Hello spring and hello spring cleaning! Let’s spring clean that plastic right out of your house!
Plastic plastic everywhere, LITERALLY everywhere. It’s in our clothes, our furniture, our fridges, and though it’s nearly impossible to get rid of entirely, this spring I want to challenge you to just be aware of how much plastic is in your environment.
Why is plastic bad?
Plastic degrades easily into our soil, into our food, our water, and into our environment. It’s a major endocrine disruptor and in the body can mimic estrogen (and most of us don’t need any more estrogen in our bodies than we already have). It can also exacerbate allergies, prompt hormonal imbalance, disrupt sleep etc. Now, don’t fret- this is in excess, but I think we all want to avoid the aforementioned, right?
Which plastic products are most dangerous?
Plastics that have been made to be more durable are those to watch out for. Although bottled water containers should not be reused as they too can break down over time, it appears that the hard plastic water bottles, baby bottles, glasses, dishes, and containers are those to rid out of your house as best you can. Unfortunately, some products are only available in hard plastics – like my blender or juicer for example; therefore to reduce the exposure of these products to high heat, it’s best to wash them by hand in cool water. It’s also key to remember not to heat your food in plastic in the microwave or to leave food inside a plastic container in a hot car.
What’s up with BPA? (If it’s BPA-free it’s good, right? WRONG!)
Bisphenol A, or BPA as it’s more commonly known, is a chemically-made component in plastic that has been found to break down over time– particularly when heated. When plastic containing BPA is exposed to heat, the plastic can degrade allowing the BPA (a toxic chemical) to leach out. Research suggests that the amount of BPA that is leached from a single item is low; however, given how much plastic and BPA we are exposed to, this small amount can add up more easily.
When it comes to using plastics as containers for storing or consuming food and beverage, even if food isn’t being cooked in the container, the heat from the dishwasher that the plastic is exposed to may cause breakdown in the seal on the material that can further cause breakdown of the integrity of the plastic which may cause the chemicals in the plastic to be leached out. Even leaving a plastic water bottle containing water in a hot car in the summer may allow for degradation of the material and may also allow for leaching of the plastic into the drinking water. Yikes!
Why is BPA so dangerous?
Research suggests that BPA ingested through food and beverage (although it may be a low dose) can affect and disrupt the endocrine system, a key system that plays a role in controlling longer term effects on the nervous and reproductive systems and on growth and metabolism. The reason that BPA has been found to be particularly deleterious is due to its ability to mimic estrogen and exert estrogen-like effects on the body and seems to effect most those that are in more rapid stages of development such as infants, children and teens.
Some research suggests that BPA may contribute to early puberty in young men and women, and may contribute to ADD (attentional deficit disorder) and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Other research suggests that BPA exposure through plastics may play a role in childhood obesity, onset of type 2 diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and even in hormone-mediated cancers such as breast, prostate and colon cancers; recent research suggests that in particular, BPA may speed rate of breast cancer cells, although more research is needed.
Is BPA-free that much better?
Think back to the “fat-free” or “sugar-free” era when all products were made with synthetic chemicals that enhanced flavor or made a product more savory without the added fat or sugar. It wasn’t too long before we discovered that the ingredients that were being used as replacements were actually worse for us than plain fat and added sugar; well, the same thing seems to be happening now with all of the chemicals that have been used to replace BPA. Most of the chemicals used to replace BPA not only haven’t been thoroughly tested, but many have been found to potentially exert the same deleterious effects on our body as BPA.
One of the more commonly used BPA-replacement chemicals- Bisphenol S or BPS, has recently been found to have potentially the same estrogenic-like effects on our bodies as BPA does. Additionally, and although only conducted in animal studies thus far (not as valid as when human data is studied)suggests that BPS may affect heart rhythm and brain structure in the animals tested. Remember this data needs to be backed up by human research to be more valid; however, still significant for the health of the animals tested.
The take home message?
Avoid plastics, especially the harder types, whenever you can that includes both plastics that contain BPA and those that are BPA-free.
11 SIMPLE ways to use less plastic:
1. Use glass water bottles
…and never re-use plastic ones.
2. Ladies, be mindful of the period products you use
…try Thinx or the Diva Cup instead
3. Add your groceries in your cart without the plastic bags (when you can)
Yes it might be easier when you’re unloading, but bring your own reusable bags instead
4. Store your food in glass containers.
5. When using plastic containers, hand wash in cold water
…to minimize the leaching of BPA and BPA-free chemicals.
6. Buy 100% cotton sheets, and towels (even stores like Target sell them!)
7. Keep indoor furniture and carpets made from MOSTLY natural materials
… (no poly-blend in your carpets!)- yeah I know they’re more expensive, but they’ll last longer and be better for you in many different ways
8. Ditch the plastic containers from your cabinets– spring clean them right out of the house!
9. No straws!
10. Skip receipts – just toss them (go digital instead)
… they’re loaded with BPA
11. Soak your beans instead of buying the ones in the box or the can
… they’re BPA free but not necessarily plastic free