Recently I talked about the dangers of lead and how, at one time, lead was used as heavily as plastic. Not anymore. Lead was discovered to be highly toxic and the use of it in products like paint, toys, and electronics drastically declined. There is concern now that we're in a similar position with plastic. Let's look at a few reasons why you might want to consider going completely plastic free.
The 7 Dangers of Plastic
Plastic is very much a staple in the world today but it’s definitely not a perfect product. There are a slew of toxins within many plastics, including BPA. Here are 7 dangers of plastic and how it's negatively affecting our health.
1. Chemicals in Plastic Disfigure Genitals
Di-isononyl phthalate (DiNP) is a phthalate commonly found in vinyl products. It was actually a chemical chosen to replace a similar toxin, DEHP, which was discovered to hinder genital development in baby boys. While less is known about the reproductive risks of DiNP, a recent study suggests that it can, in fact, affect male genital development.  This is worrisome because these problems occur before birth. While many phthalates are banned from children’s products, the pregnant mother can still be exposed.
2. Plastic Increases the Risk of Childhood Asthma
Studies have long suggested a connection between childhood exposure to plasticizers and asthma, but a recent Columbia University report found there is even an increased risk before birth.  Scientists studied the phthalate levels of pregnant women over almost a decade and found that children born to mothers with increased levels were over three times more likely to develop asthma symptoms than their counterparts. While no one really knows why the risk is higher, one theory suggests that phthalates increase airway sensitivity, essentially paving the way for asthma symptoms.
3. Chemicals in Plastic Kill Female Libido
Phthalates used in plastic have even been linked to low libido in women, with a recent study even suggesting women with high levels of plasticizers were twice as likely to show less interest in sex than those with low levels.  While you may try to limit your exposure, phthalates are often found in everyday items like shower curtains, PVC flooring, car dashboards, and even food. These toxins are endocrine disruptors and can wreak havoc with hormone levels, so limiting your exposure is key.
4. Plastic is Destroying our Waterways
An estimated 13,000 pieces of plastic litters each square kilometer of our oceans, and one huge factor to the problem are microbeads. These tiny plastic beads in many of your personal care products are only one of the environmental contaminants polluting our waters.  Once in the water supply (by way of your drain), the beads collect toxins. Marine life is exposed to the microplastics and the toxins enter the food chain; but it’s not just our oceans that are affected. In the U.S., the issue of microbeads has become so toxic that many states are looking at banning them.
5. Plastic Has Infiltrated Food
With 6 different phthalates banned from children’s products in the U.S., the last place you’d expect to find these toxins would be in our food. Acrylamide is a fairly common plasticizer that’s been linked to cancer, and other phthalates linked to problems with reproductive development have been appearing at unsafe levels as well.  No one really knows how they’re getting into the food, but somehow this is happening before it gets to your home.
6. Plastic Destroys Hormonal Balance
BPA mimics estrogen in the body, so many people try to stay away from the toxin by using BPA-free plastics instead. A recent study suggests, however, that BPA-free plastics could also contain endocrine disruptors. In a test of fourteen resins used in plastic production, four were found to have estrogen-like properties. Not only are things like reusable water bottles and food storage containers at risk, but certain baby products may also contain the unhealthy compound.  Phthalates are still a huge concern in plastic packaging, but these plasticizers are also used in personal care products. 
7. You Simply Can’t Trust the Plastic Industry
Recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had to crack down on some plastic bag manufacturers for making uncertain claims. The issue had to do with labeling the bags ‘oxo-degradable,’ a term that implies it’ll biodegrade when exposed to oxygen.  Now, it’s likely that many of these bags will, unfortunately, end up in a landfill where little oxygen is present, meaning nothing can break down. At most, the bags might fragment into small pieces, but the pollutants are still there.  Essentially, the bags are no more biodegradable than regular ones. Even worse, this is only the latest incident in a string of bogus claims by the plastic industry. There are so many things wrong with using plastic, and I’ve only covered 7 of them here. Do you know of more ways plastic is hurting us all? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
- Bornehag, C. et al. Prenatal Phthalate Exposures and Anogenital Distance in Swedish Boys. Environmental Health Perspectives. 123 (1).
- Whyatt, R. et al. Asthma in Inner-City Children at 5–11 Years of Age and Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates: The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives. 122 (10).
- Barrett, E. et al. Environmental phthalate exposure is associated with low interest in sexual activity in premenopausal women. Fertility and Sterility. 102 (3).
- Huntington, T. & Macfadyen, G. Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies.
- Serrano, S. et al. Phthalates and diet: a review of the food monitoring and epidemiology data. Environmental Health. 13 (43).
- Bittner, G. Chemicals having estrogenic activity can be released from some bisphenol a-free, hard and clear, thermoplastic resins. Environmental Health Perspectives. 13 (103).
- Braun, J. et al. Personal care product use and urinary phthalate metabolite and paraben concentrations during pregnancy among women from a fertility clinic. Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology. 24.
- Federal Trade Commission. FTC Staff Warns Plastic Waste Bag Marketers That Their “Oxodegradable” Claims May Be Deceptive. FTC.
- Michel, Jr., F. & Gómez, E. Biodegradability of conventional and bio-based plastics and natural fiber composites during composting, anaerobic digestion and long-term soil incubation. Polymer Degradation and Stability. 98 (12).
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.