I recently watched the documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’ (a must watch by the way) and also attended a beach clean-up at my local beach. Though I have been consciously aware of the harmful effects of plastic, it really hit home the other week. I was inspired to research and find out more about plastics, and more about plastic-free living – so that’s what I have been doing, and I want to share it all with you. I hope that this series will provide you with simple solutions to help you quit plastics so that you can live a happier, healthier, and more planet-friendly life 🙂
So.. firstly, let’s talk about why quitting plastic is so important…
Currently, we produce 300 billion kilograms of plastic in the world every year. In the last ten years, we have produced MORE plastic than the whole of the last century. More than 8 billion kilograms of this plastic ends up in our oceans and it is predicted that in 32 years, in 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than there is ocean life.
I went through my whole childhood not even blinking an eye at the thought of food wrapped in plastic, or when using plastic cups, bags, straws, cutlery, bottles, etc.
Plastic is such a widely used material because it is very durable – but because it is so good at being durable, it is also indestructible. This means that it will never biodegrade; never break down. It will only ever break apart into smaller and smaller and smaller pieces until they are about only a one-one thousandth of a one-one thousandth of a millimeter. Scary, huh? What is even scarier, is that all these pieces of plastic we use need to go somewhere – putting them in the trash, unfortunately, doesn’t make them magically disappear.
So, how can we call plastic items ‘disposable’ when they never go away? Where do they go? …
The answer is into the ocean. Washing up on small islands – destroying the health of communities and villages. Into the stomachs of sea animals, which leads to many diseases and death as a result. And finally… plastic ends up in the stomachs of us, humans.
Did you know that there are toxic chemicals in microplastics associated with serious health conditions such as cancer? And when fish or mammals consume these microplastics, the toxins release into their fatty tissues?
Toxic chemicals. Yikes.
Micro-plastics have been found in many of the sea animals that humans consume, and so humans basically consume the toxins that have dissolved into the fatty tissues of these sea animals.
Meaning, if you eat seafood, there is a definite chance you’re also eating harmful chemicals from plastics.
While there is evidence that seafood is not necessary for a healthy diet , there is not yet enough evidence to show the exact long-term effects that plastics are having on our bodies, as it is still considered an emerging factor of concern.
We do, however, have some research showing the current health implications that the use of plastics has on our health, including associations with:
- Cardiovascular, liver, urologic, genital and endocrine (hormone-related) diseases  :
- Endocrine disruption and Infertility in humans, from the chemical BPA, found in plastics 
- Lower quality of sperm in males [4,6]
- Increased risk of diabetes, obesity, and liver dysfunction in humans 
- Cardiovascular disease and hypertension 
- Developmental and reproductive toxic effects 
- Genital, prostatic, endometrial, ovarian and breast diseases from affected biochemical and toxicogenomic mechanisms 
- Affects childhood behavioural outcomes 
- Development of the brain 
- Asthma and allergies [8, 9, 10, 11]
And lots, lots more…. but I think you get the point.
It is not only eating seafood that puts us at risk of getting toxic chemicals in our systems. Other ways that these chemicals from plastics transport into our body include from:
- Plastic food containers
- Food wrapped in plastic
- Cosmetics and personal care products
- Flooring and wall coverings
- Medical devices (tubing and blood gags)
(  and more info can be found on http://www.plasticoceans.org website )
For all these reasons, it is urgently important that we reduce our plastic use – or better yet eliminate it. On the next couple of posts, I will be doing a Planet-Friendly series; all about simple ways that you can reduce your plastic use and waste in your daily life.
Join me in saying no to plastic! Together we can make a difference to our oceans, our health, our planet – and most importantly our home, and the home of our future generations.
The research papers + references:
- Rochester, J.R. (2013). Bisphenol A and human health: a review of the literature. Reproductive Toxicology 42132-55.
- Ropero, A.B., Alonso-Magdalena, P., García-García, E., Ripoll, C., Fuentes, E., Nadal, A. (2008). Bisphenol-A disruption of the endocrine pancreas and blood glucose homeostasis. International Journal. Androl. 31, 194-9.
- Shankar, A., S. Teppala, C. Sabanayagam. (2012). Bisphenol A and Peripheral Arterial Disease: Results from the NHANES. Environmental Health Perspectives 120 pp: 1297-1300.
- Meeker, J.D., S. Ehrlich, T.L. Toth, D.L. Wright, A.M. Calafat, A.T. Trisini, Ye, R. Hauser. (2010). Semen quality and sperm DNA damage in relation to urinary bisphenol A among men from an infertility clinic. Reprod. Toxicology 30 532–539.
- Braun, J. M., K. Yolton, K.N. Dietrich, R.Hornung, X. Ye, A.M. Calafat, B.P. Lanphear.(2009). Prenatal bisphenol A exposure and early childhood behaviour. Environmental Health Perspective, 117, 1945-1952.
- Rozati, R., P.P. Reddy, P Reddanna, R. Mujtaba. (2002). Role of environmental estrogens in the deterioration of male factor fertility Fertility and Sterility 78 Pages: 1187-1194.
- Miodovnik A, A. Edwards, D.C. Bellinger, R Hauser. (2014). Developmental neurotoxicity of ortho-phthalate diesters: Review of human and experimental evidence. Neurotoxicology 41 112-122.
- Bornehag, C.G., J. Sundell, C.J. Weschler, T. Sigsgaard, B. Lundgren, M. Hasselgren, L. Hägerhed-Engman. (2004). The Association between Asthma and Allergic Symptoms in Children and Phthalates in House Dust: A Nested Case-Control Study. Environmental Health Perspectives. 112 1393–1397.
- Jaakkola, JJK; Verkasalo, PK; Jaakkola, N. (2000). Plastic wall materials in the home and respiratory health in young children 90 pp: 797-799.
- Kimber, I., Dearman, R.J. (2010). An assessment of the ability of phthalates to influence immune and allergic responses. Toxicology 271, 73–82.
- Tsai, M. J. P. L. Kuo, and Y.C. Ko. (2012). The association between phthalate exposure and asthma. Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Sciences 52 528-536.
- Skakkebaek NE, Rajpert-De Meyts E, Main KM. (2001). Testicular dysgenesis syndrome: an increasingly common developmental disorder with environmental aspects. Human Reproduction 16 972–978.
- Singh, S. and S.S.L Li .(2011). Bisphenol A and phthalates exhibit similar toxicogenomics and health effects. Gene 494 85-9.
- Singh, S. and S.S.L. Li (2010) Phthalates: Toxicogenomics and inferred human diseases Genomics 97 148-157.
- Nutritionfacts.org (2015, August 13). Food as medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Common Diseases with Diet [Video file]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0IhZ-R1O8g
For more research papers check out: