From cell phones and computers to bicycle helmets, plastic has molded society in many ways that make life both easier and safer. But the synthetic material also has left harmful imprints on the environment and perhaps human health, according to a new compilation of articles authored by scientists from around the world.
More than 60 scientists contributed to the new report, which aims to present the first comprehensive review of the impact of plastics on the environment and human health, and offer possible solutions.
“One of the most ubiquitous and long-lasting recent changes to the surface of our planet is the accumulation and fragmentation of plastics.”
7 Ways Plastic Wrecks Our Health and Environment
Additives in plastic don’t just stay there—they get absorbed into bodies, break down as dust and pollute the air, and get into soil and water. Certain components of plastic have hormone mimicking properties that can increase your risk of cancer.
Additives in plastic pollute the air and get absorbed into bodies.
1. Plastics Escape from Landfills into Water Supplies
As much as people don’t love the thought, all that garbage that goes into landfills doesn’t just stay there. Ground water supplies in surrounding areas can become polluted with toxins found in plastics as plastic material absorbs into the soil. While the EPA closely monitors groundwater supply, there is a certain volume of allowable toxins in the water. A primary way to protect groundwater supply is to reduce the quantity of garbage going into landfills.
2. Plastics Consume Priceless Energy
It takes a significant amount of oil to manufacture plastics, both in raw material for the product and in energy used to produce it. This energy could be better spent or conserved, but instead is spent manufacturing a product that will, in theory, never leave the environment since it’s incredibly likely to end up in a landfill at some point or another.
3. Plastics Leach into Food and Drinks
Whether it’s BPA from soda cans or BPA-free plastic that is heated in the microwave, plastic particles leach into foods and beverages more easily than people think. When plastics are heated, like in a microwave, or washed in extremely hot temperatures, like in a dishwasher, they break down and release particles that then get absorbed through skin contact or through food or drinks. While these toxins can be reduced by handwashing plastics in lower temperature waters, they will still break down over time as they age.
4. Plastics Cause Reproductive Harm and Infertility
Because toxins found in plastics can mimic estrogen, they have the potential to cause reproductive harm and infertility in both men and women. Xenoestrogens can reduce testosterone count, falsely elevate estrogen in men and women, and disrupt normal fertility cues. In prepubescent boys and girls, these same chemicals can also interfere with normal testicular development or lead to early-onset menstruation.
5. Plastic Can Disrupt the Thyroid
Not only do plastics disrupt normal fertility, but they also mess with other hormones within the body, like the thyroid. With thyroid problems being the most common cause of autoimmunity, and more than 27 million Americans suffering from thyroid disorders, this is a significant aspect of plastic exposure that needs to be addressed. Thyroid hormones impact almost every other hormone that the body produces, so an overburdened thyroid can have far-reaching impacts on reproductive, digestive, and cardiovascular health.
6. Plastics Increase Risk for Heart Disease and Diabetes
While diet plays a large role in heart health, high levels of plastic exposure can contribute to greater cardiovascular disease risk. Not only that, but toxins found in plastics can also increase the odds of developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Plastics can lead to cellular confusion, which can increase the risk of autoimmune reactivity (type 1) or can reduce hormonal sensitivity, leading to insulin resistance (type 2).
7. Plastics Increase Risk of Breast Cancer
While manufacturers of plastic products continue to insist that they’re safe, research has linked certain chemicals found within plastic products to certain kinds of cancer, particularly breast cancer. This can be especially scary for women who have genetics that lead to a higher risk. Reducing plastic exposure can be one way to lead a cancer-preventive lifestyle.
While it’s alarming to realize how plastics are found in every aspect of life, there are things we can do to protect ourselves from the negative impact.
First, we need to be able to detox from these exposures, since even plastic-conscious people will still find some level of exposure nearly unavoidable.
The primary way that the body detoxes is through the liver. The largest internal organ, the liver is the body’s filter and trash collector. It filters the blood and removes toxins, breaking them down and pairing them with water molecules for elimination from the body.
The kicker is that the more toxic we become, the less efficiently the liver works. It gets bogged down, and while it can work independently, if we live a lifestyle that supports the liver, it will work more effectively.
Certain foods and nutrients support liver health, and these need to be regularly replenished.
Detox Foods for Your Liver:
Water, Cruciferous Vegetables, Garlic, Berries and Leafy Greens.
Metal, Glass and Silicone Straws, Glass Food Containers, Reusable Bamboo Forks and Spoons,
Metal Lunchboxes, Silicone Ice Cube Trays, Glass Baby Bottles and Cups, Glass, Porcelain and Silicone Dishes.