Study Says Plastic May Endanger Our Health After All

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For years, many people have had some serious common sense health concerns and questions about ingesting chemicals from plastics. I know that the prevailing wisdom has been that there really is no danger. Most studies seem to show the potent chemicals in plastic do not leach out of food containers, plastic bags, or beverage bottles in amounts that pose any health risk at all. Even the popular urban legends web site Snopes says that concerns about reusing plastic water bottles or putting plastic containers or plastic wrap in the microwave, are misguided concerns. But like the claim that chemicals in soap that cause sex changes and other problems in fish don’t affect humans, this Pollyannaish view that we have nothing to fear from plastics has always troubled me. The problem has been that all the so-called “major” studies on this issue have not substantiated any health concerns.

Now, as of yesterday, comes a new study that says we may indeed have something to worry about. Plastics contain a virtual arsenal of chemicals that might be cause for alarm if they were ever shown to leach or transfer out and into the food stored in plastic containers. The statement issued yesterday by the scientists conducting the latest study targets only one of these chemicals, but it is indeed a doozy! The chemical, bisphenol-A or BPA, is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world. It is used in too many products to even begin to list here, but the focus of this latest study was on canned food, beverage containers, plastic baby bottles and “microwavable” plastic containers. Bisphennol-A is used to line the interior of food cans. A recent Environmental Working Group study found BPA in 60% of the canned foods they tested. BPA, like many chemicals in use today, is an estrogen mimicking chemical and is thought to contribute to both reproductive problems and reproductive system diseases in both men and women.

One of the most frequent platitudes offered by the chemical industry to assure us that we are safe is that any specific chemical found in our food supply is there in such low amounts that it poses no significant health risk. I respond with two questions. How are these chemical manufacturers defining “significant health risk? And…. what about the health risk from ingesting hundreds of different chemicals at this “low” dosage? One, two or even ten may not cause a detectable health problem in most people, but most of us ingest a super-sized cocktail of chemicals every day, from a multitude of different sources. Common sense tells me that this long term exposure to so many different chemicals is not a desirable thing for people trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

Another assurance offered by the industry is that even though there is no provable health risk associated with their chemicals, pregnant women, babies, and children should err on the side of caution. In the research done by the Environmental Working Group, BPA was found in 30% of the baby food and 80% of the infant formula tested. Additionally, another page on the E.W.G. site lists BPA as being at unsafe levels in 30% of the formula tested. I wondered if Abbott, makers of the new Similac Organic Baby Formula were aware of this study? I was thinking, what good does an organic baby formula serve if the cans it is sold in contaminate the formula with BPA? After contacting Abbott, I was called by one of their representatives who assured me that Abbott does test their formula for the presence of BPA and has never found the chemical in any of their products. The cans that Similac is sold in are not plastic resin lined steel cans, but made of a material that does not contain BPA. This is interesting since Abbot’s Similac and Mead Johnson’s Enfamil comprise most of the formula market and the E.W.G. study found BPA in 80% of the tested formula. I will try to find tha actual brands of formula tested.

I am sure the counter attacks by the food and chemical manufactures have already begun. Their only real defense is to try to discredit the study and its authors. Perhaps anticipating this counter attack, this particular study has scores of scientists signed on to it.

My personal concern is not how manufacturers will respond to this latest study as that response is very predictable. I just will add BPA to the list of things I do my best to avoid. I do this by making informed decisions about diet, lifestyle, and product purchases. To help in that regard, here is a list of “consumer tips”, put out by the E.W.G., on how to reduce exposure to BPA.

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Will Sig
1 leslie edwards

Will,
Plastic has been a huge concern of mine for years so it was great to see this post.
It does not seem like the public is paying attention and continue to let their kids drink from plastic, eat food that has been stored in plastic and then microwaved.
I rarely hear anything about the dangers of plastic. Is there an organization trying to get the word out?
leslie

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2 Will

Welcome Leslie and thanks for your comment. There are so many different types of health and environmental risks to our addiction to plastic everything that it is hard to point to one site. Greenpeace and others talk a lot about the environmental dangers of plastic. Here is a link to some articles on the Organic Consumers site about plastics.

What will get the word out is all of us doing as you did with your blog… writing something to alert our own group of friends and readers.

-Will

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3 Cindy Davison

I believe the plastic endangers the health.Since some students got sick after they eat the hot food which is wrapped in the plastic parcel.

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4 Anonymous

Anything that is used in excess can pause danger to well being. This is why we need to be careful in all the items that we make use of everyday, and that includes paper, plastic and even metal. Plastic containers are common and we do need them especially in preserving our food. We may not live without it, but we can be more vigilant in checking which containers are manufactured with quality and which ones are not.

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5 Anonymous

We may not live without plastic products , or paper and metal ones for that matter, but we can use it wisely by checking which materials were used in manufacturing them. There are plastic bottles that are harmful to our health while there are also those which were made with quality. Lately, we hear news about babies getting poisoned because of chewing their plastic toys or sucking on milking plastic bottles – this is because these products were made only for profit and disregarded health hazards. This is what we should look out from. There are plastic, paper and metal products that can be recycled, we just need the right information regarding this and not just buy an item that you are not sure how it was made.

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6 Lavern Owie

search for the plastic numbers that are safe, as far as i know there are plastics that were made without that harmful chemical/substance BPA.
people should know how to dispose plastics properly, as it can help to save our earth and environment.
Recycle.

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7 Anonymous

When you drink water from any plastic cup or glass, traces of plastic are ingested with your water, building up in your system, to cause negative effects such a cancer, and blood poisoning in the long run. Thanks for sharing this article.
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8 Aloysius

Then if this is the case, how do we avoid using plastic? it seems to be a very integral part of our lives… do we not buy drinks? do we not buy bottled water? do we not buy takeaways? most of these are contained in plastic bottles/Styrofoam boxes… so due to this do we even give up and just eat home??

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9 jam

@ Aloysius I really agree with you without plastic bottles /styrofoam boxes we can’t buy those things we want.

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10 Anonymous

With plastic things being used in different types of things. It is really frustrating how to feel safe. When I buy plastic bottles for my kids, I even see to it that I read the reviews about the product. I can’t be too sure about these things these days!

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