Most of us have heard the prediction that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050 if we continue on our current trajectory. I hope this prediction does not become our reality! The good and the bad of this prediction is that it has started to change the way we make decisions #nostraw to save the fish, but is that enough to save ourselves too?
There’s a hidden danger lurking in our convenient to-go lifestyle. It goes beyond the microplastics that both humans and animals are eating, drinking, and breathing everyday. Manufacturers use chemicals and additives in to-go containers and tupperware -- and researchers are now finding that these toxins may be leaching into our food. “It’s like we are all unwilling lab rats in a science experiment we never signed-up for. We don’t yet know the long-term health impacts resulting from a lifetime of use of these materials, but based on the emerging science it doesn’t look good,” said Julia Burrell, a local social media influencer in Boston known as “The Crazy No Plastic Lady” on Instagram.
We know that much of the single use plastic we use ends up in the oceans and poisoning our aquatic life, but many people do not make the connection that these plastics are slowly poisoning us too. As many of us know “What happens to the ocean, happens to us”. The World Health Organization launched a health review after discovering that over 90% of popular bottled water brands contained very high levels of microplastics. The levels were
discovered to be higher than most tap water levels. The origin of these microplastics are hypothesized to be from the plastic in the caps and the airborne plastic in the factories that bottle the water.
What about your take out containers and tupperware - how are those bad? Well, many studies have shown that when heated or scratched these plastic containers leach chemicals into our food. Other studies have shown that you do not even have to heat these containers to be susceptible to plastic leaching. This issue extends further than the infamous plastic
ingredient known as BPAs, scientists have discovered that alternative bisphenols used to replace BPA are displaying the same chemical issues. The plastic chemicals have been shown to disrupt hormones in both male and females by affecting egg and sperm production and growth. The scary thing is that even though your products say “BPA Free”, they could still possess similar harmful chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer.
Compostable disposables are not the solution either, as we have discussed in our previous blog posts. The PFAS which are per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. Scientists, food service industry experts, packaging professionals, and waste management leaders all explain that these PFAS are part of a class of chemicals known as “forever chemicals.” These chemicals have been discovered to persist in soils and compost indefinitely, ultimately ending up in our food. These chemicals have also been linked to troubling health effects. Learn more about Why Compostables are Not the Answer in our recent blog post.
Lastly, you know those disposable coffee cups you drink out of every day or maybe even twice a day? Some of those cups are leaching chemicals right into your morning coffee… wonderful. The material that seems to be the culprit? Styrofoam. Science shows that the resin used in styrofoam and other similar products leach estrogen-like chemicals proven to disrupt the hormone balance in the human body. Don’t think you are being safe using the paper cups with the thin polyethylene liner. That liner is also made of plastic and is leaching into your body with every hot coffee you order.
Now what can we do to prevent these chemicals from entering our bodies? Well, first we need to stop polluting the ocean so we are not ingesting marine life that has consumed
microplastics. To achieve this goal, we need to turn to reusable stainless steel products: water bottles, coffee cups, and food containers.
Start trying to reduce your consumption of take-out by making meals at home or bring your own container instead of using disposables. Julia Burrell, The Crazy No Plastic Lady, has integrated this behavior seamlessly into her daily life, “Admittedly, making these changes requires a bit of planning but it is totally feasible. I make a lot more healthy meals at home, but I also bring my own stainless steel containers to get cheese at the deli, to pick up pastries from the bakery, and a few restaurants in my neighborhood will even let me drop of my containers ahead of time for my to-go order,” Burrell added. By making dinner at home, you’ll know almost every ingredient that is going into your body which is another added benefit.
When you’re in a pinch, and have to use a plastic to-go container, try not to put anything warm inside. And definitely don’t microwave it!