The term “plastic” is derived from the Greek word “plastikos“, meaning capable of being shaped or moulded. We find plastic everywhere we look, the water we drink, the toys we play with, the supplements we take, and our clothes. Modern healthcare would be impossible without the many plastic-based medical products we take for granted. But what you perhaps did not know is that the average person eats about 5 grams of plastic per week, almost the amount found in one credit card. So the question is not if but how much plastic you eat.
So let’s talk about plastic, shall we?
What is plastic?
Plastics are derived from natural, organic materials such as cellulose, natural gas and salt. The development of plastics has evolved from natural plastic materials to completely synthetic molecules.
Pure plastics have low toxicity, but the plastic we use today contains various additives, some of which can be toxic and interfere with hormonal function. Drinking water is the most significant contributor to plastic ingestion for humans, and your plastic bottle may contain even more plastic than tap water. Sadly most of the plastic ends up in the ocean. The plastic disintegrates by heat, air and waves into smaller parts called microplastics, and the even smaller pieces are called nano plastics. Microplastics are everywhere; in fact, it is estimated that our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight by the year 2050(1).
Type of plastics
PVC was one of the first plastics discovered and is also one of the most extensively used, from children’s toys to building materials to food packaging. Unfortunately, PVC is the most toxic. The chemical used to make PVC has been described as a known carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
How can you be exposed to PVC? Building products such as floor and wall coverings, roofing sheets; Packaging, pharmaceuticals, food and confectionery, medical products, including blood bags and many more.
What can you do? Look for the #3 or the letters PVC, often found near the recycling symbol—and avoid these products.
Bisphenols (BPs) are a group of chemicals including the well known BPA and the non so well known BPB, BPF, BPS, BPAF, BPAP, TBBPA and TCBPA.
BPs(2)(3) affects your health in more ways than one; It could cause reproductive, immunity, and neurological problems, as well as an increased likelihood of Alzheimer’s, childhood asthma, metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. BPA can also contribute to weight gain, cancer and infertility. Unfortunately, BPA free water bottles are not free from danger as they contain more than one harmful plastic material.
How can you be exposed to BPA? Plastic water bottles, plastic baby bottles, canned foods, food packaging, household electronics, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs.
What can you do? At home, use glass containers to keep food or drinks. And please stop buying plastic bottles and get a stainless steel water bottle to keep in the car to take to the gym.
Do you see these shiny sparkles in the picture? Well, sadly, that could be microplastic.
Microplastics were found in the Antarctic ice (4). And in the documentary “hunting for plastic” (5), you can see the autopsy of a sea turtle that showed black plastic bags and other plastic objects that had been the cause of the poor turtle’s death. In addition, tiny plastic particles and fibres have been found in the stool of eight people who provided samples as part of a pilot study (6).
We are exposed to microplastic, mainly from drinking water and eating seafood. However, cosmetics, toothpaste and body washes are among the giant magnets for microplastics; yes, glitter is just a shiny piece of plastic.
However, the are many ways to reduce exposure and protect ourselves and the planet.
How can you be exposed to microplastic? Unfortunately, from almost everything; Cleaning products, food, water, cosmetics, and the list goes on and on.
What can you do?
- Avoid plastic bags; this also includes food and drinks on plastic such as your coffee to go. Get your mag made of stainless steel instead.
- Avoid plastic toothbrush and choose one made from bamboo.
When it comes to cosmetics:
- Look for Polyethylene or polythene on your makeup, body wash or toothpaste. Cosmetics, especially glitter, can have another plastic call terephthalate. READ before! This app can help you as well: https://www.ewg.org/apps/
When it comes to food:
- Salt and tea bags usually contain microplastics; Opt for organic options when possible.
- Avoid any food wrap on plastic.
- Avoid disposable straws and choose straws made from stainless steel or even bamboo.
- Choose the right cookware, stainless steel, cast iron and ceramic pots or pans are good options but stay away from Teflon.
When it comes to fabrics:
- Choose cotton , linen or bamboo over polyester, nylon or spandex.
Plastic is, without a doubt, a massive problem for our health and our environment. However, simple changes can make a huge difference in your health and the planet. You can start by:
- Choosing stainless steel instead of plastic for kitchen utensils, water bottle and coffee cups
- Bringing your own plastic-free bag to the supermarket
- Avoiding foods wrap in plastic
We have two houses in this life, our bodies and our planet. So what about taking care of them as there were the only ones we got to live in?