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Plastic not so fantastic

BY DIONNE LISTER

Plastic bags, bottles and containers are so convenient that most households have them. When you’re out and get thirsty a plastic bottle of water is just the thing - or is it? The plastic in our life may seem beneficial, but in the last few years we have realised it is not. Plastics leach toxic substances and take hundreds of years to break down in the environment, not to mention the damage it may be doing to our bodies.

Plastic bags are made from ethylene, a gas byproduct of oil, gas and coal production and PET bottles are from polyethylene terephthalate and may leach compounds, which mimic the hormone oestrogen.

According to the David Suzuki Foundation, more than one million plastic bags are used every minute! So, what happens after we use them? A lot add to landfill and many end up in our natural environment in the bush and ocean, which is doing untold damage to delicate ecosystems: marine animals get caught up in these bags and drown, others eat them and die. There are large areas of plastic bags floating around off the world’s coasts, which, according to The Independent, stretch ‘from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan’. Ocean currents keep them together and they form a kind of icky soup that is leaving debris on beaches and killing wildlife.

Plastic containers, baby bottles and drink bottles leach a chemical, bisphenol A, when heated. This chemical mimics oestrogen in the body and has been linked to cancer in mice and proven to increase the growth of certain breast cancers. Studies done on humans show that 93% of participants had ingested this chemical, and do so on an ongoing basis, as when it is processed by the body it is urinated as glucuronide and is easily measured. The powers-that-be, say it is safe and that it hasn’t been proven to harm humans, but would you trust them?

A study undertaken at the Goethe University in Frankfurt has found that estrogenic compounds leach from PET bottles into the water and leading researcher, Martin Wagner, has decided drinking tap water is safer than bottled. Tests they carried out on snails placed in these bottles, showed that the snails in the PET bottles had twice as many eggs as the glass bottle dwelling snails. So the bottles that were considered safe because they contained no BPA’s may not be safe after all and seem to have the same effect as BPA products.

It is clear we need to reduce our use of plastic bags. In Australia alone we use four billion plastic bags per year, which is down from six billion a few years ago. There are many initiatives to reduce our plastic bag use including those organized by the David Suzuki Foundation and Planet Ark. Help the environment by using cloth bags and protect your health by limiting the use of plastic bottles (even BPA free ones) and food containers by your family. As usual, not enough is known about the products we use every day, and our health could be affected without our knowledge - so pull the pin on plastic.

 

Plastic containers, baby bottles and drink bottles leach a chemical, bisphenol A, when heated.

SOURCES:

Dionne Lister was born and raised in Sydney and apart from some minor overseas travel hasn’t moved anywhere else. She met her husband through surfing however has had no time for that lately because of her two young children, kindly bestowed upon her by said husband.

She is sensible and works to earn money, however loves writing in her spare time and wishes, as most creative people do, that she could earn her living from such a past-time. Dionne hopes her articles are informative and entertaining and would love some adoring fan-mail ;-)

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