Biphesnol A (BPA), along with phthalates, are chemicals that go into plastics during the manufacturing process in order to make them flexible, durable, and transparent.

 

Biphesnol A (BPA),  along with phthalates, are chemicals that go into plastics during the manufacturing process in order to make them flexible, durable, and transparent. In high doses, these chemicals have the ability to disrupt the body’s hormonal processes resulting in correlations between these chemicals in the bloodstream and health issues such as cancer, early puberty, obesity, chromosomal and reproductive abnormalities, in addition to impaired brain and neurological function.

BPA is used to make billions of consumer products including plastic containers, dinnerware, protective linings of food cans, and toys.

A National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey produced by the US Centers for Disease Control and prevention showed that BPA was found present in 93 percent of urine samples taken from people above the age of six. Based on existing evidence, it is likely that elevated urinary BPA levels are associated with prostate cancer in humans, and may be an independent diagnostic marker in prostate cancer patients. In addition, breast milk from women in developed countries has also been shown to contain dozens of chemical compounds, including BPA.

In an analysis of 455 common plastic products, including BPA-free products, it was found that 70 percent tested positive for estrogenic activity, which increased to 95 percent when the plastics were microwaved.

Although some plastic products are labeled as BPA-free, it doesn’t mean they are safe. Products may contain chemical compounds that are slightly different but have a different name.

To avoid these chemicals, avoid microwaving food in plastic. It is wise not to reuse items such as margarine tubs, takeout containers, whipped topping bowls, and other one-time use containers, as these items have the potential to cause chemicals to leach into food. Switching to glass containers, buying reusable metallic or glass bottles, and avoiding canned foods are all ways to avoid ingesting these chemicals. In addition, avoid handling receipts, as credit card and vendor machine receipts also contain BPA, which can be absorbed through touch.

Another issue caused by plastic pollution is the existence of microplastics, which are created when plastic debris is broken down into much smaller particles. These particles evade most filters and are able to enter the bloodstream of consuming organisms, and recent water contamination studies have found microplastics in 83 percent of tap water samples from major cities.

As it would require exposing humans to potentially harmful chemicals, it is difficult to establish a definitive link between a contaminant and the health impacts from exposure. However, it has been shown that there is an observable correlation between presence of BPA and phthalates in the bloodstream and higher rates of previously mentioned health issues. The lack of causal evidence is a part of the reason there is no FDA regulation regarding a limit of microplastic contamination.

When a polyester shirt is washed, it can release microplastic fibers into water that will make their way to a river and into the ocean. As fish bring water in through their gills, they are absorbing the microscopic plastic particles. Those particles will stay in the fish until it is caught and eaten, and those particles are potentially passed onto a human. If nothing changes environmentally, by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish. Plastic is damaging to fish as well as to humans, and has far reaching effects on all species.

There are current attempts to make plastics safer and more sustainable. Bioplastics are being developed, which are made from plant crops instead of fossil fuels in order to create more environmentally friendly substances. Others are searching for ways to make plastics biodegradable and recycling more efficient, including a process that could convert plastics back into the fossil fuels from which they were derived.

Steps that can be taken to limit the amount of plastic pollution include:

• Disposing of plastic products in proper receptacles.

• Picking up plastics whenever possible, especially around ponds, streams, rivers and beaches.

• Participating in local clean up activities.

• Purchasing products without micro beads

• Limiting or avoiding use of one-time plastics.

More information about plastic pollution and how to create a sustainable future can be found at www.earthday.org.

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