Many chemical additives in plastics have negative health effects on humans and the environment. In general, the endocrine system is disrupted, which can lead to immune system problems, cancers, birth defects, and developmental problems in children. Specifically Lead, cadmium, and mercury are directly toxic, and Diethyl Hexylphosphate (DEHP) is a known carcinogen. How can you and the ones you love avoid hazardous plastics? One thing you should know is how to identify the known hazardous plastics.
The more steps food goes through to get to you, the harder it is to know what happened to it before you ate it. So first off, to whatever extent possible, avoid eating out and buying pre-made foods. Buy your foods directly from the producer as much as possible. Hopefully the area you are in has a weekly farmers market. Of course, avoid plastic containers.
I realize for most people that this is already almost impossible to achieve. You do what you can!
Next thing to to think about is how you have to find alternatives to plastic products whenever possible. Specific advice:
- Buy food in glass or metal containers.
- Avoid heating food in plastic containers.
- Don’t store fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
- Don’t buy polycarbonate drinking bottles, or anything with Bisphenol A
- Don’t use PVC or Styrene products
- Many packing products are made with PVC. Look #3 or “V” near the recycling symbol
- Soft plastic kitchen utensils made from PVC often have a distinct odor
- This site lists Common PVC products in the home, from Apparel, the car, kitchen, to the office.
- At this Greenpeace page, you learn that almost 70% of PVC use is for construction mainly because its fire-retardant. However, burning PVC gives off Hydrogen chloride gas (highly toxic), and dioxin (one of the most toxic substances known).
- The US Dept of Labor lists Styrene as a carcinogen, exposure to which can also able to cause fatigue, dizziness, headache, nausea, …
- Use natural fiber clothing, bedding, and furniture. Even common plastics like Polyester can cause eye and respiratory-tract irritation and acute skin rashes. Acrylic can cause breathing difficulties, nausea, headaches and more!
People are often exposed to these chemicals by using plastic packages because some chemicals migrate from the hazardous plastic packaging to the foods they contain. Plastics contaminated food have been reported with most plastic types, including Styrene from polystyrene, plasticizers from PVC, antioxidants from polyethylene, and Acetaldehyde from PET. Some evidence also points to acetaldehydge migrating out of PET and into water! All this doesn’t even mention the exposure that comes from manufacturing.
Plastic Water Bottles are probably some of the most common ways in which we are exposed. Most at risk are pregnant women and newborns, and next, young children. Its best to switch to glass or lightweight stainless steel containers. If you cant do that, then avoid #7 type plastic bottles and instead try to use #5, or otherwise #2 HDPE or #4 LDPE. Check out my article on Plastic Recycling Numbers.