Yes, there is proof that clingfilm is dangerous to your health, not just as a result of cooking with it, but also from simply using it in general.
The chemicals in standard cling-film are called phthalates, often referred to as plasticizers. Phthalates are what keep plastic flexible and make cling-film so convenient and clingy. They also have many other applications, such as high-shine nail varnishes and are even used in some soaps!
What are the health risks involved with phthalates?
Well, if you discovered you were pregnant, you would definitely want to steer clear of anything containing these chemicals. Studies only began properly about 6 years ago and, in 2008, one such study at the University of Rochester's school of medicine found that baby boys whose mothers were exposed to a lot of phthalates whilst pregnant had noticeably smaller genitals that those who had little or no exposure. In this instance, phthalates were found to be an 'endocrine disruptor'.
"fertile men in an agricultural area of Missouri have been shown to have sperm counts about 40% lower than men in three urban US areas, and to have higher urinary concentrations of three currently used pesticides."
Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC344268/ Seemingly proving a correlation between pesticides and fertility.
How do you spot phthalates in products?
These are the abbreviations and variations of these chemicals:
- DBP (dibutyl phthalate).
- DINP (diisononyl phthalate).
- DEP (diethyl phthalate).
- DEHP (di 2-ethylhexl phthalate).
- DMP (dimethyl phthalate).
- BBP (benzyl butyl phthalate)
- DNOP (di-n-octyl phthalate)
- DIDP (Diisodecyl phthalate)
Can I microwave or cook food in cling-film?
I would definitely recommend that you don't. Heating plastic encourages the release of these chemicals and they can permeate your food. My suggestion is to look out for cling-film that is designed for use when heating food - you will find it is not as clingy or as stretchy, but this is evidence that it contains few phthalates.
There are also ranges of bowls and containers that have been designed to be safe for use in a microwave.
In truth, it is unlikely that we will ever know the effects of many of the products and chemicals that have been designed to make our lives and day-to-day tasks more convenient. If in doubt, go with natural and organic to reduce risks and always read the label, as the World Health Organisation regulates warnings and recommendations on products containing harmful chemicals.