Stable, light, hygienic: Plastic objects are practical and our everyday companions. However, plastics endanger the environment and our health. The consumer is inadequately protected against these threats. I explain which substances are truly menacing, what to look out for and how to deal best with plastic.
Numerous pollutants are hidden in our everyday plastic products. During use, they can leach out and be released into the environment and the human body. For instance, the chemicals Phthalate (plasticizer) and Bisphenol A (BPA) can be found in the blood of almost every human being. These chemicals make the plastic more pliable and elastic. But the contact with food – especially fat, such as cheese, meat and sausages – can pass the plasticizer into the food. While eating we take on it. Then the chemicals act like hormones and are upsetting the delicate endocrine system.
The overall trust in plastic packaging is very high because it is considered as very clean and hygienic. The major threat is the inclusion of the dissolved plasticizer polycarbonate in our food chain. However, no one thinks that oestrogens are used in the production of these plasticizers. This is dangerous especially for children, because their growth can get disrupted.
What are the effects of BPA on the body?
BPA is known as hormone-altering, neurotoxin and cancer-causing. The chemical is found in the inner coating of cans, plastic bottles and in packaging made of polycarbonate. It is also found on receipts and tickets. Numerous studies have shown that lifestyle diseases such as infertility or cancer are also associated with this pollutant load.
Even though it is well-known that BPA harms our bodies, it is still in our food. Here are some more facts about the toxicity which flows in our blood:
- BPA mimics the female sex hormone oestrogen
- BPA reacts with liquids and foods (the higher the temperature, the more BPA is released from the plastic, for example in the microwave)
- The rate of breast cancer related to oestrogen is exploded worldwide
- Breast cancer cells multiply rapidly when you add BPA
It should be clear that the female sex hormone (oestrogen) is also not healthy for men! Men are highly suffering under the influence of BPA and lose more and more of their virility:
- The quality of sperm is declining. 85% of the sperm produced by a healthy male is DNA-damaged.
- Damaged sperm have been linked to a 300% increase in testicular cancer – a form of cancer that affects young men in their 20s and 30s.
And these are only two dramatic facts I picked out for you.
What contains BPA?
- BPA can be found in packaging like microwave-proof dishes, milk cartons, bottles and containers for food and beverages as well as in coatings.
- Plastic containing BPA is sometimes marked with PC or code number 7. In unmarked plastic materials BPA is often used.
- BPA can also be found in: acrylic glass, lampshades for streetlights, parts of household appliances, mobile phones , parts of electronic devices, CDs, transparent plastic parts of cars, sunglasses, refrigerator inserts, motorcycle helmets, dental sealants and plastic fillings, paints and coatings, interior coating of water pipes, adhesives, nail polish, coating for printed circuit boards in electronic devices .
What do those recycling codes mean?
Plastics are marked with a recycling code, which can help to avoid Bisphenol A while shopping:
Polyethylene (code 2 or 4) and polypropylene (code 5) are free of these materials and safe.
However, the hormonally active chemical is hidden in polycarbonate, which coincides with acrylic, polyamide and others, under code 7 (the abbreviation „O“ stands for „Others“, „more plastics“ ). PET (code 1), PVC (code 3) and polystyrene (code 6) do not contain BPA, but possibly hormone-like plasticizers.
What can you do?
It is clear that there will never be a world without plastic. The only way is to protect yourself as good as you can. Here is a short list of some steps you can take to reduce your exposure:
- Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods. Most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin.
- Avoid heat. Wash your plastic boxes by hand and avoid using them in the microwave. When you put your plastic boxes in the microwave or in the dishwasher, the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods.
- Use alternatives. Good options are glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers.
Do you have any other tips to avoid BPA in your food? Or do you have some more interesting facts about BPA? I would love to hear them! Write a comment and share your valuable information and tips with me and other readers.
This post was written as part of a school assignment while studying in the Netherlands. The original post can be found here: www.emarketingblog.nl