The Dangers of Plastic, the Silent Killer

· December 5, 2016
Although plastic products are part of our daily lives and it’s not likely that we’ll stop using them anytime soon, it’s good to be aware of the potential risks they pose and make smart decisions

Nearly everything around you is made of plastic. You see it in stores, at home, in the office, and on vacation. However, recent research has shown the dangers of plastic, and today we want to pass this information on so that you can decide for yourself.

Around 50 years ago, there was a huge shift in the way we use this material, both in the global economy and in our everyday habits. The bad news is that plastic is now ruining our planet thanks to land and water pollution.

The dangers of plastic

Plastic is a central component of our daily lives and an essential product around the house.

You’ll find it in the packaging or containers of food, in the bowls or storage containers in your kitchen, in objects that you use all the time. In short, it’s all around you.

While it’s easy to believe that these plastic items you use on a regular basis are improving your standard of living, in the medium and long term they pose a real threat to your health and the health of the planet.

To find out the dangers of plastic that you’re using at home or at work, you have to check the bottom of each container where you’ll find a triangle and a number or a few letters in the middle.

Not all plastics present the same degree of harm.

See also: 7 Foods You Should Never Store in Plastic

These are the most commonly used kinds of plastic:

PET (polyethylene terephthalate)

Because this is what companies use to manufacture plastic bottles, you could say that this is the most common plastic on the market today. Anything made using this material can only be used once.

If not, it can carry heavy metals and chemicals in its contents that interfere with human hormones.

HDPE (high density polyethylene)

You could say that HDPE is a “good” variety of plastic. Still, you shouldn’t let your guard down – it can still pass chemical products to your water or other contents.

A water bottle on the beach.

LDPE (low density polyethylene)

LDPE releases chemicals into your water and any other medium it is found in. Companies use it to make plastic bags or wraps for food.

PVC or 3V (polyvinyl chloride)

PVC emits two extremely toxic elements that can interfere with human hormone function. Although this side effect is well known, it’s still very common to find it in the manufacture of baby bottles, for example.

PP (polypropylene)

This is another comparatively “good” plastic that may be translucent or white in appearance. It’s common to find it in syrup bottles, yogurt or sour cream containers, and the like.

PS (polystyrene)

This plastic is what we have in fast food containers and disposable coffee cups. It contains a compound that is known to cause cancer (among other diseases).

PC (polycarbonate)

This is the most dangerous type of plastic used with food products because it secretes a substance that’s highly toxic to the human body. The truly bad news is that PC is the top choice for manufacturing baby bottles and bottles for sports drinks.

A person throwing away a plastic bottle.

Plastic-related illnesses

At Miguel Hernandez University in Alicante (Spain), researchers carried out a study to examine a substance found in many objects made from polycarbonate: Bisphenol A.

Toothbrushes, bottles, and pacifiers (among other products) often contain this type of plastic. The study found that it can cause alterations in the body’s metabolism of lipids and glucose in the bloodstream, which could lead to liver problems and diabetes.

It can also increase oxidative stress and cause cardiovascular disease.

Bisphenol A alters the function of your pancreas and leads to insulin resistance.

This could partially explain why there are so many people with diabetes in the world today (in 2014 this disease affected 422 million people, according to the World Health Organization).

This synthetic compound disrupts the body’s endocrine system, and yet it’s not the only dangerous compound we come into contact with on a daily basis.

4-plastic-lids

Plenty of harmful substances are present in pesticides that we later consume through fruits and vegetables, as well as in the packaging of products that we eat every day.

It’s not just about what we eat, either, but also what we use: solvents, paints, adhesives, and even dental fillings.

When it comes to Bisphenol A, our exposure to it is enormous and we have been in contact with this substance since birth (or even in the womb).

What other diseases do scientists link to the toxins found in plastics? The list is frightening because the number has only grown in the last 30 years.

  • Cancer (breast, uterus, ovaries, cervix, brain, lung, prostate, liver)
  • Lymphomas
  • Uterine cysts, infertility, and miscarriages
  • Hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder
  • Early puberty in children
  • Autism
  • Penile deformation in little boys
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Cardiovascular disease and obesity

How can you protect yourself against the dangers of plastic?

While the first thing you might come up with is to stop using all plastics, the truth is that it’s nearly impossible to do so. Why? The reason is simple and we’ve said it above, there’s no getting away from it!

Still, there are certain steps you can take and habits you can change to reduce your exposure to these products and toxins, for your own health, for the health of the humans, plants, and animals around you, and for the environment:

  • Avoid eating and drinking substances packaged in plastic.
  • Try not to use plastic containers to store, serve, or reheat food.
  • Use glass or metal containers in the kitchen.
  • Don’t consume canned drinks or foods.
  • Choose baby bottles made of glass for your infant (even though they might seem more dangerous if they were to fall and break).
  • Don’t buy flexible plastic toys and keep your children from chewing or sucking on them.
  • Don’t heat your food in a microwave if in a plastic container.
  • Get rid of damaged or melted containers.
  • Don’t reuse plastic water bottles for exercise or for getting your two liters of water a day.
  • Don’t chew on your pens or any other plastic object.

See also: 7 Foods that You Shouldn’t Heat Up in the Microwave

Plastics found in the ocean.

In this way, you not only prevent disease, but also help us stop the pollution of the planet.

  • Miller Plastic Productions. (2005). Chemical Resistance Chart. Glass. https://doi.org/10.1101/gr.327702
  • Eriksen, M., Lebreton, L. C. M., Carson, H. S., Thiel, M., Moore, C. J., Borerro, J. C., … Reisser, J. (2014). Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea. PLoS ONE. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111913