Don't Put Kids' Plastic Dinnerware in Dishwasher

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends washing plastic dishes by hand to keep harmful toxins from leaching out of them. (Photo: Mcimage/Shutterstock)

A recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says we should avoid "microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic when possible," when heating up children's food or drinks. That's not a surprise. By now, most of us know that microwaves and plastics don't mix because toxins such as Bisphenol-A (BPA) or phthalates can leak out of plastics and into food from the heat.

But the AAP's recommendations go beyond not putting plastics in the microwave. The organization also recommends keeping items — including cups, plates and cutlery children will use — out of the dishwasher if children will be using them because the heat can make toxins leach out of the plastic.

BPA, when absorbed by the body, can act like estrogen. If children absorb it, it can "potentially change the timing of puberty, decrease fertility, increase body fat, and affect the nervous and immune systems." Phthalates may effect the genital development of males, as well as increase the risk of childhood obesity and possibly contribute to cardiovascular disease.

These two toxins aren't the only ones AAP warns against. It also suggests these other additives, which can be found in food or packaging and can be harmful to growing children.

  • Perfluorolkyl chemicals (PFS). These chemicals are used in grease-proof paper and cardboard food packaging. They can affect immunity, birth weight, fertility, the thyroid system, metabolism, digestion, muscle control, brain development and bone strength.
  • Perchlorate. This static electricity controlling chemical is found is some dry foods. It can affect thyroid function, brain development and growth.
  • Artificial colors in food. They can contribute to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Nitrates/nitrites in food. These preservatives, which are used primarily in cured and processed meats, can affect thyroid hormone production and the blood's ability to deliver oxygen. They're also linked with certain cancers.

How to avoid toxic additives

mother, daughter, washing hands
Washing your hands before eating can help minimize exposure to harmful chemicals. (Photo: Natalia Lebedinskaia/Shutterstock)

If you want to avoid these toxins mentioned by the AAP report, here are the group's suggestions to do that:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, fresh or frozen, and avoid processed meats.
  • Don't microwave food in plastic.
  • Don't wash plastic dinnerware that kids will eat from in the dishwasher.
  • Know your recycling codes. Plastic with a code 3 contain phthalates; code 6 contain serene; and code 7 contains bisphenol. Avoid those plastics.
  • Wash your hands and children's hands before eating.

In addition to the AAP's recommendations, here are a few more:

  • Read the nutrition label on packaged foods. Look for artificial colors and preservatives in the ingredients list and avoid foods that contain them.
  • If you want to buy foods like bacon, hot dogs or lunch meats that traditionally contain nitrates, look for ones labeled nitrate-free. Many brands producing these products without nitrites. The nitrate-free products won't have as long of a shelf life, so be conscious of how long you keep them around.
  • Choose organic foods, which are not permitted to have artificial colors, preservatives and flavors or synthetic nitrates/nitrites.

While these recommendations from the AAP are specifically for growing children because these toxins can cause specific problems to growth and development, adults would do well to avoid them, too. If you're making changes for the health of the children, why not go ahead and make the changes for yourself while you're at it?