Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do Plastics Really Make it Possible?

Do you remember those TV commercials that used to claim that "plastic make it possible"?  I was never really sure what it was.  I mean, just exactly what was possible because of plastics?  (I just remember thinking, who really cares about plastic, I'm trying to watch a show here, people!)

In the 1960's it was believed that life was better because of the invention of plastic.  Plastic has a longer life than glass...especially when you drop it.  Plastic can be recycled and made into other things.  Plastic was safe for children.  Or so, we (I didn't, I wasn't born) thought...  But, that was in the 1960's. 

Today, we understand that plastics do make a few things possible.  For instance, endocrine disruption is now possible because of plastics. 

What is endocrine disruption?
Endocrine disrupters resemble hormones in their chemical forms and they are found in an extremely wide variety of products.  It is believed that your body treats endocrine disrupters as hormones as well.  For this reason, endocrine disrupters can cause genetic damage in babies before and after birth.  They also mess with sexual development in adolescents, they throw off reproductive systems, and cause hormone related cancers.  Lab studies prove this in animals and it's believed that these chemicals cause the same problems in people.

It makes since then, when you stop to think that breast cancer has risen dramatically since the mid 1900's  when plastics started to make all of this possible. Studies at the Strang Cornell Cancer Research Laboratory showed that the chemicals appear to push estrogen metabolism in a direction that profoundly increases cancer risk.

The plastic industry loves BPA because it makes polycarbonate plastic clear and nearly unbreakable. An extensive body of literature supports the view that this chemical, originally developed as a synthetic estrogen, can cause hormonal chaos.  (like we need more of that...)

Even though there have been numerous independent studies and plenty of proof that these chemicals are not safe, the FDA has, so far, declared BPA safe, citing two little studies that were funded by the chemical industry.  Are you shocked??  Me neither.

Where can these chemicals be found in my house?

Phthalates can be found in the following:
Soft vinyl toys, teething rings, perfume, makeup & nail polish, certain pesticides; various building materials and wire sheathing,medical tubing & IV bags, garden hoses, paints, raincoats and boots (and other shoes), shower curtains, and in rubber products.

You know that "new car smell" everyone loves?  It's the off-gassing of phthalates from your dashboard.  (fun! fun!)

BPA is found in and leaches out of:
the linings of canned foods & soft drinks, (even your infant formula), clear plastic baby bottles & sippy cups, reusable water bottles, food storage containers, and dental sealants.  AND those composite dental fillings that are supposed to help you avoid mercury exposure. As much as we'd like to rid our lives of these chemicals, it's nearly impossible.

What can be done?
There are companies that offer good alternatives to phthalates and BPA.  ThinkBaby and it's sister company, ThinkSport make safer alternatives from which you can chose.

Beside buying safer products, we should consider reducing as much of these items as we can from our homes, when it comes to food storage and in the kitchen.  Obviously, it would be quite difficult and probably impossible to live completely plastic free, but it's still a good idea to cut back on the amount of endocrine-disrupters you come in contact with.

Click here for some ideas to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupters.

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