Microwaves, Plastics and Dioxins... OH MY!
Date Added: July 26, 2002
At first glance, this chain put me in the mind of an earlier warning about the dangers of heating water in a microwave. Like that one, this chain is based in reality, but there are a few things to consider before you hit the 'forward' button.
I just wanted to pass some information on to you. I was watching Hawaii Channel 2 this morning. They had a Dr. Edward Fujimoto from Castle Hospital on the program. 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 of 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, CorningWare, or ceramic containers for heating food. You get the same results without the dioxins.
So such things as TV dinners, instant saimin and soups, etc. 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. 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. Past this on to your friends.
Wendy K. Lang
A representative from KHON, Fox 2 News, in Honolulu, Hawaii, confirmed that their station did air the interview in question. However, she cautioned that Dr. Fujimoto's views are his own and do not necessarily represent those of KHON, its employees or its affiliates. Jim Hoff, of Hawaii's Castle Medical Center, verifies that the summary of Dr. Fujimoto's interview with Channel 2 given in the e-mail above is an accurate representation of his remarks. However, Snopes.com points out that Edward Fujimoto is not a medical doctor, but rather a Ph.D. who heads the hospital's Center for Health Promotion.
Dr. Fujimoto did not respond to my request for comments, but he told TruthOrFiction.com that he feels the dangers of dioxin contamination from plastic containers are greatly under-emphasized in the United States. Microwaves can cause some dioxins in plastic containers to transfer to fatty foods, but even Dr. Fujimoto admits that the levels are so low as to be insignificant, a fact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirms:
"Under the food additive provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, new substances used to make plastics for food use are classified as 'food contact substances.' They must be found safe for their intended use before they can be marketed.
"'It's true that substances used to make plastics and leach into food,' says Edward Machuga, Ph.D., a consumer safety officer in the FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. 'But as part of the approval process, the FDA considers the amount of a substance expected to migrate into food and the toxicological concerns about the particular chemical.' 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 FDA has seen no evidence that plastic containers or films contain dioxins and knows of no reason why they would,' Machuga says."
Just a few days after the above account began circulating, well-meaning forwarders tacked on a description of a teen's science experiment, often circulating by itself, that seemed to validate and expound upon Dr. Fujimoto's claims:
As a seventh grade student, Claire Nelson learned that di(ethylhexyl)adepate (DEHA), considered a carcinogen, is found in plastic wrap. She also learned that the FDA had never studied the effect of microwave cooking on plastic-wrapped food. Claire began to wonder: "Can cancer-causing particles seep into food covered with household plastic wrap while it is being micro waved?"
Three years later, with encouragement from her high school science teacher, Claire set out to test what the FDA had not. Although she had an idea for studying the effect of microwave radiation on plastic wrapped food, she did not have the equipment. Eventually, Jon Wilkes at the National Center for Toxicological Research in Jefferson, Arkansas, agreed to help her. The research center, which is affiliated with the FDA, let her use its facilities to perform her experiments, which involved micro waving plastic wrap in virgin olive oil.
Claire tested four different plastic wraps and "found not just the carcinogens but also xenoestrogen was migrating [into the oil]...." Xenoestrogens are linked to low sperm counts in men and to breast cancer in women. Throughout her junior and senior years, Claire made a couple of trips each week to the research center, which was 25 miles from her home, to work on her experiment. An article in Options reported that "her analysis found that DEHA was migrating into the oil at between 200 parts and 500 parts per million. The FDA standard is 0.05 parts per billion. "
Her summarized results have been published in science journals. Claire Nelson received the American Chemical Society's top science prize for students during her junior year and fourth place at the International Science and Engineering Fair (Fort Worth, Texas) as a senior. "Carcinogens -- At 10,000,000 Times FDA Limits" Options May 2000. Published by People Against Cancer, [Phone Number Removed by Request].
Frank D. Wiewel, founder of PeopleAgainstCancer.com, told BreakTheChain.org that the account cited above and being circulated via e-mail is a paraphrase of the article that appeared in the May 2000 issue of People Against Cancer's Options newsletter - predating Dr. Fujimoto's remarks by at least two years. He asks that you not forward it for several reasons:
"We have received wide response worldwide. Because of the telephone number, we have received hundreds of telephone inquiries about the authenticity of the article. Incidentally, the data is correct. Unfortunately, while it is my understanding that Dr Fujimoto feels that people should know about the dangers of dioxin - most forms of the email incorrectly identified the Channel 2 Radio station as Huntsville AL instead of Hawaii.
"Half the story - as you know - is worse than no story.
"We do NOT encourage people to forward the email. Because it is not precise and it has attachments of other issues, it is too confusing. And there is an additional burden on our staff of people who are demanding that we provide them with proof of the 'claims.'"
As for confirming Claire Nelson's "findings," I found a bio on Dr. Jon Wilkes that lists a 1998 conference abstract about a study with Claire Nelson and three other researchers on "Contamination of Food from Microwaving in Plastic Wrap." However, toxicologist and Chain-Breaker Lisa points out that a conference abstract is not peer-reviewed and not same as published research that is both valid and reliable. Again, the FDA has a response to these claims:
"DEHA is a plasticizer, a substance added to some plastics to make them flexible. DEHA exposure may occur when eating certain foods wrapped in plastics, especially fatty foods such as meat and cheese. But the levels are very low. The levels of the plasticizer that might be consumed as a result of plastic film use are well below the levels showing no toxic effect in animal studies."
As this one continues to circulate, unidentified revisionists add additional information, 'personal testimonies' and, unfortunately some official-sounding names and titles:
Subject: FW: Dioxin Carcinogens NEW info from Walter Reed Army MedicalCenter
This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Dioxin Carcinogens causes cancer. Especially breast cancer.
Don't freeze your plastic water bottles with water as this also releases dioxin 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 dioxin 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 of fat, high heat and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body. Dioxin 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 dioxin.
So such things as TV dinners, instant ramen and soups , etc., 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. 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 friends...
Walter Reed Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University (also named in some versions) have little to do with this message other than an employee (or employees) of those institutions received it and forwarded it to others, adding his or her name. Neither organization necessarily endorses this warning. They are simply more victims of the fast-growing epidemic of False Attribution Syndrome, wherein an individual become inadvertently associated with a chain letter, simply by forwarding it.
The brief prologue about freezing water bottles is a reference to another popular chain letter, and was added by an anonymous editor.
Another editor added the comment about Saran Wrap, which SC Johnson assures consumers is totally unfounded:
"When used in the microwave, there is no trace level migration of dioxins from any Saran™ or Ziploc® product. We know this 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.
"Our Saran™ and Ziploc® products can be used with confidence when label directions are followed. All Saran™Wraps, 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."
Finally, the FDA says that "generally, microwave-save plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper and white microwave-safe paper towels are safe to use," and offers some tips for those who remain concerned about substances being transferred to their food from plastics:
Most at issue here is the appropriateness of the medium for the message. An anonymously authored, unverifiable and randomly forwarded e-mail message is not a reliable source of health-related information of any type. As we can see, the perceived reliability of the message's source can be deceiving. Break this chain.
References: Food and Drug Administration, TruthOrFiction.com, Snopes.com