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The Issue of Plastics

Plastic seems like an unavoidable part of modern life in the U.S. Waste, and how we choose to handle it, affects our world's environment. Because of the widespread use of plastics, experts are taking a closer look at the possible health risks associated with them. Extensive research has been conducted on two types of harmful chemicals in plastics, phthalates, and bisphenol-A (BPAs). In response to the extensive research on BPAs that have been published, a lot of products that historically contained BPAs, no longer contain the chemical. Early studies about the health effects of chemicals from plastics show that they may affect the:

  1. Brain

  2. Endocrine system (the system that controls hormones, or the chemicals that regulate metabolism)

  3. Immune system (the system that helps keep you from getting sick)

  4. Reproductive systems (the male and female systems that allow us to have babies)

Some plastic containers can release chemicals into the things they’re holding — like food and drinks. When people eat or drink what was in the container, they can be exposed to (come in contact with) the chemicals in the plastic. This happens most often if the food or drinks are heated in plastic containers. Plastics are not only an issue for our health, but also for the health of plants and animals everywhere. Approximately 50 percent of our plastic waste goes to landfills (where it will sit for thousands of years due to limited oxygen and lack of microorganisms to break it down). The remaining 45 percent ends up as litter in the environment where it ultimately washes out to sea, damaging marine ecosystems and entering the food chain. For example, 42% of the rivers tested in America turned up positive for Bisphenol-A or BPA. ( What can you do to reduce your consumption of plastic for the sake of your health and the environment?

  1. Change your diet and opt for foods that are not packaged in plastic, for example, buy eggs that come in cardboard packaging vs. Plastic.

  2. Store, reheat or freeze your leftovers in glass containers. Always remember to bring a stainless steel or glass water bottle with you as well!

  3. Bring your own reusable produce bags to the grocery store.

  4. Avoid disposable plastic or polystyrene dishes and utensils. There are some great reusable and affordable bamboo travel utensils on the market!

  5. Use cloth diapers! In the past, many people have avoided using cloth diapers because they can be tricky to use, but there are some affordable ones you can buy that have streamlined the process!

  6. Replace your school-age child’s plastic lunchbox with a cloth or stainless steel one.

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