Convenience in this case leads to compromises in Health, Environment and Financial costs.
What is Plastic?
Plastics use a huge amount of Fossil Fuels to manufacture. In 2010, about 191 million barrels of LPG and NGL and 412 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas were used in the United States to make plastic products. In addition, t65 billion kilowatthours of electricity were used to manufacture plastics in 2010, equal to about 1.7% of total U.S. electricity consumption.
The carbon in fossil fuels is polymerized into tiny raw plastic pellets, sometimes nicknamed “nurdles.” The nurdles are then combined with other additives to create the different types of plastics. If you want to learn more click here for a great PDF explanation of types of plastic.
How big is this issue?
Just looking at plastic bottle use is mind boggling:
- Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year.
- To make these bottles used more than 17 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 1.3 million cars for a year
- The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes
- Last year, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.
What Are The Health Trade Offs for Convenience?
The most current BPA Head Fake:
The marketing machine has us looking for BPA Free…hoping we don’t worry about other chemicals…it is a brilliant marketing strategy…Look over here and forget to ask questions!
Every plastic has chemicals leaching from it but manufacturers are not required to disclose the additives in their plastics. We know that chemicals like BPA and phthalates can leach from plastics. What about all the other additives that we don’t know about?
Chemicals found in the materials that store our food and drink, such as plastic, have the potential to leach into food. This leaching of chemicals increases when the item is exposed to heat or has acidic ingredients such as lemons or tomatoes in its ingredient list.
Some of the known chemicals in plastics are:
- Formaldehyde is widely present as are Bisphenol A(BPA) BPS, BPF, tributyltin, triclosan, and phthalates. Altogether, more than 400 chemicals are involved.
The Most Harmful Chemical in Plastic Is:
Bisphenol or what you may know as BPA – BPA was created in 1891 by a Russian chemist. By the 1930s, it was found to mimic the effects of estrogen. In the 1950s, BPA found its way into industry. BPA is used to make plastics and resins which keep metal from corroding and breaking. That is why it now coats about 75 percent of cans in North America. The chemical is surrounded in controversy, yet, as of 2012, 10 billion pounds of BPA were produced worldwide.
BPA Harmful Effects in Humans:
- BPA exposure in infancy (plastic baby bottles, plastic wrap, plastic bowls) mimic or alter the effects of hormones in the body and could be the cause of later obesity and fat gain by the individual as they age.
- BPA is an endocrine disruptor. A developmental, neural, and reproductive toxin that interferes with the production, transportation, function and elimination of natural toxins. Endocrine disruptors affect immune function, behavioral patterns and brain health.
- BPA exposure effects lowered fertility and an increased incidence of endometriosis and breast and reproductive organ cancers.
- Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming.
- BPA has been linked to impaired immune function, early onset of puberty and infertility, among other health concerns, even when exposed to in very small amounts.
- BPA has been shown to impact the fetal sexual development, gender identity, and sexual orientation due to changes affecting the hormones in designing the sexuality of the embryo and fetus. Research shows that changes in sex hormone levels during prenatal sexual brain organization can be responsible for long-term changes in gonadotropin secretion, sexual orientation, and gender-role behavior.
- Now we have Bisphenol S and F, known as BPS and BPF…Similar structures to BPA…Check this out… http://jonbarron.org/toxins-pollution/bpa-bps-and-bpf#footnoteref22_qi6m3gq
Why Don’t We Just Ban All Plastics:
One reason…there is a huge financial gain to be made by the plastics industries. Canada has already banned all BPA due to the harmful effects it causes in babies. The French parliament recently to ban the use of bisphenol A, a chemical thought to have a toxic effect on the brain and nervous system, in baby food packaging next year and all food containers in 2015. Many other countries have put in place partial bans limiting exposure to as little as possible to keep the convenience, yet limit the bodily harm.
If something is so dangerous for babies that entire countries make it illegal to manufacture..what makes it any safer for us to use?
There are times when convenience is absolutely worth it. However, in the case of plastics, the compromises in Health, Environment and Profit…are too high to ignore.
What are considered to be safe plastic recycling numbers?
The safest plastic numbers, especially for storing food, are:
- #2, HDPE, a usually opaque plastic used for milk jugs, detergent bottles, juice bottles, toiletries and the like.
- #4, LDPE, used for things like plastic bags, food storage, bread bags, some food wraps, squeezable bottles.
- #5, polypropylene, used for a wide variety of applications such as yogurt cups, medicine bottles, ketchup and syrup bottles, and straws.
Want a good reason to quit plastics? Just this one example is amazing. The recommended eight glasses of water a day, at U.S. tap rates equals about $.49 per year; that same amount of bottled water costs about $1,400. Imagine..you could save $100/mo of the family budget if one person drank filtered tap water vs. bottled water.
What do we do to limit exposure?
- Use glass containers and canning jars at home for food storage. Be careful, some lids contain BPA, BPS or BPF.
- Use glass or stainless steel containers in the freezer instead of plastic freezer bags.
- Use a stainless steel or glass covered water bottles.
- Don’t drink bottled water from plastic bottles.
- NEVER heat any foods, drinks or edible items in plastic bowls, plastic wrap or with plastic covers – only in glass or ceramic bowls covered in wax paper or a paper plate
More Ways to Avoid BPA?
- Go fresh instead of canned – many food cans are lined with BPA so check the labels to see what’s touching your foods
- Say no to receipts, since thermal paper is often coated with BPA.
- Avoid plastics marked with a “PC,” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. Not all of these plastics contain BPA, but many do – and it’s better safe than sorry when it comes to keeping synthetic hormones out of your body.
- Use the hardest, thickest most opaque plastic you can – thinner, clearer and more bendable the plastic – the more BPA and other chemicals that are released.
Cauliflower Moment….. Plastic, assumed safe, convenient and harmless…but instead harmful, dangerous and everywhere.
Had to stop, ask questions and stop assuming….