Though children are among the most susceptible to chemicals, they are the most likely to eat off of plastic dishes and drink from plastic cups. Could history come back around? Could tableware made from wood ever become normal again?
Dishes made of wood were once commonplace.
— Todd (@modernshopping) January 8, 2015
Around the start of the eighteenth century, European pottery-making leapt forward when craftsman learned how to make porcelain from Chinese artisans, according to the blog Wooden Furniture. Unlike older pottery that was used for jugs and cooking, porcelain was perfect for dishes. They could shatter, but they were also inexpensively mass produced. It was the most logical choice of dishware at the time.
Then came plastic.
Plastic has been used to make dishes for children and the entire family since the 1940s, according to Plastic Living. Metals were being conserved during wartime. Wood was porous, expensive, and presumed less sanitary. Porcelain was very breakable. Plastic was perfect. Almost no one considered whether or not the chemicals in plastic were safe for children.
Plastic dishware became increasingly convenient. General Electric even sold the plastic and ceramic Heat ‘n Serve Baby Dish in the 1960s, according to the Journal Sentinel.
After a couple of generations of use, plastics of various kinds were used for dishware and food storage. Then, Americans learned about the potential dangers of bisphenol-A. The media reported that some of these plastics could be affecting the health of our nation’s children.
After consumer demand became strong enough, the U.S. manufacturers eliminated a great deal of BPA plastics from the family table. Eco-friendly households started considering wooden toys, but for children’s dishes, most parents simply switched to BPA-free plastics.
Now, according to the latest media reports, we’re not even safe using BPA-free plastics. A University of Calgary study just found that bisphenol-S, the plastic that has predominantly been used to replace BPA in children’s products, could be more dangerous than the previously used plastic. The Washington Post reported on a new study that examined possible behavioral reactions in children from the BPA-free plastics.
“The disruption of prenatal cellular activity in zebra fish, which share 80 percent of their genes with humans and are considered a good model for studying human brain development, seemed to result in hyperactivity, according to the Canadian study, which was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ‘Finding the mechanism linking low doses of BPA (or BPS) to adverse brain development and hyperactivity is almost like finding a smoking gun,’ Hamid Habibi, one of the authors of the study, said in a news release.”
Meanwhile, older research keeps resurfacing about the nature of bacteria and wood, such as the recent Huffington Post article about wooden cutting boards. Still, wood is porous and Americans have a preoccupation with germs, according to the New York Times. The conversation usually ends at cutting boards and spoons. Wooden dishware for children is overlooked by the populace each time.
The New York Times surprised plastic-lovers two decades ago by announcing the unique antibacterial nature of real wood.
“The scientists, Dean O. Cliver and Nese O. Ak, stumbled upon the finding while seeking ways to decontaminate wooden boards and make them as ‘safe’ as plastic. Much to their surprise, they found that when boards were purposely contaminated with organisms like Salmonella, Listeria and Escherichia coli that are common causes of food poisoning, 99.9 percent of the bacteria died off within three minutes on the wooden boards, while none died on the plastic ones.”
Apparently, the FDA and the USDA, after serious investigation, stated that the government is totally fine with wooden cutting boards, according to an article in the Rodale News.
“Cliver’s experiments have been questioned by government scientists, but after replicating his research, both the USDA and the FDA have changed their food prep recommendations to include cutting boards made of maple or other hardwood surfaces.”
Some parents started using wooden tableware for young children after the announcement about BPA. More parents could turn to wooden dishes now that even BPA-free plastics come with health concerns, if social media is a good indicator of consumer behavior.
Do you think mainstream parents in the U.S. will ever get fed-up with trying to find the least toxic plastics for their children and switch to using mostly wooden dishes?
[Featured photo via Pixabay]