By: Sapna Fliedner MSN, HHC
When you think about the goods and products that you use everyday, it’s easy to see that plastic is everywhere. It is a commonly used material for water bottles, kitchen products and toys for children. However, plastic is not as safe as many once thought. The health risks of plastic are not widely known, and most people continue to use harmful plastic products without realizing the risks.
The plastic Lexan polycarbonate is often used for plastic containers because it does not alter the taste of liquid. However, studies conducted by Dr. Patricia Hunt have found that this plastic leaches out a hormone disruptor which impairs reproductive functions. Heat and cleaning agents cause these hormone disruptors to leak into the liquid stored in Lexan polycarbonate bottles.
The Hazards Of Plastic Toys For Children
Phalates are organic chemicals that are used to make plastic soft and pliable. They are found on children’s toys, wall coverings, bathroom shower curtains, medicinal supplies and food packaging. They have been used for many years to make children’s toys. Parents are now being warned to avoid purchasing soft PVC toys which contain phalates for children below the age of 5. Studies have shown that phalates are carcinogens that have some characteristics also of endocrine disruptors. These studies suggest that the damage may only appear in the next generation. This damage includes abnormalities in the reproductive system, reduced or damaged sperm, infertility, immune suppression, spontaneous abortions, reduced cognitive abilities and teratogenicity, or abnormalities in fetuses. Phalates are also associated with kidney and liver damage, insulin resistance, and abdominal obesity.
Greenpeace has been investigating PVC toys since 1996. They conclude that these toys leach out hazardous chemicals (including phalates) and these chemicals have not been researched enough to assess the danger. They found that the toys contain as much as 40 percent diisononyl phthalate. Children who suck or chew on the toys are directly consuming these chemicals. The Chronic Hazard Advisory Panel (CHAP) concluded it’s final report for any young child who mouths a phthalate toy for 75 minutes per day as an increased risk. Greenpeace recommends using wood, cloth and natural rubber toys instead.
Plastic Bottle Health Risks – The Dangers Of BPA
Many people re-use plastic bottles in order to lessen the impact on the environment. However, using certain types of plastic bottles again presents a health risk. Studies have shown that reused plastic bottles have traces of a synthetic chemical known as BPA (Bisphenol A) which interferes with the body’s natural hormonal messaging system. BPA is used to harden plastic and is found in water and baby bottles and in liners for food and infant cans. When bottles are re-used, small cracks appear through which the chemicals can leach into the water. This danger is especially serious for children because it could disrupt their development. Researchers have linked exposure to high levels of BPA to early onset puberty and increased risk of obesity.
The worst types of plastic bottles are plastics #3 and #6. Plastic #3 bottles are made from PVC and present a health risk whether they are reused or not because they leach synthetic carcinogens into the environment when incinerated. Plastic #6, also known as polystyrene, can leach the known carcinogen styrene into drinks and food.
Studies on animals have shown that BPA is an endocrine disruptor which causes genetic abnormalities in mice. It can lead to chromosomal errors in a developing fetus, trigger miscarriage and cause genetic damage. Children and pregnant women should avoid these at all costs. In fact, researchers realized that even an extremely small dose of 20 parts per billion daily, for just 7 days, was enough to produce effects. Products that use BPA have already been banned in Canada and many European countries. Several US states are now banning BPA products. In 2009, 6 billion pounds of BPA were made, topping nearly 7 billion in sales. It is found in plastic water bottles, gallon milk bottles, microwaveable plates, baby toys, pacifiers and sippy cups, and also in non-plastic canned foods, soda cans and tooth sealants. Studies have shown that 95% of a random sample of people tested had dangerous levels of this chemical in their bodies.
The side effects of BPA include structural damage to the brain, hyperactivity, increased fat formation and obesity, altered immune functions, disrupted reproductive cycles, genetic changes and stimulation of breast and prostate cancer cells. Continued exposure to BPA is a risk factor in diabetes, heart disease, liver damage and attention deficit disorder.
How To Avoid BPA And Dangerous Plastics
Some manufacturers are removing BPA containing products from their stores. They are not waiting for the Federal Government. Some brands are Gerber, Dr. Browns, Playtex, Evenflow, Disney First Years. I have seen many companies that are removing BPA products from their stores. These include Babies-R-Us, Toys R-Us, CVS and Walmart. Always look for the BPA-Free label on all products before you buy.
When choosing bottled water, first check the recycling symbol. It will give you the number that indicates type of plastic used. #2 (HDPE: high density polyethylene), #4 (LDPE: low density polyethylene) and #5 (PP: polypropylene) are safe and can be used without the risk of leaching toxic chemicals.
Now,you may be wondering what is being used in place of BPA? It’s new replacement: BPS, which appears to be just as dangerous as BPA.( Bisphenol S, 4,4′-sulfonyldiphenol is the technical name).
Preliminary animal studies find that BPS exposure changes the brain structure of zebrafish, resulting in hyperactive babies It is also known to cause heart arrhythmias in female rats. Both of these effects are similar to BPA exposure.
So what are we supposed to do?
– Throw out all plastic dishes and cups and use glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers. We use Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottles or Life Factory Glass water bottles.
– Choose baby products that are labeled “no PVC,” “no chlorine,” or “no BPA.”
– All food containers should be made from glass, stainless steel or ceramic.
– Buy natural fabric toys for your baby.
– Avoid using plastic wrap.
– When using plastic, avoid using harsh cleaning agents and throw them away if they have cracks.
– If you have to buy canned foods only buy canned food that comes in BPA-free cans. The only brand I know of is Eden.
– Never microwave food in a plastic container.
– It’s best to eat fresh foods and avoid canned foods and foods in plastic packages altogether.
- Tom Watson, The hazards in our plastic, www.seattletimes.com, http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/homegarden/2003703428_ecoconsumer19.html
- Reusing plastic bottles can pose serious health hazards, Environment.about.com, http://environment.about.com/od/healthenvironment/a/plastic_bottles.htm
- Dr Mercola, This surprising toxin can lead to genetic defects and miscarriages, www.mercola.com, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/12/11/us-senate-fails-to-protect-innocent-children-from-dangerous-plastic.aspx
- Vreni Gurd, Which plastic water bottles don’t leach chemicals, www.trusted.md.com, http://trusted.md/blog/vreni_gurd/2007/03/29/plastic_water_bottles#axzz1FM8Rih6P
- David Gutierrez, Bisphenol A chemical bottles harm children, Feds conclude, www.naturalnews.com, http://www.naturalnews.com/024000_bisphenol_A_BPA_plastic_bottles.html
- Priya Johnson, Plastic bottles health hazard, www.buzzle.com, http://www.buzzle.com/articles/plastic-bottles-health-hazard.html
- Background on PVC toys, www.greenpeace.org, http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/97/pvctoys/documents/background.html
- Phalates in children’s toys, www.nypirg.org, http://www.nypirg.org/consumer/2002/phthalates.html