The Plastics

BPA

Before some of you get too excited, no I’m not talking about the viciously cruel girl click in the movie Mean Girls, though these plastics can be equally toxic.   

The good, the bad, the BPA

Bisphenyl A (BPA) is a carbon based, chemical compound that is found in plastic and food cans. It is used to make clear, shatter-resistant plastic found in many food and drink containers as well as industrial adhesives and coatings that line a large majority of food and beverage cans in the US. BPA is also found in some random products such as: CDs, dental sealants, medical devices, plastic silverware, PVC pipes, toys, baby bottles, and oddly enough, cash register receipts. BPA is a synthetic estrogen that disrupts the endocrine system. It has been linked to countless diseases and illnesses such as: infertility, breast and reproductive cancer, chemo resistance, obesity, diabetes, and early puberty. Numerous tests have been done and have shown that BPA is toxic in small doses. The scary thing about this kind of plastic is that the chemical reaction that occurs while making it doesn’t consume all of the BPA-this means that there is excess BPA in the finished product that leaches into whatever is inside of it or touching it. It’s like when you drink water from a plastic bottle that has been sitting in the hot car all day. Have you noticed the water tastes different? That weird flavor is plastic leaching into the water. Doesn’t that just make you feel great? Yeah, me either. 

BPA Side Effects

BPA’s negative effects mainly target the male/female organs. BPA has a seriously negative effect on the endocrine system. It has been a strong link to infertility on both the male and female sides. Because it is a synthetic estrogen, it manipulates the balance of our other hormones. With men, the hormone alteration has been linked to sperm dysfunction as well as alteration of sperm count, mobility, and density. In women, BPA causes endocrine disorders and other changes in the female body that lead to infertility issues. BPA also has horrifying effects on fetuses in-utero. BPA actually has been shown to feminize male fetuses as well as prevent proper embryo thyroid development.

What about BPA-free plastic?

Due to consumer demand, there has been an increase in BPA-free plastic production in recent years, which is great news! Manufacturers switched BPA out for BPS with the impression that the plastic would be more resistant to leaching. Unfortunately, that was proven not to be the case. Over 80% of Americans have detectable amounts of BPS in their urine. Once it enters the body, it acts similarly to BPA. According to a 2013 study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, even less than one part per trillion of BPS can disrupt a cell’s normal functioning. This could potentially lead to disorders such as diabetes and obesity, asthma, birth defects or even cancer. So, the label might say “BPA-free”, but that doesn’t by any means mean that it’s any safer. 

So what do I use instead of plastic?

When possible, I would highly recommend stainless steel, ceramic, and glass containers. And for the accident prone (oh yes I’m talking about myself), Lifefactory makes glass containers and bottles covered in silicone to ideally help prevent any breakage. Though personally with bottles, I’ve found myself much safer with a stainless steel Hydroflask-that’s what happens when you go through three glass bottles in the short span of 6 weeks…I finally unpacked my two remaining glass bottles now that I’m not in a house with stairs. Wish me luck…

Pyrex and Glasslock are a couple of brands that make glass storage containers. Also, Mason Jars can be a great storage container. They’re cheaper, can be bought in multiples, and they even have the measurements on the side. And my OCD side can rest easy with everything having a cohesive look. 

What if plastic is my only option?

Let’s get real. I know sometimes it’s just not practical to get rid of every single piece of plastic in the house. Though some chemicals like BPA are known to be unsafe, there hasn’t been enough research done on the other types to really give a definitive answer as to their safety. It’s not so much that all other plastics are safe, rather, it’s that we don’t have enough evidence to prove that they’re not safe. With that being said, if you have to go the plastic route, it’s ideal to avoid plastics that will come in contact with the mouth to lessen the exposure to the body. The major plastics to avoid are the ones with the numbers 3 and 7.

Plastics marked with a “3” or “PVC” (PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, or vinyl) are toxic. The plastic mixture used to make these items is often mixed with phthalates, which is a toxic additive that makes plastic more flexible. These phthalates can be found in children’s toys that were made before February 2009 when the ban against phthalates went into effect, as well as in shower curtains, inflatable beach toys, and rain coats.

The plastic marked with a “7” or “PC” (PC stands for polycarbonate) are also toxic. These plastics are rigid and transparent,  and are the typical items that contain BPA such as food storage containers and water bottles. These plastics are extremely guilty of leaching-especially if they’re used for hot food or liquids. This leaves us with the plastics with the numbers 1,2,4, and 5. These don’t contain BPA and would therefore be a better choice. 

Takeaway

-BPA is an extremely toxic synthetic estrogen found in hard plastic bottles and containers as well as the lining of food and drink cans
-BPA causes infertility, breast and reproductive cancer, chemo resistance, obesity, diabetes, and early puberty.
-Though there’s more BPA-free plastic, the new plastic isn’t any better and is in fact, worse than the original BPA.
-When possible, avoid plastic and turn to items made out of glass, stainless steel, and ceramic.
-If avoiding plastic is unrealistic, be sure to avoid plastics marked with the numbers 3 and 7, and especially avoid any kind  of plastic that could come in contact with the mouth.
-When it comes to cans, stick with ones that are BPA-free. A list of companies can be found here.

Hopefully this gives you a little bit on insight to the world of plastic! 

References:

http://draxe.com/bpa-toxic-effects/  
http://www.ewg.org/research/bisphenol/bpa-toxic-low-doses http://www.ewg.org/research/healthy-home-tips/tip-3-pick-plastics-carefully  

 

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