In the first of our plastics blog posts published earlier this month, we discussed the issue with single-use plastics and how they pose a threat to our environment. In this post we will discuss microplastics and plasticizers and how they find their way into our food supply.
Plastics micronize due to sunlight and friction. The 13 million tons of plastic that end up in rivers, lakes, and the ocean, are both consumed by sea life and birds and micronized in our waterways. This does significant harm both to our wildlife and to our food supply. The micronized plastics are small enough to be eaten by plankton, which then make their way up the food chain to us. Microplastics are found not only in fish, but in beer, honey, sea salt, and of course, bottled water. In fact, in 2017, Orb Media found that 93% of popular US water brands tested contained up to 10,000 microplastic particles per liter.
The other issue here is the plasticizers. These are chemicals like BPA and phthalates which are added to plastics to make them softer, more pliable, and translucent. These chemicals leach into our water, food, particularly when plastics are exposed to sunlight and heat. Plasticizers are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs can block, mimic, and disrupt normal hormone signals. When the plastics, heat up, or micronize, these endocrine disrupters are released into our environment, and our water ways.
When these chemicals are ingested, they can create misinformation in the body which can lead to health conditions like obesity, diabetes, chromosomal abnormalities, cognitive issues, fertility issues, breast and prostate cancer. Our genetics and detoxification pathways have not evolved to manage microplastics and plasticizers. And we still don’t know all the health consequences they can cause.
So, what can we do?
The answer, use fewer plastic products. Make your dollars make a difference by purchasing environmentally friendly version of products.
1. Chose the products that are packaged in sustainable materials. For example, purchase eggs packages in egg cartons and not ones packaged in plastic.
2. Use glass containers for storing your food at home. Mason jars and containers like these ones from Pyrex will both reduce the plastic in the environment and reduce your exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals. An added bonus is that they are both microwave and oven safe.
3. Consider these lid replacement options. Instead of using plastic wrap use these reusable silicone lids.
4. There are great companies out there like Net Zero that are creating sustainable solutions for our needs like this sustainable lunchbox bundle which includes stainless steel reusable containers, beeswax wraps for sandwiches and bamboo cutlery.
The bottom line here is we should be aware of the adverse health consequences caused by using plastics, and how to make better choices. Everyone can do it, and hopefully, this gives you ideas on how to do it. As Buddha said, “Each morning we’re born again. What we do today is what matters most.”
This blog is a collaboration by
Dr. Morrison and Tapp Francke.