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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Organic Lifestyle | What's Wrong with Plastic?

I was recently given a book about toxicity called Detoxify or Die and it changed my life. I started to think about all the ways I am consuming toxins in my mouth as well as on my body. One particular chapter really caught my eye about plastic and plasticizers (technical term: phthalates)

"What are plasticizers or phthalates?"

According to one of my favorite dictionaries, The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary, plasticizers are a chemical added especially to rubbers and resins to impart flexibility, workability, or stretchability.

That made me think about how often I used plastic. Everything comes in plastic. When you go to the store the produce bags are plastic. When you buy bread it comes in plastic. Milk comes in plastic. Bottled water comes in plastic. Almost every single thing you buy is sold in a plastic container. Then I thought about my home. All my tupperware was plastic. My measuring cup was plastic. My spoons are plastic. Everything is plastic!!!

"What is plastic made from?"

Plastics are made from oil. Oil is a carbon-rich raw material, and plastics are large carbon-containing compounds. They're large molecules calledpolymers, which are composed of repeating units of shorter carbon-containing compounds called monomers. Chemists combine various types of monomers in many different arrangements to make an almost infinite variety of plastics with different chemical properties. Most plastic is chemically inert and will not react chemically with other substances -- you can store alcohol, soap, water, acid or gasoline in a plastic container without dissolving the container itself. Plastic can be molded into an almost infinite variety of shapes, so you can find it in toys, cups, bottles, utensils, wiring, cars, even in bubble gum. Plastics have revolutionized the world.-From HowStuffWorks

My next question was, "How do plasticizers or phthalates affect my body?"

According to the Body Burden case study, phthalates cause cancer.

DEHP (a type of phthalates) has been classified as a "probable human carcinogen" by the EPA.  The Department of Health and Human Services has also classified DEHP as a potential carcinogen.  That is to say, DEHP may reasonably be considered a cancer causing substance in humans. Rats and mice fed DEHP and DINP also showed an increase in liver cancers over animals that had not been fed the chemicals.  
The offspring of rats separately fed three different phthalates, namely diethyl hexyl-, diisononyl- and butyl benzyl phthalate (DEHP, DINP and BBP, respectively), do not follow normal patterns of sexual development.  In the case of DEHP-fed and BBP-fed rats, the weight of the offspring was also reduced.  Other studies also report subtle effects of DEHP in the testes of young rats at very low levels.  High doses of diethyl phthalate (DEP) given to female rats have been shown to cause the growth of an extra rib in their offspring. Additionally, female animals exposed to DEP throughout their lives experience an elevated number of stillbirths.  According to a 1996 report from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “No information is available regarding possible effects caused by diethyl phthalate if you breathe, eat, or drink it, or if it touches your skin.” This is a troubling statement given the diversity of products to which DEP is added.  Furthermore, it highlights the inadequate regulations for widely used commercial chemicals.

My very next question was, "What are the government regulations regarding phthalates?"

In 1999, prompted by the potential of babies to intake dangerous amounts of phthalates and the serious, negative health effects found in animal studies, the European Union placed an emergency ban on the use of certain phthalates in toys made for children under the age of three. This emergency ban was recently renewed.  In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the Toy Manufacturers of America (TMA) agreed upon a voluntary limit of DEHP at 3% in pacifiers and teethers in 1986.  Later in 1998, the CPSC asked toy manufacturers to voluntarily withdraw vinyl teething rings and rattles containing the phthalate DINP from the market.  However, such voluntary agreements do not stop the use of, and children’s exposure to, hazardous or untested additives.  Similarly, adults are also exposed to potentially hazardous chemicals by using any number of phthalate-containing products. 
Regulations are also in place for phthalates in plastics that come into contact with food such as during its processing, transportation and storage.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) and diisononyl phthalate (DINP) “may be safely used” at levels up to 1% and 43%, respectively.  Closer inspection, however, reveals provisions that are very likely to be broken.  For example, the regulation states that the plastics should be used “at temperatures not exceeding room temperature”.  This implies that warming food wrapped in plastic in a microwave may be considered unsafe -- a practice many in this country exercise on a daily basis.-The Body Burden case study.  

That covered a few plasticizers only and it did not cover BPA. I notice that there are a lot of plastic products now that are labeled BPA free. BPA stands for bisphenol A, an industrial product that's been made since the 1960's and put into our plastic resins. It can be found in milk and water jugs and in canned food lining. Studies have been done on the plasticizer and have found the substance to be harmful to humans.

The very day I learned about phthalates I went out and bought widemouth glass mason jars.  

Um, I don't want ANY of that near my food at all and I certainly don't want that in my body! I threw away most of my plastic cups and vowed to replace them soon with stainless steel cups. I started using more glass containers. Instead of toting around a plastic cup, I now use one of my mason jars and put a flexible coozy over it. I took my produce out of the plastic bags when I got home from the grocery store and put them in my crisper. I noticed that taking them out of plastic made the produce last longer anyway!

I no longer eat anything out of a can. I don't care if the label says BPA free on it or not. I do not regulate the plastic myself. I do not do the studies myself. I just know that if plastic is made from ANY chemical then I don't want it in or near my body. Period!

Until next time, keep watch on what you eat and what you put next to your body!

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