OMG make it stop! Sorry but if I read another freakin’ article about BPA-free plastic, I’m going to scream. For several reasons.
First, I can’t keep up.
I mean, I follow all news about estrogenic/toxic chemicals in plastic, both for my work and because I personally want to protect my family from these horrors. But at this point the research is blending before even my eyes. Because really, how many of our brightest minds are studying this stuff—and reaching the same conclusions? And how many more questionable plastics articles does any average schmo need to read before we all just ditch it entirely (if/when we can)? Of course ditching it is only step one. We also all need to pester our elected officials to stop the madness; hazardous chemicals should not be allowed in consumer products in the first place, and no amount of personal divesting from plastic can protect anyone fully. We are so surrounded by plastic that it’s in the fish we eat. (Tweet this) Literally. Only real chemical reform and meaningful legislation can protect us.
Anyway, if you’re less sick of reading the articles than I am, a brief recap:
Plastic is made from fossil fuels. Strike one.
Various chemicals are added during air-polluting manufacturing to make plastics hard and durable or soft and flexible. Strike two and three.
At this point in time, science has shown over and over again that some of these additives are bad for human health. They can and do migrate out of plastic and into our food and drink, and then into our bodies. They can and do escape from plastic into the air we breathe, and then into our bodies. This is bad news for all of us, but it’s particularly bad for the small, developing, and vulnerable bodies of growing babies and kids. Some common plastics chemicals have been linked in various studies to hormone disruption, obesity, and an increased risk, even from small exposures, for several cancers.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is currently the poster child of bad plastics chemicals, though there are certainly other offenders (hi, phthalates!). It makes polycarbonate #7 plastic hard, is used to coat can linings, and it’s found in dental fillings, among other applications. When it was “discovered” how bad BPA is (even though researchers have known this forever—it was used as a synthetic estrogen in the 1930s), clued-in consumers made a fuss. Some legislation—just for baby bottles and cups, basically—followed. And there have been bans at a municipal and state level. At this point, despite overwhelming evidence, there is still no overarching federal ban. It’s hard to know what people are thinking. Maybe it’s because, as the title of a recent Newsweek article puts it, BPA is Fine if You Ignore Most Studies About It?
Companies noticed quickly that despite the lack of federal ban, consumers appreciate products labeled “BPA-free,” so they began voluntarily yanking it out and marketing their products free of the “bad” stuff. But they had to add replacement chemicals to make the plastic just as hard. Guess what? It turns out that the replacement chemicals maybe aren’t much better than BPA. Some, like BPS, are in the same class of chemicals. You might have seen a whole host of articles on that recently, too. Here’s More Evidence that BPA-Free Plastic May Still Pose Risk from the Washington Post, BPA-Free Alternatives May Not Be Safe on CNN, plus a blog from EDF entitled, BPA-Free Plastics May Pose Equal or Greater Hazard Than Predecessors. So there’s that mess. When oh when will companies realize that consumers want safer products. That means when a toxic chemical is identified, they need to make sure any “solution” is safer, not just free of one bad chemical.
Meanwhile, despite how popular it feels like recycling has become, most plastic is single use — and it’s used quickly. Think of the plastic lid on your morning disposable coffee cup. It’s critical to consider, as Good puts it, what happens “after the bin.” The answer isn’t recycling. It’s pollution, pollution, and more pollution. I just ran across an article saying Plastic Pollution Threat on Par with Global Warming. Yikes.
No wonder I have a reusable glass jar collection so large it makes people mock me.