During the last 60 years plastics have become a integral part of our everyday life. But the convenience they bring has come at a high cost to both our health and the environment. It has come to light in recent years that some plastics and additives to certain plastics are hazardous to our health. BPA among other chemicals are hormone distrupters and can cause a multitude of serious health problems. Also as plastic does not biodegrade literally all the plastic that has ever been made is still somewhere on our planet. Plastic that becomes litter is choking out waterways and oceans and killing millions of creatures every year.
We will explain some of the most well known chemicals in plastic and why you should avoid using plastic containers as much as possible. We will also explain how recent studies have shown that even plastic containers that are advertised as being BPA-free may contain other chemicals that are just as dangerous if not more dangerous than BPA.
What are some of the dangerous chemicals in plastic?
Polycarbonate with Bisphenol A (#7 – BPA)
One of the main chemcials that make up polycarbonate plastic is Bisphenol A, or BPA for short. BPA is an industrial chemical that is often added to plastic to make them stronger and durable. BPA is a hormone disruptor and mimics the natural hormones in our body, this causes numerous health problems.
BPA is used to make two common synthetics: polycarbonates and epoxy resins. Food and drink containers are made from Polycarbonates. Food and beverage cans often lined with a coating of epoxy resin. Shopping receipts also often contain a coating of plastic containing BPA.
BPA is a wide-reaching chemical. A survey by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found BPA in the bodies of nearly every participant over the age of 6. Even small amounts BPA disrupts hormones and can mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen in the body. Estrogen plays a key role in many functions in the body. An article by Mother Jones notes that “too much or too little [estrogen], particularly in utero or during early childhood, can alter brain and organ development, leading to disease later in life.” An increase in estrogen levels can increase a women’s risk of breast cancer. Scientific studies have also linked BPA to an increased risk of infertility, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, asthma, cancer, infertility, low sperm count, genital deformity, heart disease, liver problems, and ADHD.
Even the BPA-free containers which are marketed as not causing health concerns, have actually been shown to affect health in ways that are similar to BPA. The BPA-free label does not mean that a product is free from other harmful compounds that are slightly different such as BPS and BPF. There have been studies that have found BPS is actually even more dangerous than BPA.
Phthalates (DEHP, DINP, and others)
Another one of the negative components found in plastic containers are phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastics to make them more flexible. These are dangerous enough that they have been banned by the European Union and other countries. Though people are still being exposed to these chemicals via food processing and packaging. Phthalates have been known to cause immune system problems, reduced testosterone and infertility in men. Phthalates also have a negative effect on women. Numerous studies have linked phthalates to endometriosis in women. These chemicals are also known to cause increases in waist size and body mass index as well as brain and behavior changes in infants and children.
Polyvinylchloride (#3 – PVC)
PVC is one of the most environmental unfriendly plastics. What differentiates PVC from the other vinyls is the addition of a chlorine molecule which causes the generation of highly toxic dioxins which is a known human carcinogen. PVC is a hard and rigid plastic and in this form it is used to make downpipes and drains. Plasticers are added to PVC to make it soft and flexible. Plasticiers often contain Phthalates which like BPA are hormone distruptors. Products that contain PVC include food packaging, plastic wrap, shower curtains and toiletry containers.
Dioxins are organic environmental pollutants. The manufacture and incineration of PVC releases dioxins which cause health effects including cancer, birth defects, diabetes, learning problems, endometriosis, and immune system abnormalities. Dioxins are highly toxic even at low doses and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. Dioxins build up in the food chain by accumulating in fat and other animal tissues. Dioxins also contaminates common foods such as meat, fish, milk, eggs and butter. Dioxins may be one of the most toxic compounds that mankind has made.
What to do?
Given what we know about the dangers of plastic containers, what are we do? To avoid the dangers of plastic, one step in the right direction is to replace your dangerous plastic containers with safer alternatives, such as stainless steel or glass. Naturally 4U sells a variety of stainless steel containers such as stainless steel lunch boxes and stainless steel food storage containers. Safe materials such as stainless steel or glass prevent toxins leaching from storage containers.
Mother Jones: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/03/tritan-certichem-eastman-bpa-freeplastic-safe
Environmental Working Groups: http://www.ewg.org/bpa/
U.S. National Library of Medicine: https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=84