Protect your family from breast cancer | Breast Cancer UK

These little changes
make a big difference

Protect your family

By making a few simple changes, you can reduce your family’s exposure to some of the chemicals in your food and drink that may be linked with breast cancer.

It’s wise to be particularly cautious about the food and drink we buy when bringing up a family because babies and children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of hormone disrupting chemicals.

Tip 1: Avoid Plastics

Whilst some plastics are safer than others, it's probably a good idea to avoid plastics where possible - especially for storing food and drink and when buying toys for children. In particular, avoid plastics labelled with the recycling code 3 - polyvinyl chloride (PVC) - which can release  phthalates (plasticisers) or vinyl chloride (a carcinogen), and recycling code 7, which may contain bisphenol A (BPA) or other bisphenols.

Tip 2: Buy and store food in glass

Many shatterproof plastic products contain BPA or other bisphenols. However, scientific tests have shown that BPA can leach out of the packaging and into the food and drink we consume.

Whilst Europe no longer allows BPA to be used in baby bottles, partly as a result of our No More BPA campaign, it’s still used in a wide variety of other plastic products, such as lunch boxes, drinks bottles and plastic plates and cups.

With the increased awareness of the risks of BPA, many manufacturers have started to reduce their use of BPA so you will find many items labelled 'BPA-free'. However, some studies have shown that even 'BPA-free' plastics may contain oestrogenic chemicals and many of the alternatives haven’t been adequately tested.  So glass and stainless steel containers are your safest bet. Discard old plastic products, especially if they are scratched.

Our most significant exposure to BPA is currently from eating canned foods and drinking canned beverages, so look for fresh, frozen, or dried options of your favourite goods. Or look for products in glass jars, tetra paks, or cans that are labelled “BPA-Free.”

Tip 3: Eat fresh food

By preparing fresh food for your family, you’ll not only reduce your exposure to contaminants from plastic packaging, but also exposure to the synthetic additives and preservatives found in processed foods (including artificial colours and artificial sweeteners).

Tins and cans are often lined with resins that contain BPA and ready meals are often packaged in plastics that contain BPA and other bisphenols.

Some food and drinks, such as jams, pie fillings, beers and pickles, contain parabens. These chemicals act as preservatives, but are also believed to disrupt our hormones. Why not try making your own jams and pickles, or buy home made ones from your local market?

Tip 4: Heat food safely

Never put plastic items in the dishwasher, microwave or oven. It’s best to heat food in ceramics or ovenproof glass dishes and to use ceramic or glass lids to cover your food when you heat it, instead of cling film.

A ‘microwave’ or ‘oven safe’ label only means that the product will not melt, crack, or fall apart when heated. These labels do not guarantee that the containers will not leach chemicals into foods when heated.

Read more about the chemicals used in food and other products.


Page last updated October 9, 2017

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