Plastic surrounds us. We discovered how to make plastic in the 1850s, and by 1925, the word plastic entered our language. Unfortunately, every piece of plastic made, if not recycled, is still with us.
Plastics contain two especially unhealthy compounds, BPA and phthalates. These chemicals help make plastics more pliable, but they also affect our health. These chemicals interfere with how our hormones work. Hormones affected include estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone, insulin, and thyroid.
We’ve found BPA everywhere on the planet, including the air we breathe. You’ll find BPA in baby bottles, water bottles, food and beverage can liners, pacifiers and baby toys, water bottles and cash register receipts. You may see products saying “BPA free” but these are not necessarily safer. The replacement for BPA may be no safer than BPA.
Phthalates are made from naphthalene, the ingredient giving moth balls their distinctive odor. That odor kills moths, but naphthalene is also toxic to us and may cause cancer. Phthalates help carry fragrance in products. Using fragrance-free products, an easy step when shopping, reduces our exposure to the phthalates.
You’ll find phthalates in wellness, personal care and cosmetic products, such as drugs, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, and nail polish. Commonly used products like lotions, soaps, cleansers, and shampoos contain phthalates as well. They reduce cracking of nail polish, stiffness of hair spray, and allow products to penetrate and moisturize skin more easily. Unfortunately, those qualities are outweighed by their health risks.
Phthalates in plastic food containers can leach out and into the food. These compounds are also linked to certain cancers.
As plastics are found everywhere, studies have found BPA and phthalates in virtually every human tested.
These compounds affect wildlife as well. Young birds may die of starvation because they inadvertently eat plastics along with the food they are given. Fish are affected since much plastic eventually winds up in the ocean. Plastic agitated in water sheds smaller and smaller plastic particles. Ocean life consume these small particles along with their normal foods, and in turn, we eat the plastics in the seafood we eat.
Convenience and utility come at a price, and that price is how our health is affected.
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To learn more about how plastic affects our health and our planet:
National Geographic: Planet or Plastic at: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/planetorplastic/
Life without Plastic
My Plastic Free Life
Environmental Working Group