ARE YOU A PLASTIC HUMAN?
Plastic - the miracle material and scourge of the 20th & 21st centuries - look around you.
When Leo Hendrik Baekeland, a Belgian-born American first discovered in 1927 that he could make a polymer if he combined formaldehyde with phenol, he must have thought that he was dreaming – what a revolutionary product:
· Cold proof
He must have lain awake at night dreaming of all the endless possibilities that his creation could reach – and I am sure even then, he didn’t realise just how it would shape and change the world.
Plastic is truly revolutionary – look around you – right now, wherever you are – in your office, your home, in your car, in a plane etc etc. Now imagine for a moment if a mysterious virus was released that ate ALL plastic – what would be left of your immediate environment? You would probably be sitting on the floor in the open with a mass of spilt food and drink around you and maybe some electrical wires flapping in the breeze, if you were drinking or eating something, it probably has landed in your lap and you may even be naked if the clothes you were wearing were synthetic (essentially another form of plastic), planes would fall out of the sky – well people would, because the planes would just fall apart and ships would sink with all and everything on board. Sounds like the makings of a great horror movie actually!
But are we just living that horror movie in a different way, but in slow motion – over generations?
Plastic has so permeated every skerrick of our environment that there are great wastelands of it now in the ocean and marine life is dying because of it. At a recent conference I was at in Switzerland, I was talking to a dentist form Denmark who was telling me that whales have washed upon the Arctic coast full of plastic and they have literally starved to death. .
Here are some fast facts on plastics in our oceans alone:
· Every year, more than eight millions of tonnes of plastic debris such as bags, bottles and food packaging seeps into our oceans.
· As plastic degrades slowly, it pollutes the oceans for a long time – in fact it takes approx.. 450 years for a plastic bottle to degrade. In November. 2016 a man named Rob Gordon tweeted a photo of a yoghurt container that appears to be from 1976, washed up on a Canadian shore.
· It breaks down into fragments called micro-plastics, which are ingested by sea life.
· It can badly affect living organisms as they become entangled in or ingest it, and they can become choked or poisoned.
· Researchers estimate the amount of plastic in the ocean is set to increase ten-fold by 2020.
· AND THERE COULD BE MORE PLASTIC THAN LIFE IN OUR SEAS BY 2050 - That is so frightening it doesn’t bear thinking of – all in just under 150 years – congratulations dear human – you win the prize for completely destroying Mother Earth.
This is the physicality of plastic – that which was hailed its brilliance is now our emesis.
But plastic also has an endocrine disrupting effect – and this is not fake news or pseudo science - just Google-scholar “plastic EDC” and see the thousands of papers that come up. (27,000 in less than 1 second in fact)
There are numerous papers on how it mimics the female hormone oestrogen – and premature puberty is at such a record high that paediatricians are thinking of lowering its “normal age of onset” I wold just like to comment that just because it is common, it should not become the new normal.
But it also affects the thyroid – in fact, biphenyl a (BPA) and Phthalate- everyday components now in plastics are now known to interfere with thyroid hormone function and may also contribute to the development of autoimmune diabetes
And don’t think by changing to BPA free plastics will make any difference – these haven’t been fully researched. but what is transpiring is that it is possibly worse than BPA.
“So what can I do?” I hear you ask – simple – go back to as plastic free as you are able Here are my 10 golden rules to make your life less plastic toxic:
1. Do not store food in plastic – especially if still hot and if it has a high fat content – as the plastics will leach into your food. Use glass, stainless steel (not aluminium) or china/porcelain. Unfortunately, by the very nature of its convenience, most containers have a plastic lid – if you can find silicone – this is better – but NEVER put the lid on while your food is still steaming/hot and don’t let your food touch the lid. The best are glass lids ( remember the old Corning Ware™ dishes? – you can still pick them up for CHEAP at op-shops if you are lucky!) There are actually numerous studies on Schloar ™ which allude to this very fact.... “More than 3000 chemicals have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in food-contact applications. All these chemicals are considered as ‘indirect food additives’. It’s nearly impossible to detect what chemicals are leaching out from packaging material into foods as there’s limited information disclosed by regulators, as well as the scientific challenges of this research. Food and packaging industries usually maintain the secrecy of components information since they view it as proprietary.” AND THIS ONE .. “We conclude that the body burden of DEHP for Taiwanese reflects the intensives use of plastic materials in the region. The regulation of PVC for food preparation is necessary".
2. Do not use plastic cling film – so toxic it’s scary – end of story
3. Do NOT heat food up in anything that looks remotely like plastic – ESPECIALLY NOT IN THE MICROWAVE (better still throw out that microwave). I include silicon bake ware in this point.
4. Do NOT use bottled water – this has to be the most unmitigated disaster to the environment ever.
5. Try and avoid buying cryo-packed meat – this is a tough one, but achievable if you go to your local butcher and ask them to wrap your meat in paper first – it is called “Butcher’s paper” for reason!
6. Buy in bulk – it will cut down on waste and exposure. Try and avoid those “squeezey” containers for infants and children – that food is added hot to those soft plastic containers – which are known to have the highest BPA and phthalate content (EEK) – even the organic ones.
7. Bring your own shopping bag – or ask for boxes in the store. Buy at markets and co-ops
8. Bring your own insulated cup to your favourite coffee take away – at mine, I get a 50cent discount! (you can also ask for a discount to make everyone more aware)
9. Keep the plastic off your face – all those products with microbeads and “exfoliant properties” generally contain tiny micro plastic beads – this is a frightening new disaster waiting to happen for our oceans- they go down the drain and into our water as they are too small for our treatment plants to screen them out. Not to mention what it does to our faces. Choose those with natural additives instead.. Unfortunately, its starting to happen in toothpaste as well.
10. Don’t use tea bags – buy a tea ball or diffuse and use leaf tea – ALL tea bags contain some type of plastic these days – the worst being the luxury “silky” type.
Of course we can't remove all plastic from our life - and we probably wouldn't want to - our bodies (and Mother Earth) are truly forgiving, and by putting these 10 tips into practice you will go along way into saving both.
Be Well :)
Alexandra ~ naturopath, nutritionist.