There are numerous known toxins found in the vast majority plastic products we are exposed to everyday. Those related to food and our bodies are particularly worrisome, as these chemicals can leach out into our foods, beverages and onto our skin, and are unfortunately easily stored in the body where they can do significant damage over the long-term. Especially when combined with numerous other environmental toxins we are exposed to constantly. It all adds up. Every area we can cut back, the better our body will hold up.
Some of the primary plastic toxins include: formaldehyde, phthalates, BPA and toxic flame retardants to name just a few. When stored in the body, they have been linked to obesity, infertility, endocrine disruption, asthma, heart disease and even cancer.
A recent study released by Environmental Health Perspectives showed that most plastic products, from sippy cups to food wraps to water bottles, can release chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen. Yikes! This is of course not what most of us want our babies exposed to. The rest of us don’t need it either.
It’s easy enough to reduce at least some of our exposure (even in a plastic filled world). Knowing that some things are unavoidable, below are some good tips.
Tips for reducing your Plastic exposure:
- Avoid heat: Plastics are known to leech out trace chemicals, especially when heated. Avoid touching when you can and don’t use plastic to reheat (like in microwaves, especially in plastic or plastic coated take-out containers! By the way, most take out containers are now coated in plastics, so be mindful). And when you go to Starbucks to get that piping hot coffee, be aware that all the cups are lined with plastic. Yikes indeed! Might be good to bring your own real cup and ask them to make it in that (or save money in the long haul and buy a nice coffee/espresso device to make yourself). And, how many times have you left that plastic water bottle in the hot car for days (weeks) and it tasted funny, yup, those are likely various leached chemicals. At least you don’t have to worry about storage or shipping of the water cases to stores, I’m sure they air condition all those semi-trucks that deliver the water bottles in the scorching summer heat?!!? (Not likely.)
- Drink liquids out of glass, ceramic, uncoated metal or other less toxic materials. If you like to carry a water bottle, same goes. I always keep one with me to avoid plastic water bottles (which are the cheapest material and have been shown to leach some of the toxins mentioned above). My favorite is glass that has a silicone mesh cover to protect it from breaking.
- Silicone is a better replacement. Silicone is believed by many to be far safer. If you buy plastic coated products, especially cooking utensils, consider swapping out for heat resistant silicone.
- Use glass for food storage. Glass containers are much better than plastic. They don’t leach. For some bulky things, like my cleaned lettuces, I use zip lock bags but line them with unbleached paper towels first to minimize exposure.
- Buy food staples stored in glass instead of plastic. I buy most of my staple items, like mayonnaise, beverages, etc. in glass jars. There are plenty of good options.
- Skip the receipts! Almost all receipts now are printed on thermal paper which are lined with BPA and other harmful chemicals. Research has shown even touching these can cause BPA to leech into your skin and it shows up in urine and blood tests. If you don’t need it, ask them to toss it.
- Metal cans are coated in plastic. Almost all metal cans that store foods in the grocery store (tomato sauce, beans, soups, etc.) are lined with plastic coatings, often with BPA. There is not really much you can do on this front except to prepare whole foods.
- BPA alternatives may not be any better. I always look for non-BPA products. That being said, there is emerging data showing that the alternatives may not be much better. The jury is still out, but best to be cautious and just avoid plastic as much as possible.
This and more information will be part of my upcoming book Eat Your Way to Awesome: 3 Most Impactful Steps To Feel Amazing. You can sign-up to make sure you are alerted upon its release.