If you've had to fight though plastic packaging to get to your food you won't be surprised to hear it can raise your blood pressure – but it's the phthalate chemicals used in the packaging rather than the effort involved, that's to blame. These chemicals are generally used to make plastic soft, for example in credit cards or plastic shower curtains. A study of nearly 3,000 children in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children between the ages of six and 19 who had been exposed to phthalates (measured by levels of breakdown products of the chemicals in their urine) had higher levels of blood pressure than those who didn't.
When I asked the lead researcher, Leonardo Trasande from New York University School of Medicine, if the small, clinically insignificant rise in blood pressure was likely to mean anything, he said it could do so in later life. "We know that phthalates damage the walls of arteries by oxidative stress and they may directly damage heart cells," he says. "We know these chemicals get into food from plastic wrappings and gloves, and that they are in PVC flooring and cosmetics. We think they may have a effect on cardiovascular health and that children and adolescents should have limited exposure."