Using plastics in our day-to-day activities is convenient however it comes with a big price. Growing scientific evidence suggest that we should rethink about how we use plastic because of its harmful impact on the environment, and our very own health.
Here are the current understandings of the most harmful plastics and what we know about them:
Bisphenol-A, or BPA, is often added to plastics for added durability. It even used to be given to cows and chickens, and other animals, to make them gain weight and for effective weight loss, plastics are hindering the process. The main problem with BPA is it is known to mimic the effects of oestrogen and disrupt hormones, leading to hormonal imbalance. So technically this is modifying every cell in the human body since the complexity of the endocrine system work throughout the whole body.
Scientists have linked even very low levels of BPA exposure to cancers, impaired immune function, early onset of puberty, obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity. One journal of environmental studies has discussed the deformities of both male and female genitals and the premature onset of puberty in girls.
Oestrogenic chemicals found in many common products have been linked to a litany of problems in humans and animals. According to one study, the pesticide atrazine can turn male frogs female. DES, which was once prescribed to prevent miscarriages, caused obesity, rare vaginal tumors, infertility, and testicular growths among those exposed in utero. Scientists have tied BPA to ailments including asthma, cancer, infertility, low sperm count, genital deformity, heart disease, liver problems, and ADHD. “Pick a disease, literally pick a disease,” says Frederick vom Saal, a biology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia who studies BPA.
Phthalates, also known as plasticisers, are a group of chemicals added to the mixture to make the plastic more flexible. DEHP, DINP are one of the many kinds of phthalates. It is often used in softened vinyl products including vinyl clothing, emulsion paint, footwear, printing inks, toys, some children’s products, product packaging, food wrap, vinyl flooring, blood bags and tubing, IV containers and their components, surgical gloves, breathing tubes, general purpose labware, inhalation masks, and many other medical devices.
It makes the plastic product harder to break but sadly, not our health. Phthalates are linked to immune system impairment, decreases in testosterone, infertility (especially in men), and many more problems. Most affected are men and boys, even those exposed in utero.
PVC, or Polyvinylchloride, are commonly used on food packaging, plastic wrap, containers for toiletries, cosmetics, plastic cots, flooring, baby dummies, shower curtains, toys, water pipes, garden hoses, auto-upholstery, and inflatable swimming pools.
Adverse health effects include cancer, birth defects, genetic changes, chronic bronchitis, ulcers, skin diseases, deafness, vision failure, indigestion, and liver dysfunction.
Medical waste is regularly incinerated causing public health effects from the release of dioxins and mercury, and they are made of PVC and phthalates. Inhaling air that has been exposed to such chemicals may also harm the body, causing cancer, birth defects, hormonal changes, declining sperm counts, infertility, endometriosis, or immune system impairment.
An expert on endocrine health, Dr. Alan Christianson, mentioned in his book, Adrenal Reset Diet, how a lot of different factors affect our health negatively, but most of them largely target the endocrine system, especially the adrenal glands. Plastics are known endocrine disuptors due to the chemicals used to produce them. And, considering the fact that plastics take very long to break down, versus human life span and plastic production and use.
UV light and the salt in seawater cause microscopic particles of plastic to emit toxic chemicals such as PCBs and DDT. When ingested by many types of marine species, these can be mistaken for estradiol, a sex hormone, causing a variety of symptoms related to endocrine disruption. Additionally, the chemicals tend to bioaccumulate in organisms as they move up the food chain, and can eventually lead to tainted populations of fish that humans regularly consume.
These sorts of problems have led Charles Moore, an oceanographer and racing boat captain who played a significant role in discovering and publicising the great Pacific Garbage Patch, to argue that plastic pollution has become a more urgent problem for ocean life than climate change. “The sad thing is we thought Antarctic waters were clean,” he told the Australian Associated Press after the Tara‘s findings were announced. ”We no longer have an ocean anywhere that is free of pollution.
Not because a certain plastic material has been evaluated to be safe by regulatory agencies doesn’t mean that tests conducted are thorough, and have considered the long term effects and consequences of disposing plastic.
What do we do then? We lessen the amount of plastic products that we use or buy. It may even save us some money if we do this. We can also use naturopathic medicine to maximise health and wellness!
Quick checklist of things to do
- Use glass or stainless steel water bottle over disposable plastic water bottles
- When shopping, bring reusable grocery bags. Some stores sell canvas bags that are lightweight yet strong, and can carry grocery items or merchandise
- Stop buying processed foods. Aside from processed foods being unhealthy, they are sold in plastic packaging, adding to the plastics being thrown out into the environment. Shop at farmers’ markets, and bring reusable bags
- If purchased food is in a plastic container or packaging, transfer right away to safer storage containers, dishes, cookware and bakeware that are either made of glass, ceramic or stainless steel
- When out shopping for children’s toys, opt for wooden or die-cast over plastic. They not only look better, they last longer too!
- When buying take away drinks from cafes or shops, it will be best to bring your own cup, mug, glass, or thermos. Some shops even offer discounts when you bring your own drinking cup or mug.
- Avoid food chains that serve food in styrofoam, or plastic containers, especially when ordering takeout. It has been found out that 49% – that about half! – of trash and plastic waste come from fast food chains alone.
- Avoid using disposable nappies use cloth washable ones.
- And most importantly, whenever possible, REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE.
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