Plastic has become my new enemy no.1. Even before I watched Blue Planet II.
In case you aren’t aware of the extent of our issue with plastic, however, here are some not-so-fun facts for ya. Share the crap out of them.
Apparently, plastic has been found in the flesh of fish which are eaten by humans. So there’s that interesting little addition to our food chain.
Also, remember in Blue Planet II where there was that mum whale, and the baby whale died basically because of contaminated milk? Like, if you don’t feel that right in the pit of your stomach, I don’t even know….
But, on top of that, plastic we use every day can have a pretty nasty toxic effect on our bodies.
Did you want oestrogen with that?
Plastic can release chemicals which mimic the sex hormone oestrogen. These chemicals are called xenoestrogens – chemicals which are synthetic but mimic the activity of naturally-produced oestrogen.
So what, right?
The combined contraceptive pill is a xenoestrogen, and that is, debatably, safe to use.
When naturally-produced oestrogen circulates the body, it binds to oestrogen receptors in organs and tissues, and triggers specific effects. That is the normal functioning of the human body. Not something you want to mess with. Hormones, in general, are not.
BPA and your health
One of these xenoestrogens is BPA.
BPA is a chemical compound used to make plastic items like cosmetic containers, food and drink packaging, and medical devices.
Chemicals like BPA can be absorbed by the body. 93% of Americans aged 6+ test positive for BPA.
BPA is released as plastic deteriorates over time, especially when exposed to extreme temperatures. Even though the amount released is low, the exposure is so frequent.
The amounts that leach into food are thought to be safe; and new research suggests that it may not be harmful to us. However, some research links BPA with a whole host of health issues.
We’re talking neuro-behavioural issues like ADHD and autism, type 2 diabetes, and increase in hormonally-mediated cancers like breast cancer.
It’s thought that the effects of BPA exposure are most pronounced during periods of growth e.g. childhood or in utero.
Some research has even found that, in the male offspring of mice fed these chemicals during pregnancy, sperm production is reduced and less efficient.
AND more sperm talk – these chemicals have also been found in the seminal fluid of infertile men.
Is this a big problem?
This isn’t just about BPA, though. These oestrogen-mimicking chemicals have been found in plastic which does not contain BPA.
Also, BPA-free plastics may contain substitute chemicals, the effects of which are unclear.
In one study, 70% of 450 store-bought plastic items designed for contact with food, released chemicals which acted like oestrogen.
That was before they were exposed to things like washing, sunlight, and microwaving. After this, more than 95% produced the chemicals.
Even with BPA-free plastic, the effect remained. Unfortunately, the test didn’t show which chemicals were to blame.
For the sake of balance, it’s important to note that a lot of studies on this have been conducted with rats and mice and, although the results can be transferable, we’re not rats.
Fewer chemicals for me, thanks
Weighing up the evidence, I’ve decided to challenge myself to reduce my use of plastic, for my own health and the health of the planet.
You may have seen that I tweeted asking for plastic-free cosmetic recommendations – still looking! So, if you know any such products, or you’re a brand with plastic-free packaging – I want to know!
Want to join in? Spend just an hour looking at all the plastic you use every day – list it, if it helps. Then, think of ways to eliminate it.
Ideas for eliminating plastic
- Use cloth instead of plastic bags. Get some cool, personalised ones like these from Etsy.
- Get a reusable cup and bottle made from something other than plastic. There’s a ton on Amazon, I really like the ECoffee cups in loads of pretty prints.
- Refuse straws and plastic cutlery – buy your own reusable ones to take out with you. This bamboo set has everything you would need.
- Store food in boxes instead of bags
Ideas for reusing plastic
After you’ve eliminated, look at reusing stuff you can’t get rid of.
- Can you upcycle packaging into storage for food or makeup?
- If you’re capable of keeping plants alive, unlike me, you could use plastic bottles as planters.
- Take a look at this site for some more creative ideas – I really like the vertical garden!
Then, of course, if you can’t eliminate or reuse, then at least recycle!
What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever heard of xenoestrogens before? Do you have any ideas on how we can all reduce our plastic usage? Please leave them below and we can all make improvements.