Plastic has its role in modern society. It's an essential part of our cars, computers, mobile phones, children's toys - and practically most everything we use on a day-to-day basis. But there's one place where plastic has worn out its welcome - and that's as a container for the food we eat and the water we drink.
The bottom line is that plastic is made from toxic materials. It's a known fact that these toxins can leach into whatever they come into contact with. And it's a known fact that when the compounds that make up plastic are ingested, they damage your body on a cellular level and cause health problems.
The pundits will say that the human body can easily handle the "small" amounts (which the government insultingly likes to call "acceptably safe levels") of toxins that are ingested from plastic. But I find this excuse to be one of the world's biggest cop-outs. If the human body wasn't designed to ingest plastic, then no amount is good. Period.
Here are 5 reasons why you should avoid plastic containers:
- Toxic compounds in plastic can make you really sick.
It's typical to suffer from a variety of health problems as you age. But is this just "part of getting older"? Or is this perhaps the result of a toxic overload in the body? It's common knowledge that illness and disorders such as cancer, Alzheimer's, arthritis, heart disease, vision impairment and many others health problems are all on the rise. Could this be in some way associated with the increasing amount of plastic in our lives? Plastic food and beverage containers became popular fairly recently (in the 1970s) and have become ubiquitous in our lives since then. More and more research is proving that toxic compounds found in plastic cause health problems ranging from cancer to infertility.
- There's no such thing as a safe plastic.
Plastics that contain the super toxic compound bisphenol A (BPA) have been in the news a lot lately. And for this reason, consumers have been duped into thinking that if a product is "BPA-free" it's perfectly safe. But this is a lie. Lots of companies have caught on to the fact that they can sell more of a product if it's labeled as "BPA-free." But guess what? It may be BPA-free, but in its place, these companies are using BPS, a close cousin of BPA that may be equally as toxic! The bottom line is - you can't 100% trust that any plastic doesn't contain compounds that are toxic to your body.
- Plastics can cause fertility and reproductive problems.
The ability to produce a healthy child is a wondrous miracle and an amazing event in one's life. But toxic compounds found in plastic could be making this difficult, if not impossible, for millions of people. What was once speculation is now becoming fact as more and more research is proving that this is a very real problem. For example, almost all plastics contain toxic chemicals that have a negative effect on immunity and hormone regulation, both of which directly affect fertility. Specifically, BPA has been found to make it more difficult for women to conceive and to cause increased risk of miscarriages. New research is also showing that toxins found in plastic can cause birth defects and developmental problems in children.
- Chemicals in plastic can make you fat.
There are lots of reasons why nearly two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. But one of them may be the vast amounts of plastics our food and beverages come in contact with. After all, America is the world's largest consumer of disposable plastic containers. Interesting new research published in Environmental Health Perspectives explains that a chemical widely used in plastics, called bisphenol A diglycidyl ether (BADGE), may actually cause stem cells to become fat cells. According to one of the study's authors, "Exposure to these kinds of chemicals can reprogram your metabolism and make it more likely for you to store calories instead of passing them through." Have you found that losing weight is next to impossible, despite eating less and exercising more? Perhaps it's chemicals in plastics that make losing weight harder than it needs to be.
- Plastics are just terrible for our planet.
Whether you are a hardcore environmentalist or if being "green" is low on your list of priorities, the fact of the matter is that you live on planet Earth, and so will your children and your children's children. We all have a responsibility to keep the planet has livable as possible. Firstly, plastics are in most cases made from petrochemicals through an energy intensive process that itself creates lots of pollution and toxic discharge. The fact is, every plastic container you use is making the planet less habitable. Also, most plastic in the world is not recycled and usually ends up in landfills, where it degrades very slowly. According to Wikipedia, "Since the 1950s, one billion tons of plastic have been discarded and may persist for hundreds or even thousands of years."
Like I said earlier, plastics are a nearly unavoidable part of our everyday lives. But there is a big difference between the plastic on your computer and the plastic that may come into contact with your lunch. You don't eat your computer. The best solution, which is affordable, convenient and really safe is glass and certain types of metal. Here are some great solutions I've found. (I am providing links to Amazon.com for your convenience, but you can find these items at many stores.)
- Break-proof glass water bottles: This glass water bottle has a rubber coating that prevents breakage. It makes water taste amazing! I take mine everywhere I go and it helps me avoid using plastic water bottles.
- Stainless steel straws: My kids don't use plastic straws anymore, and instead use these stainless steel straws.
- Stainless steel containers: Dump your plastic Tupperware and instead go for stainless steel containers. Glass containers are great too, but most of them still have plastic lids.
- Glass water coolers: If you have a water cooler at your home or office, more and more companies are offering glass containers instead of plastic ones.
- Alternative to non-stick cookware: The coating on your non-stick cookware may be a type of plastic. Instead choose ceramic cookware or enameled cast iron.
Even if you remove all plastic from your food and water supply, there are still some sneaky ways that highly toxic BPA can find its way into your life. Here are the most common:
- Cash register receipts: This usually shocks most people. But if you handle a receipt with your hands, then eat your food with your hands, BPA is getting in your system. Avoid receipts or wash your hands immediately after touching one.
- The lining of most canned foods. Luckily, we've written a buyer's guide that will help you find the brands that don't use BPA.
- Some baby bottles and pacifiers
- Many toys and other children's products
- Some aluminum water bottles (stainless steel is generally safe)
- Canned soda and beer
Bisphenol A exposure linked to brain tumor diagnosis
Is "BPA-Free" a Lie?
PVC: Unhealthy for Our Children's Health and Schools
One Nation Over Weight: Fighting Obesity in America
Chemicals Aren't Why You're Fat, But They're Making You Fatter
Are Everyday Plastics Causing Infertility?
The History of Plastic Bottles