Dangers of Plastic {We Are Living In The Plastic Age}

Cheap Plastic ToysI’m sure you know there are a lot of things made of plastic. I can name a few you will find right at a computer desk; the keyboard, the mouse, the printer, parts of the computer and monitor, the chair. Maybe you are wearing a polyester shirt (which is made from plastic). You may have a plastic cup or water bottle, a pen, and a cell phone. Plastic is an amazing product. It’s cheap, lightweight and durable. It can be molded into all shapes and colors. What would we do without plastic? What you may not realize is, there are toxic chemicals in plastic and it is everywhere!

It isn’t just in our homes and on the store shelves anymore. Plastic covers our planet from top to bottom and reaches the deepest parts of our oceans. Sea creatures are consuming plastic because they mistake it for plankton. Marine researchers have found that plastic beats plankton in our oceans 60:1. So, those plastic bottles we thought we were rid of, are ending up back on our plates and in our bodies. It is a sad revolving circle. Not to mention, it is made from petroleum. Yuck!

Plastic Baby SpoonsPlastic decays over time through heat, abrasion, use or through natural processes. One diaper takes 200 years to break down and the whole time it is releasing chemicals into the environment. Once the surface of plastic is scratched, whether it be by force or through wear and tear, it will start releasing chemicals from the polymers. Independent researchers have tested and found toxic chemicals in supposedly safe products. Some chemicals that have been found are; fire retardants, tributyltin (TBT), Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. Large companies that buy plastic to make and package their products actually buy pellets or powder from a plastic manufacturer. The way the plastic manufacturer creates the pellets and powder is so secretive the company doesn’t even know what they are buying and passing on to the consumer.

In the documentary “Plastic Planet” a plastic blow up globe, that is sold to children all over the world, is lab tested and the results are astounding. It was found to contain heavy metals (like mercury), phthalates (which is a softener) and degassing hydrocarbons (volatile ones) that irritate the respiratory organs. Keep in mind it is made of PVC aka polyvinyl chloride. It will leak chemicals until it becomes porous and the plasticizers are gone. Then it will become brittle and no longer have that soft stretchy feel to it.

If we completely stopped using plastic right now, it would still take 500 years to clean it all up. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! We can avoid toxic chemicals in plastic!

What do we do when almost everything we own is made of plastic?

Educate yourself and be aware of what you use. Some plastics, like PVC, should be completely avoided and others should be used carefully and recycled.
Here are the recycle symbols to look out for:recycle-symbols

AVOID 3, 6 & 7!
Especially do not reuse or heat up.

**Please note: the “phthalate” in PET (1) is not the same one that is used as a plasticizer. Some phthalates to avoid are di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP), the diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), and the diisononyl phthalate (DINP). DEHP is used int the production of PVC. These are all awful hormone disruptors. Read more about phthalates here.

UPDATE: I have just discovered that antimony, a toxic heavy metal, is used in the making of PET (PETE, symbol 1) plastic. Not only is PET used for water bottles, it is also the type of plastic used to make polyester. 60% of polyethylene teraphthalate is used in the making of polyester. The production produces waste water with antimony that is not always disposed of properly. Antimony is left over in the finished material and although most of it can be washed away, it can start to leach from the plastic in bottles when they age or have been subjected to heat. Then when if comes time to recycle it, more antimony is released. If it isn’t recycled, antimony will turn into gas and release into the environment.

DO NOT REUSE PET (1)

BPA– Bisphenol A is a building block of several important polymers and polymer additives used in the production of polycarbonates. It is an endocrine disruptor and has been found in baby bottles! It can only be found in plastic with recycle symbols (3) and (7). There is currently no federal ban on BPA in the US although it is being phased out. Both Europe and Canada have issued bans on it. You may see recycle symbol (7) and BPA free. DON’T TRUST IT! Who’s to say it’s really BPA free? I would rather be safe than sorry.

Polypropylene (PP) number 5, is the probably the most common one. You will find it is used for most storage containers and is BPA free.

Made in China Rubber DuckA few tips:

  • AVOID MADE IN CHINA unless you trust the company!
  • Do not use plastic that does not indicate what it is made of (no recycle symbol).
  • Do NOT put plastic in the microwave.
  • When plastic smells bad it is releasing chemicals and should be avoided.
  • Recycle symbol (1) PET should not be used for an extended amount of time.
  • When plastic goes from clear to opaque, it is time to get rid of it.
  • Don’t leave water bottles in a hot car or subject them to high heat.

Plastic alternatives:

There are so many fun alternatives. Most of them you will find online. I have found some great alternatives to plastic toys. Again avoid most products made in China (Walmart junk). My little ones enjoy wood toys and non-toxic plastic toys made from recycled milk jugs. I give my teething baby an organic cotton lovie, wood teething rings or an eco-friendly taggie, aka Pully Mully to chew on. He also has a natural rubber pacifier. My 3 year old drinks out of a glass training cup by EIO and stainless steel sippys. In the kitchen I am slowly switching over to more glass and stainless steel. We even use glass straws. Some of the plastic toys we have are from companies we trust. Green Toys makes things out of recycled milk jugs (symbol 2). They are made in the USA and non-toxic. We have several of their toys including the dump truck, sand play set and chef set. Also, don’t forget Etsy! We love handmade. 🙂

green-toys-bucket

The movie “Plastic Planet” gave me the boost to share what I know about plastic. Please check out the movie. It’s a real eye opener!

If you know of any safe products you want to add, please leave them in a comment below!

 

How do you try to limit plastic?

 

What are your favorite plastic alternatives?

About Angela Vullo

I am a mother to three wonderful children. I love to read and write. I created this blog to share my experience and tips on trying to live a green lifestyle.

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1 comment

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