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11th June 2024 | 4 Views

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Given that the two most prevalent materials for cutting boards, plastic as well as wood, can both readily house germs, the cleanliness of cutting boards is a topic of much discussion when it comes to food safety. According to recent studies, utilizing cutting boards made of plastic might emit microplastics. How worried should you then?

The use of a plastic cutting board can produce anywhere from 1,536 to 7,680 tiny plastic particles, which can go on your knife and into your meal, according to a 2023 research that was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Because of their minuscule size, plastic particles are easily consumed as well as have been shown to build up in the human body. 

It seems sense that there are worries about this in terms of long-term health implications, especially considering that “microplastics are, indeed, everywhere,” as former industrial scientist and chemical consultant Mark Jones puts it to Yahoo Life. He adds, “Microplastics shed from single-use water bottles, clothing, tires, paint, and more are in addition to cutting boards.” 

Which plastic cutting boards are harmful? 

Cutting boards made of plastic are only one of the various ways that humans come into contact with microplastics. Thousands of microplastic particles already exist within each of us. On the other hand, the consequences of these on human health over the long term are still not well established. “We’re just beginning to investigate the effects on human health,” says Environmental Working Group senior scientist Tasha Stoiber. 

On the other hand, a large body of data indicates that microplastics are bad for the ecosystem and wildlife. Studies in animals, for instance, have connected microplastics to possible endocrine disturbance (messaging the body’s hormones), reproductive harm, as well as oxidative stress (damage to cells). Given that plastic cutting boards make up, in Jones’ words, “but a minor part of all the microplastics that your body is inundated with on a daily basis,” the question that has to be addressed is how concerned should people be about using them? To put this into perspective, researchers examined three well-known brands of bottled water for a recent paper that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They discovered that, on average, a liter of water contained about 240,000 nanoplastic particles—much more plastic than that covered in the cutting board study. 

Is it time to discard your plastic chopping boards?

Expert opinions on this vary somewhat. Jones responds, “I don’t see any hard evidence of health impacts coming from whatever plastics we are consuming, so I’m not throwing my plastic cutting boards away based on this.” “The lack of data, at this time, of any health impact does not mean there will not be a health impact in the future,” he continues.

“We’re just beginning to understand the magnitude of how this much plastic might be getting into our bodies,” adds Stoiber, who does not use plastic cutting boards. Although I don’t believe we yet have all the answers, the results are alarming. There are further reasons to reevaluate the material of your cutting board than microplastics. According to Stoiber, “Plastics can also carry a variety of different chemicals that you don’t want to be exposed to—phthalates, for example.” Phthalates are a class of compounds that are added to plastics to increase their durability, although they may be hazardous. According to Stoiber, plastic cutting boards are also harder to clean and have a higher chance of bacterial growth than, say, wood ones. Cutting quickly leaves grooves on their smooth surface that are practically “impossible to wash,” she continues. “I personally would never use a plastic cutting board because of this.”

According to Stoiber, plastic cutting boards are also often more prone to breakage and are less long-lasting than other types of cutting boards. This makes them an unsustainable choice. 

How can you address this? 

According to Stoiber, “everything you can do to reduce your plastic exposure is a good thing.” “A good place to start is with the products you use in the kitchen.”

She suggests using a metal cutting board or a hard wood, such as maple or bamboo, as these materials are more resilient and are thus less prone to develop grooves and host germs. Regardless of your decision, always remember to wash with warm water and dish soap after each use. (It is also a good idea to sterilize cutting boards from time to time, for example, by washing them with water after using a diluted bleach solution of one gallon of water and one tablespoon of bleach.) However, according to Jones, the ultimate cutting board is one that doesn’t currently exist: it is naturally derived, completely non-porous, and antibacterial. “You would use a glass cutting board with a steel knife in a world that makes perfect sense,” he states. “You would never create scratches on the glass cutting board because the steel is not hard enough to abrade it.” You can throw away the plastic cutting board if you’re concerned about consuming microplastics, but you should also think about the numerous everyday plastic uses you make that probably have a greater influence. A stainless steel water bottle filled with filtered water, as opposed to single-use plastic ones, is, according to Stoiber, “a great way to cut down on the ingestion of microplastics.” Additionally, she advises against using or reheating takeout or storage plastic containers since heat encourages the release of additional microplastics.

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