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The Hazards of Plastic: Consider using Plastic Free Alternatives

Ask anyone, I am a pain to go shopping with. I want organic fruits and vegetables, whole foods, clean ingredients that I can recognize. I avoid benzoates and glutamates and fractionated or cottonseed oils. I won’t buy foods with fake sugars or food dyes. And I try my best to avoid plastic packaging and bottles. To be honest, shopping with myself is challenging at times!

We live in the plasticine age. Our fossils are eternal. It’s quite a legacy. I watched a nature show about whales the other night and they showed footage of baby whales caught in ocean debris, turtles wrapped in plastic, orcas trapped and dying in abandoned fishing lines. I know that most of us are aware of the travesty of our garbage and its impact on the planet. But are you aware of the impact of plastics on our health? And what is biodegradable plastic?

Several thousand different additives are used in the plastic production. Brominated flame retardants, phthalates and lead compounds used as heat stabilizers are considered the most hazardous. Some of these are toxic to the nervous system, can alter thyroid function and impact reproduction by altering our hormones. Heavy metals like mercury are used as catalysts.

Plastics leach toxins into the environment, but they can also absorb toxins. Toys made from recycled plastics (especially recycled electronics) may be contaminated with flame retardants that can impact the nervous system and hormones of our children. Our children are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of these toxins.

What about biodegradable plastics? Currently 83% of the biodegradable plastic used for packaging is “industrially compostable,” which requires processing under industrial composting conditions, with a temperature higher than 122 degrees Fahrenheit and carefully managed humidity conditions.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is used in the manufacture of hard plastics such as water bottles, eyeglasses, lining in food cans and windows.  A number of years ago, it became evident that BPA disrupted hormones and could impact maturation and fertility in humans and animals. Enter BPA-free plastics. Sadly, it turns out that BPA-free plastic is not the answer we hoped for and it may also impact reproductive health.

I could go on. But the take home message? Let’s find plastic free alternatives. Bring your own cups and containers. Ask restaurants and stores to use alternatives. Bring cloth bags for your produce. Shop at the Farmer’s market. Ask for glass, cardboard or paper containers. Let’s all do what we can to reduce this legacy.


By Dr. Jennifer Means ND, LAc

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