Thursday, March 25, 2010

How Much Plastic Do You Eat?

Photo from Tobytrotter's photostream

I bet you eat more plastic than you think! Most of us are aware of the health warnings about drinking water and sodas from plastic bottles... and most of us do it anyway. Recently I've been reading about the cumulative effects of ingested plastics, and finding I wasn't aware of all the containers that leach plastic into foods, or what ingested plastics can do to my body.

If you stop for a hot cup of coffee on your way to work, ask for it in a lined paper cup rather than styrofoam. Yes, you will still get BPA from the heated plastic liner, but not as much as from a foam cup. Styrofoam leaches styrene, a compound linked to cancer. Taking along your refillable drinking mug won't help much unless it's a stainless steel cup.
(You can get a good insulated stainless steel mug without a plastic lip or liner for under $10; I just did.)

Research statistics now show over 93% of Americans have
detectable levels of BPA in our systems*. People who re-fill plastic water bottles have been tested, and results show that in only a week, the detectable amounts of BPA in urine samples can increase by as much as 70%*.

I read the plastic wrap you buy to use at home in increasingly available made from polyethylene, rather than the more harmful PVC marketed for years, although I have not noticed any in my stores yet. Most meat in the grocery stores' meat department
is plastic-wrapped in PVC, and for years I've read to re-package it before freezing, or even refrigerating it. Most people don't.
So why is all this important? After all, it's just small amounts, right?

The plastics we ingest even in minute amounts are endocrine disruptors (EDC's, which stands for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, and are starting to be called
Obesogens by Researchers) and they can affect our endocrine system even in amounts so small as to be almost impossible to measure. Our endocrines control our sleep, moods, metabolism, hunger, sex drive... The fight or flight syndrome of the adrenals is another function.

Did you know the plastics you ingest contribute to weight gain? That's because EDC's from PVC's (the phthalates) inhibit the hormone testosterone, and low levels of testosterone lead to weight gain and a decrease in muscle mass. EDC's from phthalates and BPA's mimic the hormone estrogen, and can predispose your body from an early age to gain fat.

These plastics are now called "Contact Food Substances" by the FDA, but they were called "Indirect Food Additives" by the FDA prior to 2002. Payoffs at play that cleansed the implications of plastics in our foods?

Common sense should remind you that since heated plastics leach harmful chemicals, then you shouldn't use them in a microwave... not even those 'microwavable' packages from the freezer section (heating the plastics creates free radicals). Over 6 billion pounds of BPA (found in metal food can linings, plastic soda bottles, baby bottles, and even medical supplies) are produced every year, and it leaches into our foods, daily.

Then there's the environmental concern over plastics. Our oceans now have 6 times more plastic floating on them than plankton! In case you forgot, plankton is a major food source for marine animals. There are even 2 "Garbage Patches" of floating plastic on our oceans that are each bigger than the entire land mass of Texas.

So, please try not to eat so much plastics for your own health, and try not to use and dispose of so many plastics for the health of our planet. (I'll be writing more later on about non-plastic Obesogens.)

* Study from Harvard University and the Center for Disease Control and Protection

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