Every time I hear the word “plastics” I think of that scene in The Graduate where Benjamin is getting advice from his father’s friend to “go into plastics!” Am I dating myself here? Back in the 60’s plastics were the latest greatest thing. Little did we know that plastics would not only be ruining our planet by overflowing our landfills and leaching toxic chemicals into our waterways and air, they would be damaging our health as well.
Since February is Cancer Prevention Month, I’m diving into the world of plastics to give a few easy tips for how to avoid the worst of the cancer causing chemicals buried within.
First off, here are 5 nasty chemicals to be aware of that are commonly found in every day plastics:
You’ve probably heard about BPA as it’s gotten a lot of press for being a known hormone disruptor in humans. Commonly used in food and beverage bottles as well as the lining of metal cans, perhaps you are already choosing “BPA-free” plastic products. Unfortunately the substitute BPS is in those “BPA-free” products is just as bad.
PET (polyethylene terephthalate)
This is the plastic used in bottles for water, soft drink, and condiments like ketchup. Even though it does not contain BPA and so is generally considered “safe”, when heated it can leach a toxic metalloid into food and beverages that can cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ulcers.
HDPE (high-density polyethylene)
This plastic is used in bottles for milk and juice, detergent, and shampoo, also grocery bags, and cereal box liners. It is also considered “safe,” but has been shown to leach estrogen chemicals at levels dangerous to fetuses and children.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
PVC can be flexible or rigid, and is used for plumbing pipes (affecting drinking water), the clear plastic in food packaging and the blister packs for your various pills and supplements. Also used for shrink wrap, plastic children’s toys, tablecloths, vinyl flooring, children’s play mats. PVC contains a phthalate (that has been banned in many countries but not the U.S.) that can cause male traits to become more feminized.
PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid)
This chemical lines microwave popcorn bags and is also found on teflon pots and pans. When heated, it has been linked to infertility, cancer and other diseases in lab animals. The EPA lists this chemical as a carcinogen.
Do these chemicals really cause cancer?
Aside from the known carcinogen PFOA, the other chemicals listed are known to mess with our hormones, particularly estrogen. However, too much estrogen has been linked to breast cancer. Also the testing that has been done on these chemicals to determine what levels are safe for human exposure are done on that one chemical alone and very little research has been done on the combined cumulative affect of all of these small exposures since these plastics are everywhere in our lives now. Not only that, but very little is known about how they interact with each other in our bodies.
So what can you do? Plastics are everywhere! I don’t recommend burying your head in the sand and taking on a view along the lines of “Oh well! Nothing I can do!” Small lifestyle changes can make a big difference in how much plastic you and your family are exposed to, thereby reducing your toxic chemical exposure.
Here are 5 tips to reduce your chemical exposure from plastics.
- Use glass instead of plastic. There are glass reusable water bottles and glass food storage containers. Some are even wrapped in silicone sleeves to deter breakage. My favorite is by Lifefactory. Many of the plastic bottles used in disposable beverage bottles are affected by heat. The chemicals can be leaching into the water or soda while in the hot semi-truck delivering it to the store.
- Bring reusable grocery bags to the store to avoid the plastic shopping bags as well as the plastic fruit and vegetable bags.
- Do not use plastic containers to warm your food in a microwave and do not put hard plastic containers in the dish washer. The heat and abrasion will allow the chemicals to leach.
- Buy eco-friendly flooring and building materials to minimize off-gassing. Also purchase foods in glass containers whenever possible.
- Never, ever eat microwave popcorn. Pop it yourself in a pan on the stove top the old fashioned way (or use an air popper). In tastes delicious that way and there are no cancer causing chemicals in the food or released into the air to breathe when you open that PFOA lined bag.
If you are a cancer survivor and need more information like this, along with coaching to create a healthy lifestyle with community support from other cancer survivors, then The Permanent Remission Project is what you are looking for! We are creating the most inhospitable host for cancer in our bodies to do all that we can to make sure cancer doesn’t come back.