National Graphics had this to say: “Your family might use plastic straws, water bottles, and bags for just a few minutes, but those items don’t disappear when they’re thrown out. Single-use items like these account for more than 40 percent of plastic waste, and each year about 8.8 million tons of plastic trash flows into the ocean. This waste endangers wildlife, pollutes the water, and puts human health at risk.”
The photo above is of just a teensy bit of plastic rubbish that has not yet found its way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. That patch is floating island of trash the size of Alaska! (By the way, when visiting Alaska, we were told not to say that Texas is the biggest state. Natives warned, that they could divide Alaska in half and make Texas the 3rd largest state!). Plastics can take thousands of years to break down. (The pleistocene era of the earth’s history is notable for ice ages. I shudder to think how the “plastocene” or “plastobscene” will be remembered.)
Hopefully, by now, our readers are aware that plastic waste is also a lethal environmental disaster for wildlife. They get tangled in it and mistakenly eat it. Fewer folks are aware that plastic chemicals and microplastics can cause health trouble by remaining in the seafood that we consume. Also, plastic in many other foods and beverages cause health problems.
I was inspired to blog about this topic by a Consumer Reports (CR)* June 2020 Magazine article entitled “How to Eat Less Plastic”. Oddly enough, the article did not tell us how to eat less plastic. However, the article did make few a excellent points about plastic risks.
- Apparently, each week we eat about the amount of plastic that is in a credit card!
- As just as just one example of the many plastic pollutants, in a previous blog and a radio interview with Dr. Anthony Jay, we talked about Bisphenol A (BPA) which disrupts hormones. Among the risks of BPA are: early puberty, prostate cancer, low sperm counts, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, liver toxicity, developmental problems with the immune system and brain. A mother’s exposure can reduce testosterone in a male baby.
- Common sources of this plastic include plastic beverage bottles, the lining of canned foods and most cash register receipts.
- According to the Environmental Working Group, BPA has even be found in baby formula. (I encourage readers to follow news from that group and to donate to support their important efforts.)
- In 2012, the FDA banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups. Unfortunately, manufacturers typically just substitute “BPS” or other plastics in that family. It is often called chemical “wack-a-mole” and it will take years for these substitutes to be banned. Newer ways of measuring BPA indicate that we might have 44 times as much of it as previously thought.
- Styrene plastic has been linked to nervous system malfunction, hearing loss, cancer and more.
- One reason why it is so difficult to get the FDA to eliminate toxic chemicals is that the toxicologic studies are only required to show what happens if there is an acute major exposure, but not the effect of small amounts continuously over years.
Here are some ideas for eating less plastic:
- Do not microwave foods in plastic.
- Do not store leftovers in plastic. Instead use a glass or silicone container. (I linked to examples but there are many more.)
- Likewise, when you bring home food sold in plastic wrap, remove it from the plastic and put in one of the safer containers. You can also wrap it in wax paper to provide a shield and put it back in a plastic bag. (By the way, avoid putting anything acidic in aluminum foil because it will transfer the aluminum to the food. Aluminum is a nerve toxin.)
- Use refillable stainless steel or glass water bottles.
- Even “paper” coffee cups are lined with plastic, so it is best to take your own cup to the office or coffee house.
- This green website lists 17 ways of reducing plastics in the environment.
*I’ve been very impressed by the testing Consumer Reports does on toasters, lawnmowers and the like. Their reporting of data on automobiles and the dangers from chemicals is also usually good. However, when it comes to vitamins and other dietary supplements, they don’t seem to review the science or get a balanced view with functional and nutrition experts. (They rely on a medical “expert” who has actually admitted to a bias against supplements.)