Cristi DeMarco’s Wellness Weblog

Health Info You Should Know.

Plastic?!?!

Plastic, in particular, some of the chemicals that may leach out of the plastic, has been getting some press lately. The two elements of most concern are BPA or bisphenol A and phthalates. I have read articles in US News, Discover, and Time magazines, and on internet sites such as the National Geographic sponsored greenguide.com and Environmental Working Group, ewg.com. Being 5 months pregnant, I have been paying attention because the one area of consensus I can see is that these chemicals are most harmful to the unborn or infant child.

BPA is known to mimic estrogen and leaches into food from such sources as the can liner in canned foods or soda, and from clear plastic bottles such as the popular Nalgene brand. There are 6 different phthalates and 3 of them, DEHP, DBP, BBP, are known to be anti-androgenic (anti-male hormone) and thought to cause reproductive damage, while the other 3, DINP, DIDP, DNOP are thought to cause liver damage. There is also talk of phthalates contributing to asthma and allergies. Phthalates are used to soften plastics and are found in fragranced cosmetics, nail polish, plastic items for children such as pacifiers, and vinyl products such as gloves and building materials. Phthalates are also found in PVC alongside vinyl chloride which is a known carcinogen.

Due to the known hormone activity of both BPA and phthalates and evidence from animal studies, these substances are thought to be the cause of observed reproductive damage in babies. The idea is that the concentration of these toxins may not be enough to harm older children and adults but may be enough to cause harm in the developing fetus or infant. Though long-term effects of these toxins on humans remain to be researched and seen.

So for now, what can we do to address this issue without becoming completely obsessed and denouncing all that is plastic? Even if you are not expecting, or have young children, you probably know someone who is or does. There is also the possibility that future research may show evidence that these toxins are harmful to all of us. Why wait? Here are some recommendations for reducing exposure to BPA and phthalates without going too crazy. Please follow and pass on. For more information please check the resources mentioned above. Another great resource for parents is http://www.safemama.com, though visiting this site does carry a slight risk of pushing them over the edge.

1. Plastics labeled #1,2,4,5 are generally better at not leaching out chemicals, try to avoid #3,6,7.

2. Avoid plastics labeled as vinyl or PVC, these are #3 and smell like a new shower curtain or liner. Note: I have not at this time figured out an alternative to my plastic shower liner.

3. For the kiddies – choose glass baby bottles or other non-polycarbonates, words to look for are polyethylene for bottle inserts or #5 polypropylene bottles which are colored instead of clear. Avoid toys, teething items, and anything that goes in the mouth that contain vinyl or PVC as in recommendation number 2.

4. Do not microwave food with plastic wrap or in plastic containers. Yes, microwaving a plastic baby bottle IS a double whammy.

5. Do not re-use plastic water bottles. It is better for the environment to avoid them altogether if you have access to clean water. If you have a re-usable plastic water bottle (#7) like a Nalgene, wash it by hand instead of dishwasher to avoid degrading the plastic.

6. Avoid canned food and soda.

7. Choose fragrance-free products, must say fragrance- free not unscented.

When it comes to our health and the health of the planet, small changes make a big difference. What can you change today?

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May 29, 2008 Posted by | consumer products, environment, health info you should know | , , | 1 Comment