Last week, I discussed the many environmental hazards caused by our over reliance on plastics. In this week’s blog, I discuss the myriad health risks associated with plastics use in our daily lives.
Plastics are found lurking in every corner of our food production, storage and consumption process. Tragically, our casual attitude towards these toxin bombs continues to silently wreak long term havoc on our own health and on the health of our loved ones.
Most plastics leach dozens of toxic, estrogen mimicking hormones into food and liquids. Hundreds of peer-reviewed research studies have shown BPA, a chemical banned in Canada and the European Union, to directly cause or contribute to asthma, anxiety, obesity, kidney disease, heart disease, cancer, infertility, low sperm count, genital deformity, insulin resistance, genetic damage, chronic inflammation, liver problems, ADHD, and various behavioral and neurological effects, among other diseases. “Pick a disease, literally pick a disease,” says Frederick vom Saal, a biology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia who studies BPA. “A poison kills you,” continues vom Saal. “A chemical like BPA reprograms your cells and ends up causing a disease in your grandchild that kills him.”
While BPA has received much attention in recent years, many other plastics chemicals are just as, if not more, dangerous. Phthalates have been shown to lower hormones in men, cause brain development problems, diabetes, asthma, obesity, and possibly breast cancer. DES, which was once prescribed to prevent miscarriages, caused obesity, rare vaginal tumors, infertility, and testicular growths among those exposed in utero. PVC use is linked to cancer, allergies, asthma; kidney, liver, and spleen damage; and altered bone formation. Plastics labeled “PET” or “PETE” are now known to cause or contribute to skin and respiratory irritation, miscarriage, menstrual problems, reproductive and liver problems, and cancer.
Let’s not get into the many toxins that find their way into our foods during the production process: A class that includes sanitizers, sporicides, bactericides, virucides, fungicides, odor control agents, water treatment compounds, lubricants, solvents, antifoaming agents, among others. …Grist for a future blog.
In March 2011, researchers from CertiChem and PlastiPure published a study in Environmental Health Perspectives. They’d tested 455 store-bought food containers and storage products. The results? 72% leached synthetic estrogens, and when exposed to “stressors” like dishwashers and microwave ovens, more than 95% of the products released estrogenic chemicals. Almost every type of plastic commonly used in food packaging tested positive in some cases.
Sadly, unlike in Europe, under U.S. law chemicals are presumed safe until proven otherwise, and companies are rarely required to collect or disclose chemical-safety data. Michael Green, Center for Environmental Health director, says this results in a “toxic shell game”: companies often replace one toxin with another, unproven, one that often turns out just as bad. “It’s an unplanned science experiment we’re doing on our families.”
Plastics are in almost all of our foods. Indeed, I challenge you to name a food or liquid that’s not in contact with a plastic at some point during its production or storage.
As outlined in my September 30 blog, in nearly every case where we use plastics, there is a far superior, healthier alternative available. The problem of plastics cannot be stressed enough. Stop with the plastics already!
Other great places you can find out more:
L.A. Weekly: Most Plastics Leak Harmful Chemicals Into Food, Study Finds
MotherJones.com: The Scary New Evidence on BPA Free Plastics
MotherNatureNetwork.com: Five Reasons Not To Drink Bottled Water
M. Robert Strauss. Toxic You: Obliterate Allergies, Maladies, even Disease by Banishing Harmful Chemicals from Your Life. Maverick Publishing, 2012
MRC Polymers: Plastic Recycling Facts