Plastic, the Silent Killer
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.
Around 50 years ago, there was a huge shift in the way this material is used, 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.
In today’s article we’re here to tell you why plastic is the silent killer, and what you can do about it.
Plastic: does it improve or worsen our lives?
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 what kinds of plastic you’re most exposed to 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.
These are the most commonly used kinds of plastic:
PET (polyethylene terephthalate)
Because it’s what is used to manufacture plastic bottles, you could say that this is the most common plastic on the market today. Anything that has been made using this material can only be used once.
Otherwise, it can carry heavy metals and chemicals in its contents that interfere with human hormones.
HPD (high density polyethylene)
You could say this 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.
LDP (low density polyethylene)
This type of plastic releases chemicals into your water and any other medium it is found in. It’s used 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 commonly used in the manufacture of baby bottles, for example.
This is another comparatively “good” plastic that may be translucent or white in appearance. It’s commonly used to make syrup bottles, yogurt or sour cream containers, and the like.
This plastic is used in fast food containers and disposable coffee cups. It contains a compound that is known to cause cancer (among other diseases).
This is the most dangerous type of plastic that’s 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.
At Miguel Hernandez University of Alicante (Spain), researchers carried out a study to examine a substance that’s found in many objects made from polycarbonate: Bisphenol A.
Toothbrushes, bottles, and pacifiers (among other products) often contain this type of plastic that, according to the study, 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’re subjected to on a daily basis.
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 we were born (or even in the womb).
What other diseases are caused by the toxins that are added to 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)
- Uterine cysts, infertility, and miscarriages
- Hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder
- Early puberty in children
- Penile deformation in little boys
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease and obesity
How can you protect yourself against the dangers of plastics?
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… we’re surrounded by 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 it’s stored in plastic.
- Get rid of containers that are damaged or melted.
- 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.
In this way, you not only prevent disease, but also help us stop the pollution of the planet.