PLASTICS AND US
Every choice we make in life has a consequence. This can be a conscious or unconscious choice and a direct or indirect consequence. In essence the connection between all things is important to recognise.
In health this can be seen in the influence food choices have on our bodies.
While diet and lifestyle get a lot of attention, we tend to forget the other factors that influence our health and wellbeing like genetics, environment and exposure to environmental toxins.
Thus, today’s topic is using our power to choose to minimise our exposure to environmental toxins, in particular our use of plastics.
Plastics are used nearly everywhere, from infant bottles to food storage containers, technological devices, even medical implements and the coating on metal products. (1) Plastics contain chemicals that are detrimental to our health and our environment. When they get into our system from food contamination they can disrupt the way our body systems function and can lead to illness. (1,2)
The most talked about chemical found in plastics is BPA. “Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins”.(1) “Bisphenol A (BPA) is a nonpersistent compound… (meaning it) is chronically present in our environment with the potential for constant exposure” (2) This is problematic because consistent exposure to even low doses has been linked to negative impacts on our health. (2)
This disruption to our body systems is thought to be because chemicals like BPA look very similar to naturally occurring oestrogens, mimicking or opposing the action of naturally produced oestrogens in the body. This affects the way our reproductive systems, our brain and metabolism work. Health issues such as reduced sperm count in men, early puberty in girls, obesity, some cancers, behaviour disturbance, (3) “female and male infertility”(4) have all been shown to be associated with BPA exposure. (4, 5, 6)
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, “The primary source of exposure to BPA for most people is through the diet. While air, dust, and water are other possible sources of exposure.”(1).
This occurs because chemicals like BPA leach into our food via direct contact, such as when we heat food using a plastic container, or put cling wrap on our food, or by indirect means, for example, when we eat a fish that has a bioaccumulation of chemicals such as BPA. We can also be exposed via inhalation or transdermal, that is, through handling plastic, where the oestrogen-like chemicals in plastics get absorbed through our skin. (1,4)
It was initially thought that we metabolised these chemicals within a relatively short time, but evidence has emerged that puts this into question. Showing that the bio-accumulation of BPA does occur in humans and other species and that this does have health implications. (7)
So what can we do about it?
We can choose how readily we use plastics in our daily life and how we use and dispose of them.
This is what I do in the kitchen to minimise my direct exposure to these oestrogenic compounds/plastics:
- I use glass bottles, porcelain bowels or stainless steel containters instead of plastic ones.
- When I am heating food I always use glass or porcelain instead of plastic, often I will heat food up on the stove in a saucepan or pot.
- I avoid canned foods whenever possible as plastics are used to line the inside of the tins.
- I purchase fresh, unpackaged foods. If I need to put them in something to purchase it, ie lettuce/rocket I will put them in the the paper bags provided.
- Instead of using cling wrap to cover food I put a plate or bowel on top or put it in a glass or porcelain storage container.
- When travelling I use glass containers or Paper snack and sandwich bags whenever I can. (1, 8)
I would suggest you go BPA-free if you need to use plastic but “according to research performed by George Bittner, Ph.D., and his colleagues at CertiChem and PlastiPure, almost all commercially-available plastic products, including those sold as BPA-free, leach chemicals that exhibit detectable EA.” (9). Meaning that BPA-free does not mean free of Estrogenic Activity (EA).(9)
Maybe this will change but for now its up to us.
By making conscious choices in our day to day lives to minimise our use of plastics, by using alternatives where possible and disposing of plastics in a responsible fashion, we can influence our health.
Check out the documentary ‘Plastic- paradise: the great pacific garbage patch’, if you want to gain more insight into plastics and our environment. I thought it was a fantastic presentation on the issues and how we can influence outcomes.
Remember what you can do! And share your ideas about how to minimise your exposure to plastics on our SNT FaceBook page this week!
Wishing you all the best
Kimberley is a Naturopath and Nutritionist accredited through the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA)
She is passionate about helping you to reach optimal health. Without our health it makes it hard to reach our potential and do all the things we want to do in life.
Kimberley graduated from the Endeavour College of Natural Health and pursued further studies including Serenity Vibrational Healing (SVH) to complement her clinical practice.
After working within a number of multiple modality clinics in Melbourne and more recently in Country Victoria she developed her own unique style and approach and has since gone on to hold highly regarded health talks within the Latrobe region.
Education focused, Kimberley has clinical experience in a diverse range of areas, providing an individually tailored approach to healthcare. Passionate about health and natural medicine, Kimberley is continually striving to expand her knowledge and believes strongly in the integration of other modalities, working side by side to maximise health solutions for you.
 Bisphenol A (BPA) [Internet]. [Triangle Park (NC)]: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; c2016 [Revised 2016 July 15; cited 2016 Sep 9] Available from: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/sya-bpa/
 Srivastava S, Gupta P, Chandolia A, Alam I. Bisphenol A: A threat to human health?. Journal of environmental health [Internet]. 2015 Jan [cited 2016 Sep 9] 77(6):20–6. Available: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25619032
 Yang C. Z, Yaniger S. I, Jordan V. C, Klein D. J, Bittner G. D. EHP – most plastic products release Estrogenic chemicals: A potential health problem that can be solved. Environmental Health Perspective [Internet].2011 Mar 02 [Cited 2016 Sep. 9]119:[abstract and first 2 paragraphs]
Available from: http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1003220/
 Konieczna A, Rutkowska A, Racho? D, Health risk of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA). Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig [Internet]. 2015 Mar [Cited 2016 Sep 9] 66(1): abstract Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25813067.
 Vogel S. A. The politics of plastics: The making and Unmaking of Bisphenol A ‘Safety’. American Journal of Public Health [Internet].2009 Nov [Cited 2016 Sep 9] 99(3): s562 Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2774166/pdf/S559.pdf
 Rochester J. Bisphenol A and human health: A review of the literature. Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.) [Internet]. 2013 Sep [Cited 2016 Sep 9] 42: 132–55 Abstract. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23994667
 Vandenberg L, Hunt P, Myers J, Saal V. Human exposures to bisphenol A: Mismatches between data and assumptions. Reviews on environmental health [Internet] 2013 April [cited 2016 Sep 9] 28(1):37–58. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23612528
 Betts K. S. EHP – plastics and food sources: Dietary intervention to reduce BPA and DEHP. Environonmental Health Perspective [Internet]. 2011 Jul 01 [cited 2016 Sep 9]119:a306-a306 Available from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/119-a306b/
 Arnette R. Environmental factor: February 2011: Are plastics without estrogenic-active compounds possible?[Internet]. [Triangle Park (NC)]: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; c2016 [revised 2011; cited 2016 Sep 9]. Available from: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/newsletter/2011/february/scienceplastics/