Plastics: Anatomy of an E-mail Scare

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The invaluable, which exposes hoaxes, notes an e-mail that's been making the rounds that warns people about purported dangers from heated or frozen plastic containers. Here is the text of the e-mail, with some commentary from

Info for the Health Conscious

Dioxin Carcinogens causes cancer. Especially breast cancer. Don't freeze your plastic water bottles with water as this also releases dioxin in the Plastic.

The risk of cancer from dioxins, as with so many other chemicals, has been grossly exaggerated, as ACSH has been reporting for decades.

On 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, Corning Ware, 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.

Do you really want to get your health information from an anonymous e-mail's description...of a TV show's account...of what one doctor said? Even if you do, you should know that this is a doctor whose flawed claims about the dangers of microwaving plastics were exposed in a year ago.

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.

Pass this on to your family and friends.

Urging gullible people to spread half-baked ideas to other gullible people via the Internet is certainly one way of simplifying the normal peer review process used by scientists for evaluating studies.

People spreading these scares love to use threats that sound like they're insidiously creeping into your everyday life: common household products, familiar foods. And unlike mainstream science journals, Internet scares have no system for retractions when it all turns out to be bunk.