Plastic is all around us, almost everything we purchase, consume, use, or even touch is wrapped in, made of, or contains plastic. Food packaging, beverage containers, cosmetics, toiletries, pens, toys, bags, floors, shoes... the list goes on and on. It is even in things you wouldn’t suspect like cosmetics, toothpaste, and detergents.
This once celebrated scientific substance which generated the phrase “plastic is fantastic” is now choking our environment, our oceans, and our wildlife. But what about the health risks to humans?
How plastic is damaging our health
Plastic is Toxic for the Human Body
Plastics may contain multiple chemicals which improve or change its properties. Chemicals can be added to prevent deterioration when exposed to certain environments, make it stronger or more flexible, or add color to it.
A small change in temperature or light can cause these chemical substances to migrate, releasing toxic ingredients into the air which we inhale or absorb into our skin. They can also leach into our food and drink which we ingest.
Common practices which we do without thinking can expose us to these harmful toxins. Drinking from a reused plastic bottle or hot coffee from a styrofoam cup, or eating food microwaved in a plastic container can allow chemical additives to find its way into our system and increase the risk of many serious health problems and diseases.
The most common plastic additives are:
BPA or Bisphenol A
Even though a total ban for BPA use in baby bottles and sippy cups has been issued, it still can be found on many other products such as plastic water bottles, food containers, canned foods, soda and beer cans, fast food, and even cash register receipts.
BPA is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it upsets the endocrine system which is responsible for our hormones. This system regulates vital functions such as:
- metabolic rate
- heart rate
- body temperature
- general mood
- sexual function
- fertility and reproduction
BPA has been linked to obesity, diabetes, reproductive problems, cardiovascular disease and cancers in adults, and obesity and behavioral problems in children.
Phthalates are used as a binding agent and also acts as a softener to make plastic more flexible. These additives have been banned from use in children’s toys, but they can still be found in food packaging, flooring, clothes, and many other everyday items such as shampoo, makeup, and perfume. Processed foods are also especially high in phthalates.
Phthalates have been linked to:
- breast cancer
- obesity and type II diabetes
- neurodevelopmental issues
- autism spectrum disorders
- reproductive malformations
- asthma and allergies
Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC
Among the many chemicals found in plastic products, PVC is considered to be the most toxic of them all. From the moment it is produced, it is releasing toxins such as dioxins, vinyl chloride, phthalates, lead, cadmium, ethylene chloride, etc.
PVC can be found on drinking straws, backpacks, binders, lunchboxes, shower curtains, and many more everyday items. Since it has high chlorine and phthalate content, it poses a significant risk of serious illnesses including cancer, reproductive problems, and asthma.
Reduce Exposure and Reduce the Risk
It is essential to be cautious with the items you use, not only in your home but everywhere. Using eco-friendly products that are free from plastic and chemicals is one way to keep our body healthy and our environment safe.
So, the next time you shop, make sure that the items you buy for yourself or your loved ones are free from the chemicals above.