The Terrible Truth About Plastic You Never Knew

plasticAs plastic ages or is exposed to heat or stress, it can release trace amounts of some of its ingredients. Of particular concern are bisphenol-a (BPA), used to strengthen some plastics, and phthalates, used to soften others.

These chemicals are used in hundreds of household items; BPA is in everything from baby bottles to can linings, while phthalates are found in children‘s toys as well as vinyl shower curtains. They enter your body through the food, water and bits of dust you consume, or are simply absorbed through your skin.

BPA and phthalates are endocrine disrupters, which mimic hormones. Estrogen and other hormones in relatively tiny amounts can cause vast changes, so researchers worry that BPA and phthalates could do the same, especially in young children.

To cut down on your exposure, avoid plastic bottles and toys labeled with the numbers 3 or 7, which often contain BPA or phthalates, and canned foods, especially those with acidic contents like tomatoes. You should also avoid heating plastic in microwaves.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
The dangers of plastic are fast becoming common knowledge. It’s amazing the number of blogs and news articles now devoted to reducing plastics’ use, when just a few years ago most people never thought twice about it.

In recent years, major changes have come about signaling that attitudes are changing about this pervasive toxin:
  • Whole Foods stopped using plastic bags
  • Canada has declared the plastics’ chemical BPA toxic and banned its use
  • You can now purchase reusable shopping bags in just about every U.S. grocery store (unheard of a couple of years ago)
  • Wal-Mart is phasing out BPA-containing baby bottles, Nalgene bottles have gone BPA-free and has an entire BPA-free section
This is a perfect example of the public’s actions and preferences dictating the direction of major corporations!

For Those Who Don’t Know … Why Plastics are a Big Problem

Plastic is not an inert substance as its manufacturers would like you to believe. It contains chemicals like BPA and phthalates, which mimic hormones in your body. Even tiny concentrations can cause problems, and you’re likely being exposed from all angles: food containers, plastic wraps, water bottles, personal care products, you name it, it contains plastic.

According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study, BPA was detected in the urine of 95 percent of people tested!

This is alarming when you consider all of the problems its been linked to like:
  • Structural damage to your brain
  • Hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, and impaired learning
  • Increased fat formation and risk of obesity
  • Altered immune function
  • Early puberty, stimulation of mammary gland development, disrupted reproductive cycles, and ovarian dysfunction
  • Changes in gender-specific behavior, and abnormal sexual behavior
  • Stimulation of prostate cancer cells
  • Increased prostate size, and decreased sperm production
Anytime you eat or drink something out of plastic, you risk exposure. Plastics that are worn out or scratched may leach even more chemicals into your food, as do hot beverages. Just by drinking coffee from a plastic-lined paper cup, you could be exposed to 55 times more BPA than normal.

As usual those most at risk are children and fetuses, which is why it’s appalling to think that these chemicals are commonly used in baby bottles and children’s toys.

I haven’t even touched on plastics’ impact on the environment, but this one statistic sums it up pretty well: when researchers tested the water of the Pacific Ocean, they found it contained six times as much plastic as plankton, by weight!

What’s Hidden in Your Plastic Products?

The Ecology Center in Berkeley, California has put together an excellent list that exposes just what kinds of plastic toxins are in the products you use. I think everyone should read the entire list, but here are some highlights:
  • Salad dressing and cooking oil bottles: This plastic container is made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which leaches plasticizers (lead, cadmium, mercury, phthalates and the carcinogen, diethyl hexyphosphate) into your food.
  • Soda bottles, water bottles, peanut butter jars and cooking oil bottles: Made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the leach acetaldehyde -- a probable human carcinogen, according to the EPA -- into your food and drinks.
  • Meat trays, foam take-out food containers and cups, foam packing materials: Made from polystyrene (PS), these materials leach styrene, which can damage your nervous system, into your food.
Moving Toward a Plastic-Less Life

Is it possible to go completely plastic-free?

Well, anything is possible … but it wouldn’t be easy. Plastic is in shoes, clothing, electronics, and just about every processed food package, not to mention cars, household items and personal care product packaging.
There are some things you can do though, and you won’t even have to sacrifice much to do them. Just imagine how much less plastic we could use if we ALL tried to do our part.

My top tips to reduce the plastic in your life are:

1. Boycott plastic shopping bags. Use reusable canvas or cloth varieties instead. (This also applies to the plastic produce bags in the grocery store.)

2. Don’t buy bottled water. Filter your own using a reverse-osmosis filter and put it in a glass bottle.  I am going to be helping you in this area soon as my team is just finishing up a glass water bottle that you can use to carry around with you. It is covered with a neoprene sleeve to protect it from breaking and has a easy lid to drink from and is wide enough so you can easily clean the bottle.  I hope to have them available in the fall as they are at the factory right now being produced.

3. Avoid using plastic cups, utensils, dishware and food storage containers. If you get a beverage while on-the-go, bring your own cup with you.

4. Buy toys made of natural fabrics instead of plastic.

5. Look for products that use minimal packaging, or buy in bulk.

6. Give up plastic wrap (and never use it to cover your food while it’s heating).

7. Avoid buying canned foods and drinks (the can linings contain plastic chemicals). Try your hand at canning fresh produce at home instead.

8. Parents, use cloth diapers instead of plastic ones.

9. Look for non-plastic home items like cloth shower curtains and wooden spoons instead of plastic ones.

10. If you have pets, use biodegradable bags to clean up after them.

+ Sources and References