10 tips to get plastic out of our lives & why
Most of us know that plastic can leech chemicals into our foods and this really isn't good for us. But why is it so bad and what does it do?
It's those nasty chemicals found in plastic. They include a few different types eg PBDEs, Phthalates and BPA's which can all be harmful, but one that's particularly prevalent is BPA.
BPA (Bisphenol A), is used to harden plastic containers and bottles storing food and drink. It's found in the linings of cans, dental sealants and medical equipment, and even some cash register and ATM receipts - making it very difficult for us to avoid.
What effect can BPA have?
It is an endocrine disruptor - interfering with the balance of our hormones, and as such may cause reproductive disorders. Because of this it's extremely important to minimise the exposure of this chemical to our children - and if you're pregnant - to unborn babies. BPA has also been linked to heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The problem with BPA is it doesn't stay in the plastic. It leeches into the food or beverage being stored in the container, and if we microwave these containers, it's likely to increase the amount of BPA that leeches into the food even more.
The potential health risks of BPA have been debated for many years. Some scientists dismiss the concerns raised, while others say the evidence is increasing that even in low doses, BPA's effects on the human body are cause for serious concern. The level of harm in an individual needs to consider not only the amount we're exposed to but also how well our detoxification systems are working to help eliminate any exposure we have.
What's happening in Australia?
In 2010 the Australian Government introduced a voluntary phase out of BPA use in polycarbonate baby bottles. In the same year, Choice tested canned food for the presence of BPA - 33 of the 38 foods tested contained some BPA . None of the levels found neared the daily upper limit of safe exposure, but recent research suggests this limit should be set much lower. *
What about BPA free products?
This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the BPA-free plastic is safe. In one study, tests showed that some of these products under certain conditions e.g. being heated through a dishwasher or in a microwave still tested for estrogenic activity ie they were disruptive to hormones. In addition to this there are many chemicals in plastic, not just BPA, that we are better off avoiding.
Either way, if not just for improving our overall health, let's limit the amount of plastic in our lives for the sake of our environment.
10 tips to get plastic out of our lives:
- Stock up on non-plastic items e.g: metal lunch boxes, stainless steel water bottles, ceramic cookware and storage containers, glass storage containers, brown paper bags, paper or glass straws
- Use recycled glass bottles and containers. If I do buy products, I try to buy them in glass eg tomato passatta or paste bottles, fetta cheese jars etc, and then keep the jar for storage use later. And I love love pyrex containers, I just about have every size and shape! (I know the lids are plastic but I'm yet to find the great containers in the photo... )
- Frozen goods. Use glass also for both liquids and food. As long as when you freeze a liquid you don't fill it to the top and there is at least 1 cm left for air - freezing in glass is fine.
- Reduce how much canned food and drinks we buy. Shopping in bulk for foods in their whole form helps.
- Buy and cook in bulk, then freeze items. Go crazy and get creative in the kitchen. Cook once and eat twice or three times by freezing leftovers. So our emergency items are in the freezer - not the pantry.
- Throw away the cling wrap!! I promise that after awhile you won't miss it. For storage in the fridge, we pop food or liquid into a pyrex container or glass jar. For wrapping food like sandwiches, I use grease proof paper or brown paper bags. The only problem I tend to have is going out to a buddies place with a salad, most of the time I carefully carry it on my knee! Or stick some alfoil over the top, (although not the best option either).
- Think twice about the plastic toys we buy. There are some gorgeous wooden or fabric toys, and if your children are older perhaps create a wonderful experience for them rather than another toy eg a musical or form of live entertainment, camping, sleep overs, play dates etc... This can involve more (quality) time, but every now and again it's worth it - for their health & wellbeing.
- If you use a microwave, microwave in glass, not plastic.
- Choose glass, metal, ceramic or stainless steel dishes and cups.
- Before allowing a dental sealant to you or your childrens' teeth, just check with your dentist first what materials are used and what options there are.
- Some brands are now bringing out BPA free metal cans. If I do get stuck and need something in an emergency I use 'Eden Organics'. Our local IGA stock this brand.
- Think twice about what you're buying and try not to be fooled by the convenience (or the cuteness) and soon enough your kitchen and home will be transformed and you'll be healthier and happier for it!
We'd love to hear your tips for avoiding plastic, or what products you use to limit it in your life. Just post a comment below and share - thank you!
* sourced from Green Lifestyle, February / March 2013