We look for convenience in every way possible, but, is this convenience damaging our long term health?
We are talking about plastic, Styrofoam, and aluminum. Some use them every day in: coffee, bottled water, take out food, and to store food at home !
Plastics are everywhere, they are affordable and convenient. But, increasingly scientists are finding that a hidden cost may be our health. Some common plastics release harmful chemicals into our air, foods, and drinks. Maybe you can’t see or taste it, but if you’re serving your dinner on plastic, you’re likely eating a little plastic for dinner.
Beyond the immediate health risks, our increasing use of plastics is causing an enormous amount of enduring pollution. Every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists (except for the little bit that has been incinerated, which releases toxic chemicals). In the ocean, plastic waste is accumulating in giant gyres of debris where, among other thing, fish are ingesting toxic plastic bits at a rate which will soon make them unsafe to eat.
Plastic is generally toxic to produce, toxic to use, and toxic to dispose of. Luckily, we can all make safer choices.
What to do?
The best thing to do is to reduce your use of plastic. Look for natural alternatives like textiles, solid wood, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, etc. Also, look for items with less (or no) plastic packaging. If you do buy plastic, opt for products you can recycle or re-purpose (e.g. a yogurt tub can be re-used to store crayons). And, get to know your plastics – starting with this guide:
The most common plastics have a resin code in a chasing arrow symbol (often found on the bottom of the product).
PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.
HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.
LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers
PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware
PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols
Other this is a catch-all category which includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID – can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant-based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.
- Buy and store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers. If using plastic storage containers, make sure hot food items have cooled before placing them in the container. And keep in mind that fatty and acidic foods promote leaching, so you may want to, at the very least, choose glass for those types of foods.
- Do not heat plastics – not even if they say they are microwave safe.
- Avoid using plastics for food and beverages that aren’t identified on the packaging.
- Recycle, re-purpose or discard plastic bottles and food storage containers that are worn, scratched, or cannot be identified. Scratches become breeding grounds for bacteria and potential gateways for leaching. You can extend the life of your plastics by washing them by hand with a mild soap.
- Find safer substitutes for plastic toys your child mouths.
- If you have any plastic furnishings that emit a noticeable odor, find safer replacements or bring outdoors to off-gas.
Its made of Polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic made from the styrene monomer, which is actually the trade name of a polystyrene foam product used for housing insulation. Polystyrene is a light-weight material, about 95% air, with very good insulation properties and is used in all types of products from cups that keep your beverages hot or cold to packaging material that keep your computers safe during shipping.Why not use it?
- The biggest environmental health concern associated with polystyrene is the danger associated with Styrene, the basic building block of polystyrene. Styrene is used extensively in the manufacture of plastics, rubber, and resins. About 90,000 workers, including those who make boats, tubs and showers, are potentially exposed to styrene. Acute health effects are generally irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal effects. Chronic exposure affects the central nervous system showing symptoms such as depression, headache, fatigue, and weakness, and can cause minor effects on kidney function and blood. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
- A 1986 EPA report on solid waste named the polystyrene manufacturing process as the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste.· The National Bureau of Standards Center for Fire Research identified 57 chemical byproducts released during the combustion of polystyrene foam. The process of making polystyrene pollutes the air and creates large amounts of liquid and solid waste.
- Toxic chemicals leach out of these products into the food that they contain (especially when heated in a microwave). These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems.
- These products are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable and heavily polluting resource.
- The use of hydrocarbons in polystyrene foam manufacture releases the hydrocarbons into the air at ground level; there, combined with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight, they form tropospheric ozone — a serious air pollutant at ground level. According to the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) more than 100 million Americans currently live in areas that fail to meet air quality standards for ozone. California, the Texas Gulf Coast, the Chicago-Milwaukee area, and the Northeastern U.S. all have “serious ozone air quality problems,” according to EPA. Ozone is definitely a dangerous pollutant. The EPA says: “Healthy individuals who are exercising while ozone levels are at or only slightly above the standard can experience reduced functioning of the lungs, leading to chest pain, coughing, wheezing, and pulmonary congestion. In animal studies, long-term exposure to high levels of ozone has produced permanent structural damage to animal lungs while both short and long term exposure has been found to decrease the animal’s capability to fight infection.” In other words, prolonged exposure to atmospheric ozone above legal limits might be expected to damage the immune system.
- By volume, the amount of space used up in landfills by all plastics is between 25 and 30 percent. -”Polystyrene Fact Sheet,” Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education, Los Angeles, California.
- Polystyrene foam is often dumped into the environment as litter. This material is notorious for breaking up into pieces that choke animals and clog their digestive systems.
- Many cities and counties have outlawed polystyrene foam (i.e. Taiwan, Portland, OR, and Orange County, CA).
If you don’t already know, aluminum poses a very serious danger to the human body, and in small amounts. Here’s a little background about aluminum.
Aluminum does not occur as a free metal but is found in minerals and ores. In its natural state it doesn’t pose a threat. It’s plentiful, (most abundant metal in the earth), and it is cheaply extracted for use in many things. It is resistant to corrosion and very light weight.
For these reasons, aluminum is used widely, in places you may not even thing to look for it. We wear it, cook in it, with it, eat and drink it and there is no use for aluminum in the human body. It is dangerous, toxic, to the human body and we continue to use it. Broad uses of aluminum in consumer products include:
Aluminum in the Home:
- Cans Used for Food & Drink
Aluminum in Health & Hygiene Applications:
- Buffered Aspirin
- Vaginal Douches
- Hemorrhoid Medications
- Anti-Diarrhea Medications
- Nasal Sprays
- Baby Powder
- Talcum Powder
Aluminum Is Commonly Added To:
- Baking Powder
- Self-Rising Flour
- Table Salt
- Pickling Salt
- Processed Cheese
- Cake Mix
How does aluminum behave in your body?
Once ingested, aluminum accumulates in various tissues in the body, including the kidneys, brain, lungs, liver and thyroid. Aluminum competes with calcium for absorption and it can result in reduced skeletal mineralization. In infants this retards growth. It also interferes with phosphorous absorption, zinc and selenium.
What are the Dangers from Aluminum Toxicity?
Remember that living cells make no good use of aluminum. Aluminum can make you very ill. Some people are allergic to aluminum and will develop a skin rash (contact dermatitis).
Possible Dangers from Aluminum Toxicity:
- Malfunction of the Blood-Brain Barrier
- Stomach & Intestinal Ulcers
- Gastrointestinal Disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Skin Problems
- Mental Retardation in Infants
- Learning Disorders in Children
- Liver Disease
- Colicky Pain
- Lack of Energy
Are there Alternatives to using Aluminum?
Eating foods cooked in aluminum cookware can cause an inflamed colon. Consuming antacids that include the toxin aluminum hydroxide, distresses the digestive system to the point of disrupting healthy bowel function.
There are alternatives to cooking with aluminum. There are choices for different cookware, such as glass. There are organic supplements that reduce the impact of acid indigestion. A healthy diet of organic foods, grown in areas where the pesticides are not poisonous is a good practice. You can grow your own food in areas where the toxins are relatively minor.
What about the Aluminum Already in my Body?
Since there is really no way to be 100% aluminum free, it’s best to measure and remove them from your body. TheAluminum Heavy Metal Test kit is a simple at home test that you can perform to see if your levels are within safe parameters. If they aren’t, then you can try Dr. Group’s Heavy Metal Cleanse, which can help you remove these poisons from your tissue. The goal is to flush them before they have time to do serious damage to your body.