in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head. He seemed to enjoy eating off of them.

When we got back home I thought maybe I'd order him some plates of his own, realizing he would be moving from his high chair to a booster seat at the table. While I have no problem dumping chicken nuggets and ketchup on his high chair tray, I'd rather not do the same on the kitchen table.

I found some adorable plates on Amazon by a company called French Bull. They are melamine, like outdoor dishes. Right before I hit my favorite yellow button on Amazon's web site, I googled 'is melamine safe for kids'.

Lots of scary results. It reminded me of when I used to google things when I was pregnant. Scary! Bad news! I'm for sure going to keel over in 10 or fewer minutes because I've eaten off all varieties of plastic in my lifetime!

Fortunately, my hormones aren't pregnancy-wacky, so I didn't panic. For long. But there is some seriously scary stuff out there about plastics in general and melamine specifically. Apparently, melamine has been found in both U.S. manufactured dog food and baby formula made in China. Both resulted in many deaths.

These cases involved melamine added directly to a product though, as opposed to mixing it with formaldehyde to make a resin and pretty dishes! Yeah, formaldehyde. This is sounding worse and worse, isn't it?

Anyways, after spending way more time then anyone ever should before buying something on Amazon, this post was probably my favorite. Its Science for Dummies approach explained that melamine resin used in plates is very different then just adding the chemical to pet food or baby formula. If used *properly* it *shouldn't* be cause for concern.

As with every other plastic we use in daily life, it is a stable material so long as we don't apply too much heat, making the composition change and leach dangerous things into the food it is in contact with. This heat could come from your oven, microwave or dishwasher. The last two being the most likely because seriously, who puts plastic in the oven?

This would apply to any plastic container in your kitchen. I didn't realize that this was a no-no for even tupperware. Apparently, plastic containers are marked if you can heat them up. Otherwise they aren't safe to even stick in the microwave or wash on a hot cycle in the dishwasher.

So, if you don't do those things, you *should* be fine. Comforting isn't it? I hate to overreact about dumb stuff, but it's given me pause. Especially considering how often I reheat food in tupperware containers. Plus, anything that involves the word "leaching" is unsettling.

There are some alternative materials to plastics that are safer. And of course they have cult followings. And cringe-worthy price tags.

Like stainless steel. For your little army boot camp baby.

Or plates made out of rice husks. Which are a very unappetizing shade of brown.

Bamboo perhaps?

I try to be reasonable about these sorts of things and not overreact. To keep a balanced point of view. You know, right after I get everyone I know all worked up about it. That's how I have a fighting chance at looking like the SANE one!

So I'll probably go ahead and order the dishes I want and just not nuke them. I should probably be using the low heat setting on the dishwasher to save energy anyways.

However, now I'm going to be eying all the plastic in my kitchen with the same stink eye I give my non-stick cookware. But that's a post for another day.

I do have to say, I never realized before I had a kid that I'm trying to protect from Everything Dangerous in the Whole World what a toxic world it is that we live in. Kind of really very sad if you ask me.

1 comment:

Becky said...

Don't know if you'll see this, but I recently had a similar freak-out. We went to cheapie ceramic plates and stainless steel spoons and forks. My 15-month old has neither impaled herself with the fork nor hurled a plate into a thousand pieces. I think she kind of feels a little bit grown-up. I think it's worth the money.
Your Mom's friend, Becky