Why Recycling Plastic Bags, Bottles, and Jars is a Matter of Life and Death
Why are plastic bags being taken from the grocery stores?
Going green is more than a fad "buzz word". Today there is increasing concern that exposure to man-made substances that mimic "our own hormones" may adversely affect our health. Among the culprits are a group of Phthalates or "esters" used in making products containing plastics that are designed to make plastic more flexible. Phthalates can be found in products ranging from adhesives, plastic bottles, plastic bags, toys, medications (where they are used as inactive ingredients as a coating), flooring, lubricants (lotions), hairspray, soaps, baby products...etc.
One of these substances is BPA (Bisphenol A).
What is BPA?
BPA is among the chemical substances known as Phthalates. "BPA is an estrogenic compound widely used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins".The important factor in our exposure to BPA isn't whether the plastic is old or new, but how the chemical gets released from the plastic.
For example, one of the main causes of a rise in exposure to BPA comes from from plastic bottles. How that exposure takes place seems counter-intuitive: We get the greatest exposure from washing the bottle.
According to one study, "environmental estrogen, was released 55 times more rapidly than before exposure to hot water". If you continuously boil and scrub bottles (for instance, baby bottles), this action releases the BPA from the bottles."BPA is one of many man-made chemicals classified as endocrine disruptors, which alter the function of the endocrine system by mimicking the role of the body's natural hormones. Hormones are secreted through endocrine glands and serve different functions throughout the body."
Compact and lightweight, the Klean Kanteen® 12-oz bottle is great when space is limited. Whatever you fill it with, the small size allows you to take it just about anywhere! Made of 100% recyclable food-grade stainless steel, this bottle doesn't need a special lining. It's also completely BPA-free and won't leach chemicals, toxins, or funky flavors into your drink.
Humans are getting sick from plastics but they aren't the only ones
In 2009 a study was conducted by the Environmental Working Group that showed trying to remove BPA from water systems may be ineffective: "after sophisticated treatment, trace levels of hormone-disrupting chemicals remain in treated wastewater entering San Francisco Bay". Fish exposed to BPA may develop problems with their ability in reproduction due to disruption of their hormones.
And of course fish aren't the only creatures that will be affected. Toxic chemicals from decomposing plastics may be leaching into the sea and harming the entire marine ecosystem. While there is some debate over whether plastics decompose in sea water... the other concern is ingesting plastics as food. "Plastic poses the biggest threat to marine animals that confuse garbage with dinner and end up digesting large quantities of polystyrene."
Earth Friendly to frogs and fish- what does that have to do with me?
Consider the following facts:
Two disoriented sea lions were rescued and treated for a powerful form of brain poisoning and survived. But hundreds of other sea lions have died, joining a short list of ocean animals that are succumbing to strange diseases.
In Florida, hundreds of manatees have died from an airborne toxin produced by "red tide." Infectious germs and toxins have killed bottle-nosed dolphins all over the eastern and southern coasts of the United States. These toxins are a result of imbalance in the ocean eco-system...when one species is sick it affects other species. Red tide could be indirectly linked to toxins from, among other things, plastics that contribute to the imbalance.
There is clear evidence, according to an article by the Department of Inland Fisheries, that BPA induces feminization in tadpoles, revealing an estrogenic potency of BPA which influences sexual development in amphibians. "Frogs may seem small and insignificant, but their bodies may hold the key to important new discoveries in medical research." There are chemical compounds in frogs’ skins that have been found useful in the treatment of pain and used to block infections, and there is the possibility of a use for HIV treatments.
"In a 2008 Bulgarian study higher dust concentrations of DEHP (another Phthalate) were found in homes of children with asthma and allergies, compared with healthy children's homes"
These are just a tiny portion of the rising concerns in pollutants in our ecosystems. Plastics may be a significant contributor to many health problems both in humans, pets, and wildlife.
If BPA and other Phthalates can make male frogs have feminine characteristics, damage the brains of sealions, and effect entire species of wildlife- what makes us think we are exempt? We need to start connecting the dots! Just pause and consider this for a moment...
10 things you can do to reduce your risk
- Use nail polish and other beauty products that do not contain "dibutyl phthalate".
- Use household cleaners,pet care products, detergents, and other products that don't contain phthalates or "fragrance" in the ingredient list – "fragrance" commonly includes the phthalate DEP.
- Use fragrance free deodorants and other personal care items
- Avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic. Instead use microwave safe glass or paper products.
- Avoid products made of "flexible PVC" which can be found in children's toys and toys for your pets.
- Avoid the use of vinyl plastics such as vinyl shower curtains
- Use reusable stainless steel water bottles
- Use only plastic bottles with labeled plastic number 5 on the bottom
- Use baby bottles that don't contain BPA
- Don't use antimicrobial skin disinfectant (containing triclosan)- instead use an alcohol hand rub.
How to choose the best enviromentally friendly products
A list of Phthalates to look for in the products you use
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
When purchasing products, check the manufacturers' label to see if any of these are listed. Check food products and health care products too. Often you won't know if they are in an item so your best insurance is to avoid them all together and purchase an eco-friendly product instead.
Going green and becoming enviromentally friendly may be irritating "buzz words" to hear all the time, but it is your health at risk. This isn't a fad produced by a bunch of "earth children hippies", it is hard scientific facts by some of the world's best scientific community. So the next time they ask you, "paper or plastic" either opt for paper, check to see that the bags are earth friendly, or better...go for reuseable canvas totes...for your sake and a frog or two.
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