I've been known to be a little obsessive about staying healthy. There is something scary about preventable things happening to my body, like getting serious illnesses from ingesting things, or like getting Lyme disease from a deer tick. Scary weird things like that. Sometimes we just don't have the knowledge or exposure to know what could happen- and sometimes our culture isn't quite honest about products and what can happen to you if you use them.
When I read that certain plastics used for food/beverages are stored in our bodies and can have harmful effects on you and your offspring, I was alarmed. You mean, plastic- the stuff that we heat/freeze/store everything in is harmful? Even most of the food we buy is in plastic. WOW.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical that is used to strengthen plastic containers and line metal bottles and cans. It has been used for the last 60 years and is in a lot of our common products. I first read about this in the Good Housekeeping mag, the article is titled “Is It Safe to Heat Food in Plastic?.” There was an article questioning the safety of plastic, and it caught my eye! This article said that there are two main chemicals that can make us and our offspring sick, BPA and phthalates (pronounced Thay-lates).
After reading the article I decided to see if I could find more than what a magazine was reporting, and boy did I find a lot! You see- after being a MAJOR debate nerd in HS I have had this need to research everything that intrigues me. Well, needless to say- this was very intriguing.
So, BPA is a pretty widely used. It has been used in pretty much most of the #7 plastics, (look on the bottom of a plastic container, it should have a number on it, If it has a #7 on it, it probably contains BPA). Also, some#3’s and #5’s contain BPA as well. BPA is in the lining of almost all canned foods, there is only one food company; Eden Foods Canned Beans that I have found to have BPA free canned goods. BPA is in other household items like CD’s some children’s toys etc. The main concern is for it to leach into our foods and stay in our bodies. The effects of BPA are constantly being argued, and pay attention to the source of your research if you look this stuff up. There are many companies that support certain products based on their financial investment. Based on pure scientific research, you will find that the main concerns are adverse effects on the brain, male and female reproductive systems, and diabetes. It may also be related to cancer or even obesity and heart disease. There isn’t an immediate reaction to this chemical, it accumulates over time in our bodies. The greatest sensitivity to bisphenol A occurs in-utero and infant development. ACK! This sucks!
Onto the next devil plastic chemical…
Phthalates, known as “plasticizers,” are a grouping of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible. They are found in toys, food packaging, hoses, raincoats, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, wall coverings, lubricants, adhesives, detergents, nail polish, hair spray and shampoo, as well as other products. Phthalates can be "endocrine disruptors" because they copy hormones in the body and have shown in lab tests to cause reproductive and neurological damage. So if someone says to you, “why are you trying to bite your elbow??” you know that you may have used too much plastic wrap. Sorry, I had to throw a joke in there, you started to have that scared depressed look!
What to Do??
I know we can’t turn our world upside down and go back in time to prevent our bodies from becoming plastic-y, and this stuff is pretty scary. But, you do have control and a little more knowledge now. You can make choices in your future to help curb the intake of these devil chemicals. And- feel good about it at the same time. If you have kids- or will, you can also feel good that you are armed with this knowledge.
Here are some tips for identifying products that have, or are likely to have, phthalates or BPA. These are the things that I have introduced into my daily living habits.
1. Choose foods in plastics with the recycling code 1, 2, 4 or 6. Recycling codes 3, 5 and 7 are more likely to contain BPA or phthalates. My mantra for plastic is “Even Steven, and #1 are good.”
2. Don’t eat anything canned, unless the can reads “BPA Free.”
3. Transport and heat your food in glass never plastic; never ever in styrofoam (don’t use the plastic covers of glass containers either). I save glass jars from bullion for yogurt, jam jars for milk and apples etc.
4. Buy refillable water bottles that aren’t plastic, or lined with BPA. Many companies are marketing their products to this concern now.
5. Read the ingredients. According to the organization Pollution in People, you can identify phthalates in some products by their chemical names, or abbreviations:
-DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in personal care products, including nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes and cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions. (BzBP, see below, is also in some personal care products.)
-DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
-DMP (dimethyl phthalate) is used in insect repellent and some plastics (as well as rocket propellant).
6. Be wary of the term "fragrance," which is used to denote a combination of compounds, possibly including phthatates, which are a subject of recent concern because of studies showing they can mimic certain hormones.
The real question is, are we plastic now??
The answer, no. But, if your big toe slowly starts looking like Barbie’s, all hard and connected to the rest of your toes, maybe you should start to worry. Or, you could just buy the Pink Malibu Convertible and go with it.
This is purely for your information, not intended for you to become a worry wart. I’ll do that job for you. My philosophy about these things is to arm yourself with knowledge, do the best you can, and then forget about it. Go on enjoying life because you know you are taking care of yourself and your loved ones.