What You Should Know About Plastic
- Published on: 14 April, 2014
- Last update: 27 January, 2016
As I sit here writing this blog post about plastic, I look around the room and I’m more aware than ever of how prevalent it is in our lives. My tablecloth? Plastic. The water bottle my mom came home with? Plastic. Even my polyester shirt is actually made from – you guessed it – plastic. Oops. I just learned that today
Unfortunately, plastic is everywhere. This is because it’s so easy and cheap to make/mold. The downside to that is it’s poisoning us, our oceans, and our animals. Tons of plastic and garbage floats into the sea and sinks, polluting as it goes. Sea creatures are feeding on plastic because they think it’s plankton – plastic outnumbers plankton 60:1. If you eat wild seafood like I do to avoid the GMOs and dangers of farmed seafood, you are still at risk because those wild sea creatures are swimming in and ingesting this synthetic substance.
Another downside of plastic is that it’s not environmentally friendly or biodegradable. A single diaper takes 200 YEARS to break down (begreenbehappy.com). As plastic breaks down, it decays, and heat causes it to leech harmful chemicals into the environment. In fact, as soon as plastic is scratched or bent it starts to release those chemical vapors. Scary stuff.
There is a documentary called “Plastic Planet” that shows what this stuff is doing to us. The documentary tested a plastic blow up globe (we’ve all had or seen one of those) and they found it to contain heavy metals such as mercury, and phthalates. Phtalates are shown to damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems in animal studies. Phthalates can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Scientists at government agencies in both the U.S. and Canada agree that exposure to these chemicals could cause a wide range of health and reproductive problems in people (about.com: ‘Environmental Issues’, CDC).
A huge topic touched on in “Plastic Planet” is Bisphenol A. BPA is a synthetic estrogen that can disrupt the endocrine system, even in small amounts. It has been linked to a wide variety of ills, including infertility, breast and reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, behavioral changes in children and resistance to chemotherapy treatments. Every time you use plastic that contains BPA (or other estrogenic compounds) your estrogen is falsely raised and your hormones are severely tinkered with. One man tested in the film had BPA levels detectable in his blood sample! My friend Frankie (@frank_dag) took his grandfather to a naturopath in New Rochelle, NY named Dr. Clark. He actually is an MD trained in cardiology, but left Western medicine and went to study herbalism and natural medicine in Italy for 9 years. The first thing he says to everyone who walks into his office is: “I don’t want you to even look at plastic ever again!” By the way, he is 97.
Since most of us are not rich enough to replace EVERYTHING in our home with its wood or glass counterpart, we should be informed about which kinds of plastic we should avoid the most. That way, we can at least limit our use of the most toxic forms.
- PET (1) – WATER BOTTLES – ONLY USE THIS PLASTIC ONCE, NEVER RE-USE. This is what water bottles and polyester clothing are made of. Antimony, which is a toxic heavy metal, is used in the making of this type. When water bottles are exposed to heat or age they leak this toxic heavy metal, so only use them once and recycle.
- PE-HD (02) – PLASTIC BAGS, BOTTLE CAPS, TUPPERWARE – USE SPARINGLY. Find substitutes such as glass tupperware and tote bags.
- PVC (03) – SHOWER CURTAINS, TOYS, FURNITURE – AVOID. These contain BPA, leech toxins, and disrupt the endocrine system – try to avoid at all costs and look for alternatives.
- PE-LD (04) – SIX PACK RINGS, PLAYGROUNDS. These are generally chemically non-reactive and may be the safest for us, but a con is that they are not biodegradable and poison the environment.
- PP (05) – PACKAGING, DIAPERS – USE ONLY IF YOU HAVE TO. These have not been tested for safety.
- PS (06) – PACKING PEANUTS, FOAM CUPS – DO NOT USE!! Never drink out of Styrofoam cups, this plastic leaches toxins.
- O (07) – OTHER, COULD BE ANYTHING. Usually contains BPA. Unregulated and untested. Avoid.
When you must use plastic, follow these safety guidelines:
~ Don’t buy Made in China
~ Don’t use plastic that doesn’t have a symbol indicating the type
~ Don’t heat plastic by putting it in the microwave or leaving it in the sun
~ If the plastic smells, it’s leeching chemicals and it’s time to throw it out
~ Only use PET (1) once, such as a one time water bottle
~ When plastic becomes weathered (such as clear tupperware turning opaque) throw it out
~ Don’t leave plastic in a hot car
And, most of all, look for alternatives! TJ Maxx has GREAT deals on glass tupperware, as does Amazon. I bought a 6-pack of glass water bottles from Amazon and also use my mason jars for drinks and even snacks on the go (no tupperware needed). There are many companies now making safe children’s toys (look for ones made with wood). Do a search on Etsy for “wooden toys,” I even found an adorable bowling game set for $30!