As plastic ages or is exposed to heat or stress, it can release traces of some of its ingredients. Of particular concern are bisphenol-a (BPA), used to strengthen some plastics, and phthalates, used to soften others.
These chemicals are used in hundreds of household items; BPA is found in everything from baby bottles to can liners, while phthalates are found in children’s toys as well as vinyl shower curtains. They enter your body through the food, water, and bits of dust you eat, or are simply absorbed through your skin.
BPA and phthalates are endocrine disruptors, which mimic hormones. Estrogens and other hormones in relatively small amounts can cause vast changes, so researchers are concerned that BPA and phthalates could do the same, especially in young children.
To reduce your exposure, avoid plastic bottles and toys with the numbers 3 or 7, which often contain BPA or phthalates, and canned foods, especially those with acidic content like tomatoes. You should also avoid heating the plastic in the microwave.