You probably know that plastic is bad for the environment, but did you know that it can also be harmful to your health?
If you’ve kept an eye on health-related news, you’ve probably seen words like BPA and phthalates thrown around. These scary buzz words have been commonly used in scare-tactic articles, anti-plastic campaigns, advisory articles on the health risks of certain personal care products, and much more. Though these words crop up fairly often, many people have no idea what they actually mean and why they should be avoiding them.
In this article, we want to focus on some of the non-environmental impacts of plastic, and how packaging, plastic products, and the chemicals they contain impact our health.
What Is Plastic?
To understand the potentially harmful effects of using plastic, you first need to understand what plastic contains and how it is made. Plastic is made from oil, or petroleum, refined and arranged in order to create a virtually infinite number of plastics, each with different properties. Hard plastics, soft plastics, pliable plastics, etc. are made from petroleum, but many plastics also include other additives, stabilizing agents, etc.
One such additive is known as BPA, which stands for bisphenol-A. BPA was once considered completely safe by the FDA, but now has come under fire due to its potentially harmful side effects. Plastic products made with BPA that come in contact with food or children may not be safe since certain levels of BPA have begun to be detected amongst the general population. Linked to abnormalities in brain development as well as prostate gland problems, BPA may be causing more harm than we know.
Phthalates are a type of chemical, also commonly found in a variety of types of plastics. Phthalates help to bind petroleum, creating flexible and durable plastics that can be used in a variety of applications. Though phthalates have been on the radar of many health-conscious consumers for years, it wasn’t until recently that the CDC and FDA showed any interest in this harmful class of chemicals. Phthalates have been liked to a host of health risks, including asthma, type II diabetes, and breast cancer.
Though plastic is extremely durable and can last indefinitely, this seemingly easy and inexpensive storage solution comes with a hefty health risk. Plastic was long touted for its versatility, with an amazing variety of types, textures, and applications. Plastic also rarely reacts to other chemicals or substances, making it perfect for holding substances that range from salty, fatty, vinegary, acidic, alcoholic, to everything in between. Though your plastic may look like it has withstood the test of time, chemicals like BPA actually increase over time, and the more use your plastic products see, the more they could be causing you harm.
The Trouble with BPA
Though nearly all food packaging leaches chemicals into the food it comes in contact with, few are as harmful or plentiful as BPA. Most plastic products release low levels of BPA, leaching or migrating the chemical to anything they come in contact with. This includes people, especially infants, the elderly, or the immunocompromised.
BPA is an estrogen and can easily interact with or disrupt estrogen receptors in the body. Because of this, BPA has been linked to certain hormone cancers and disorders, including prostate and breast cancer. BPA can also cause fertility problems, since it may inhibit estrogen or attract excessive amounts of estrogen in both men and women. Hormone producing glands can also generally be disrupted by this chemical, influencing sexual, sleep, and metabolic functions in the body.
When it comes to absorbing BPA from plastic products, the older the product, the higher its levels of BPA. Factors like heat, surface agitation, and exposure to certain kinds of foods can agitate the plastic, causing it to release more concentrated levels of BPA. As your plastic products age, their surface can become more worn, increasing the chances of BPA exposure.
Though BPA is still used in the production of many plastic products, more countries are beginning to see the threat this chemical could pose to public health. The European Food Safety Authority has implemented cutbacks on BPA allowances, and France has banned the use and sale of BPA plastic altogether.
The Trouble with Phthalates
Phthalates are a class of chemicals used to stabilize and bind plastic during production, helping to create strong but flexible final products. Common phthalates found in consumer products include dibutyl phthalate (DBP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), diisononyl phthalate (DiNP), benzyl butyl phthalate (BBzP) and many more.
Phthalates have now been linked to a massive variety of health concerns and risks. Here are just some of the conditions the exposure to phthalates has been linked to:
- Breast cancer
- Type II diabetes
- Neurodevelopmental disorders/neurological delays
- Abnormal or altered reproductive development
- Fertility issues
Part of the trouble with phthalates is that they are practically unavoidable. Companies are not required to list phthalates on product ingredient lists, and since they are present in so many consumer goods, they are near impossible to avoid. Some common goods phthalates are often found in include:
- Vinyl flooring
- Beauty products
- Household cleaners
- Food packaged in plastic
Now that you know a little bit more about some of the nasty chemicals present in your favorite plastic products, you might be thinking twice about buying those plastic leftover containers. If you aren’t quite ready to cut plastic out of your life entirely, consider starting where plastic can harm you most: Your food and personal care products.
Choosing plastic-free materials for your food containers and packaging as well as some of your personal care items can help you avoid nasty harmful chemicals, and help you do your part to save the planet. At Wowe Lifestyle, we care a lot about what goes into our products as well as our bodies. Here are a few crowd-favorite Wowe products that are helping our customers avoid plastic and go green:
Stainless Steel Water Bottle
Plastic water bottles are often made with BPA, which can exponentially increase over time. Should you forget your plastic water bottle in a hot car, or crunch it up too much in your backpack, your chances of drinking dangerously high levels of BPA will increase. Additionally, single-use plastic water bottles are terrible for the environment, hard to recycle, and draining on Earth’s natural ecosystems.
Rather than enjoying ice-cold water from a chemical-filled plastic bottle, choose the Wowe Stainless Steel Water Bottle instead! This bottle is fully and infinitely reusable, made from FDA approved stainless steel, and perfect for taking your favorite beverage with you on the go.
Most single-use straws are made from plastic that often contains BPA and phthalates. These light-weight tools of convenience are causing serious harm to the planet, especially to ocean and marine life.
As a green and healthier alternative to single-use plastic straws, try the Wowe Stainless Steel Metal Straws! Available in curved or straight styles, these straws are the perfect BPA free way to enjoy a refreshing lemonade on a hot day!
One of the number one ways food comes in contact with BPAs or phthalates is via food packaging. Hard and soft plastic packaging has the potential to leach or transfer these harmful chemicals directly into the food you eat, giving them the prime opportunity to invade your body and system.
Next time you go to the grocery store, avoid prepackaged food and opt for bulk produce, grains, nuts, etc. Wowe makes a variety of plastic-free Organic Cotton Produce Bags that are perfect for picking up your produce, buying bulk baking products, or simply carrying your groceries. Made from organic, biodegradable cotton, these produce bags are as good for the planet as they are for your health, and can be reused for years before needing replacing.
Though not mentioned above, some plastic products contain the chemical perfluorooctanesulfonic acid or PFA for short. PFA can be found in the petroleum-derived coating on most commercial dental flosses. PFA has been linked to a variety of conditions including low birth weights, immune system disorders, cancers, and thyroid hormone disruption. Though PFA has been linked to serious health risks, many commercial dental tool companies continue to use it in the manufacturing of products consumers put directly in their mouths, like dental floss.
Next time you need a refill on your favorite floss, try out the Wowe Natural Silk Floss. This healthy and eco-friendly floss is completely plastic-free and made from natural silk coated in natural candelilla wax. Free of all toxic and harmful chemicals, this floss works as well as conventional floss, but won’t have any nasty side effects on your health.
Are you interested in learning more about how your favorite household products might be effecting your health? Visit Wowe Lifestyle to read more about products, eco-friendly alternatives, and healthy living.