Why Recycling Plastic Bags, Bottles, and Jars is a Matter of Life and Death

http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/plasticoceans/ image from article on plastics in the oceans
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/plasticoceans/ image from article on plastics in the oceans

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."

Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle

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

  • DEP
  • DBP
  • BBzP
  • DEHP
  • DOP
  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Triclosan

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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Comments 22 comments

nilum profile image

nilum 6 years ago

nice researched work

broussardleslie profile image

broussardleslie 6 years ago

Thank you for including a list of sources - I have often wondered how to do it and now that I've seen your, I will definitely start. Awesome!

I wonder if the BPA is what is causing the hormonal changes in young girls quicker? It used to be that girls would start menstruation around 16. Now, however, some as young as eight start...

Thanks for the hub!

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks for your comment nilum!

MikeNV profile image

MikeNV 6 years ago from Henderson, NV

Thank you. People need to realize that Global Warming is a guise to make money and raise taxes... while the REAL GREEN ISSUE is pollution and the destruction of the natural environment ... the death of species, the poisoning of our water supply and food supplies.

Next to nothing is being done to stop pollution... while all the talk is focused on Melting Glaciers and Global Warming. Corporate America keeps right on polluting in the name of profits.

Example: In the past 3 years I have purchased 5 keyboards! 5! And I don't type that much or play games. And I am not buying cheap keyboards... I read reviews I have purchased some of the best high end Logitech and Microsoft products. All made in China and all junk. What do I do with 5 broken keyboards? Who knows what kind of toxic materials are inside the keyboards? I would have saved a lot of money if I could have just purchased one high quality keyboard that still worked. This is the Consumption Mentality... the Walmart Mentality that you produce mass amounts of products at the lowest price. And what you end up with is mass amounts of toxic unusable Garbage!

One of my Favorite Programs is Bear Grylls "Born Survivor"... and everywhere he goes even in the most remote places he encounters human garbage.

I read a story just a week or two ago about plastic waste from all over the world accumulating in parts of the Ocean.

People need to wake the hell up... it is not about how warm it gets... the human race will have destroyed itself with toxic pollution long before the World gets to warm to inhabit. Big vote up from me!

theguru-reports profile image

theguru-reports 6 years ago from Montana

Solid information. I do think we go a little too far in our green efforts at times...and I still haven't been convinced that humans are the cause of global warming. But you can't live and not be convinced the crap we are manufacturing is a problem. Worse is the problem of what's in our food.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks broussardleslie for stopping by! I think that with so many if these strange chemicals being introduced to us, who knows what the end results are? There are some very interesting cause and effect observations we can make, however!

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

wow Mikev that is so true! It really needs to be re-focused!

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

theguru-reports- I am all about staying balanced in life. I don't think I would ever sit in a tree to save it...I also have serious doubts about the issue of global warming...but like you and mikev- there is no denying the amount of garbage we are producing. The buy cheap and throw it away mentality is new in the last 40 years...and has come with some mind blowing realities.

Thanks for all your comments!

creativeone59 profile image

creativeone59 6 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

Thank you for very informative hub. Godspeed. creativeone59

lyricsingray 6 years ago

This is so important - thank you for writing about it! Kimberly

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thank you Creative one for stopping by!

You are so welcome! Thank you Kimberly for stopping by!

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

gejindermaakan0- thanks for your comment and sharing with me!

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 6 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

Wealth of information here. I shall link this hub to a couple of mine if that's ok-re composting etc.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Great! Thanks Ethel!

gkalby012 6 years ago

hello bayareagreatthing!

thank you so much for the feedback!

i can also see that you did a whole lot of research for this hub. it's great to see so many green people.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thank you gkalby012 for your kind comments! So many people think the issue is overrated. We always want to keep a balance in our lives, and good scientific research helps us to see how to maintain that balance. It is about being good stewards of our resources.

Godslittlechild profile image

Godslittlechild 6 years ago

Thank you for all the information given here. This is an excellent hub!

Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia

This information is so vital on so many levels. You delivered this information so well. It was organized and very easy to understand. I hope many take a lot from this, and hopefully, we all will take personal responsiblity for the role we may play in all of this.

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks Veronica! In the past- I have been one of the worst offenders! Now, I am trying to be a more responsible citizen and caretaker of the earth that God has entrusted to us :)I appreciate your kind comments!

Kellie Tunbridge/San Jose Family Examiner 6 years ago

...very informative article! Thanks for posting the link!

bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 6 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks Kellie! I appreciate your update about the canned food too!

Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

Excellent hub. Thank you for drawing attention to the need for us all to take more interest in our planet. It´s the only home we´ve got!

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