Plastics were supposed to make our lives easier. And, they certainly have in a lot of ways. But, now, they have actually made our lives a little more complicated. Some of the components in them, as it turns out, are not good for us to be exposed to, and the labeling of plastic ingredients is not required in all cases, making it complicated to maneuver around plastic usage choices. And those plastics create a huge complicated heap in our landfills, too. Yes, not so easy after all, but I am here to help filter through all that. Read on!
PLASTIC AND HOW IT CAN HARM YOUR HEALTH
Plastic has been around a while. In fact, the first man-made plastic made an appearance in 1855. But it was not until after World War I, that improvements in chemical technology led to an explosion of them. Mass production began around the 1940s and 1950s. And we have never looked back. Plastic is everywhere and it is in everything: textiles, bottles and jars, food packaging, toys, receipts, electronics, cars and trucks, and plumbing parts to name a few.
But, as miraculous as they can be, in more recent years, information like this has shed some light on some not so miraculous ways suspect components of plastics like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates can possibly harm us. Scan on down and see what I mean:
- BPA acts as a synthetic estrogen that could disrupt the human hormone system, causing various health effects, some of them very serious.
- Phthalates may cause a wide range of adverse health problems including liver, kidney and lung damage as well as reproductive system and sexual developmental abnormalities.
- Phthalates have also been classified as a probable human carcinogen.
HOW TO EASILY AVOID BAD PLASTIC ADDITIVES
There are ways to work around these negative plastic issues, though. Try incorporating these few easy ways to outsmart those plastics and greatly reduce your exposure to the harmful additives:
1. Heat and plastic are not a good match.
Avoid foods and liquids heated in plastic containers. This includes plastic baby bottles. There are loads of inexpensive alternatives like glass, ceramic or stainless-steel containers instead. Heating plastics in high temperatures in an oven or microwave oven leaches chemicals out of the containers and into the food or liquid they hold.
If you choose to use frozen food or you freeze food you made and need to reheat it, defrost the food item for a bit to loosen it in the container and then place the food in another safe container before heating in the oven. Never heat food in those plastic containers provided by food manufacturers.
2. Remove your wrap.
Always remove plastic wrap before thawing or heating foods. Or, don’t use it at all.
3. Note the storage.
Avoid purchasing foods stored in plastic of all kinds. (I know this one can be difficult.) If there is a choice, purchase food items stored in glass and cardboard containers only. This goes for canned food, too. BPA has been found in the lining of the cans and it leaches onto the food item.
4. Find the sponge.
Wash all safe plastic food containers or baby bottles by hand. Do not put in the dishwasher as the heat produced by the machine may cause chemicals to release.
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5. Toss the old and scratched.
Throw out old plastic containers and especially unsafe plastics (see step 9.) As plastic containers age, they release more chemicals. Don’t use scratched-up plastic containers, either. Damaged plastics may leak more chemicals
6. Avoid plastic toys.
Steer away from plastic toys, especially the ones with codes discussed in section below. Be careful at yard sales as older plastic toys you may be considering may contain BPA or phthalates.
7. Peek into the bathroom cabinets.
Check all personal care products that are free of synthetic fragrance as that increases exposure to phthalates. The FDA requires the listing of ingredients but not individual fragrance ingredients. Phthalates are also used in many nail polishes. Be sure to check those too.
Make sure to switch out any plastic shower curtain or plastic liners for cloth liners to avoid exposure to plastic in them that the heat of the shower creates.
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8. Fabric choices count.
Choose natural fiber clothing. Plastic-type additives in iron-free or Teflon clothing can expose you to unwanted chemicals. Waterproof can also be a concern.
9. Learn some code.
See the section below to see which plastics to especially back away from after checking the symbol codes on the containers.
RECYCLING CODES AND WHAT THEY MEAN
These code numbers are considered safe until we hear otherwise:
- Recycling code number 1 (PETE)
- Recycling code number 2 (HDPE)
- Recycling code number 4 (LDPE)
- Recycling code number 5 (PP)
And . . .
These code numbers are ones to avoid:
- Recycling code number 3 may indicate it contains a phthalate called DEHA. Please, no. This code can be seen on food items, toys, shower curtains, window cleaner, shampoo, medical equipment and construction items.
- Recycling code number 6 or Styrofoam are in disposable plates and cups, egg cartons, carry-out foods, meat trays. There are really hard to recycle, too.
- Recycling code number 7 may indicate it contains BPA. This code can also be interpreted as the “miscellaneous” plastic, as under this number you may see various types of plastics, including those found in baby bottles, large water bottles, ‘bullet-proof’ materials, sunglasses, computer cases, food containers, and nylon. Some of these are safe but some maybe not safe. Best to avoid it.
Plastics are here to stay. Just look at our landfills. But, if you must use them, please be smart and do make it a lot less complicated.