Our society is making more and more plastic each year. In fact, the amount of plastic that was manufactured in the first 10 years of this century will approach the total produced in the entire last century! That is a staggering statistic in light of what we don’t know about plastics and their long-term impact on our health — and the health of the planet.
What would life without plastic be like? Look around; plastic is everywhere. However, there is an increasingly large body of research that is making many suspicious of the plastic that they use every day. Questions that people are asking include:
- Will plastic contaminate my food?
- Do plastics put in the microwave become contaminated?
- Can I put plastic water bottles in the freezer?
- How well is the use of plastics regulated?
- How can I control my exposure to plastics?
While industry advocates have told us that plastics are safe and not to worry, there is also a lot of money riding on the industry. In fact, the company that represents the plastics industry, the American Chemical Company (ACC), has an annual budget of more than $120 million. That is a lot of money to protect the interests of a very, very big industry. Not to mention one that does a lot of its own research to prove to us that it’s safe.
The truth is, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to plastics and their safety – and those things that are known give us enough reason to be concerned.
Thousands of unknown chemicals
There are presently more than 248,000 chemicals being used for commercial products, and it is unclear which are safe and which are highly dangerous. Many plastics are labeled with recycling numbers 1 through 7. These are plastics that are made from a host of additives, some of which have been shown to be endocrine disruptors, carcinogenic, and that can impact your health in a number of other negative ways.
One such chemical that has been the focus of much research is Bisphenol A, better known as BPA. Independent studies have found that this chemical may cause sexual mutations, hyperactivity, lowered sperm count, obesity, diabetes and even cardiovascular disorders. According to the Center for Disease Control, BPA is present in 93 percent of the adult population’s urine. It is clear at this point that the leaching of BPA from polycarbonate plastics and polycarbonate plastic linings of containers is something all consumers should learn more about.
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You can now find a number of plastic products that claim to be “BPA free” – but the problem with this is the BPA replacement, Bisphenol S or BPS. According to researchers, detectable amounts of this chemical have been found in human urine and the impact can be equally as dangerous as BPA. BPS, like BPA, can interfere with normal cellular function which can cause such conditions as diabetes, obesity, birth defects and cancer. Studies have shown that both BPA and BPS can also cause heart arrhythmia in rats.
The problems with plastics don’t stop with our health, though, as they are harming our planet more than most people probably realize. Plastics have a very long life and can survive for thousands of years in water, where they can disrupt habitats and injure marine wildlife. In addition, pieces of floating plastic can transport invasive species through waterways.
Plastics buried in landfills may leach dangerous chemicals into groundwater, thereby polluting drinking supplies. It takes a lot of energy to make plastics; more than 4 percent of world oil production is used as feedstock and 4 percent more is used in the actual production process.
What to do
If you want to move your homestead toward a place of being “plastic free,” you have your work cut out for you. Here are just a few tips that will help you get going in the right direction:
- Buy food in bulk.
- Drink from BPA-free stainless steel water bottles.
- Skip processed and packaged foods; focus on whole foods only.
- Shop with reusable cloth bags.
- Choose natural fibers for clothing, bedding and interior flooring/curtains etc.
- Make your own cleaning products.
- Get all of your media online.
- Use glass/ceramic containers to store food.
- Purchase milk in paper cartons.
- Use a wooden cutting board.
- Make your own bread.
You can make a number of healthy choices that will greatly reduce the amount of plastic to which you and your family are exposed.
Do you believe plastic is unhealthy? How do you avoid it? Share your thoughts in the section below: