What’s up with plastics? Can plastics really be damaging my health as well as the environment?
We’ve all seen the photos of turtles or birds caught up in a sea of plastic waste. I bet that doesn’t make you feel good! There’s no denying it, plastics are contributing massively to environmental damage and the future of our planet. But there’s another problem with plastics too; one that may be affecting you directly - one that may be affecting your health right now and in the future.
Read on to discover how everyday plastics may be damaging to you.
You may have already heard that one type of plastic - Bisphenol A (BPA) is toxic. It’s been well studied and, consequently, many products declare that they are BPA-free. One of the main problems with BPA is that it has been found to be an endocrine-disruptor. This basically means that it affects our hormones, and, thus, causes many other problems throughout the body. Children are more vulnerable to environmental toxins as their body systems are still developing and immature. As a result, exposure to BPA and other endocrine disrupting chemicals as a child, may cause problems later on in life, even as soon as adolescence.
With the reduction in use of BPA, alternative plastics have been used, such as Bisphenol S (BPS). Unfortunately, it’s safety too is now being questioned. Furthermore, many plastics contain phthalates, to make them soft and flexible, but phthalates have also found to contain EDCs.
So what does an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) do in your body? Well, as the name suggests, it disrupts the balance of your hormones, like oestrogen, androgens and thyroid hormones, within your endocrine system. The endocrine system is one of the major control centres within your body as it releases hormones that take chemical messages all over the body telling cells what and when to do certain processes. In particular, they are responsible for the proper functioning of your reproductive system, your growth and development, and your metabolism and energy needs and work closely with your nervous, gut and immune systems. EDCs may mimic, block or interfere with your body’s hormones. If the hormones are out of whack, then these body systems aren’t going to work as well.
And so, several health problems have been linked to plastic exposure including:
Early onset of puberty
Enlarged breasts in males
Low sperm counts
Low male sex hormones (androgens)
Imbalances in female hormones (oestrogen & progesterone)
Type 2 diabetes
Foetal brain development (i.e. pregnant women need to be especially careful)
Breast, prostate and testis cancers
Allergies & autoimmune diseases
Wow, now that’s a massive list of potential problems. It’s even suggested that EDCs may have the ability to change our genetic makeup and thus our children’s and our children’s children’s children’s health.
You can see that as a preteen or teen, plastic exposure may be having a huge negative impact on your health.
But don’t panic or be overwhelmed! You can modify your use of plastics easily. Firstly, you’ll need to think about what you're using that contains plastic so things like plastic water bottles, food packaging, lunchboxes and so on. Then, you’ll need to think of alternatives. Some things may be difficult to replace but for the items that can be swapped, it’s simple, just do so. It’s also important to understand that every body deals with environmental toxins differently; many will notice no obvious impact. However, as it’s unlikely in today’s world that you can eliminate all sources of plastic exposure, it makes sense to reduce your overall exposure as best as you can, especially as you have no idea how your body will respond in the future to exposure now as a teenager.