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Plastic Polluntants, A Different Perspective

Everyone knows that everyone is contributing to the plastic pollution of our planet. A five month study in the Pyrenees between France and Spain found that 365 pieces of micro plastic (pieces less than one fifth of an inch long) fell on every square meter (one square meter is roughly one square yard) of land every day. That level of fallout in what appears to be a remote site lets you know how pervasive the problem is. It does not, however, speak to the insidious health hazard that plastics pose to humans. The unintentional affect this garbage has on wildlife is well documented. Think about entanglement. Think about intestinal blockage from inadvertent consumption. Think about the outgassing of plasticizers going on when the plastics are inside of those animals or inside of you. All the while, a silent death threat that plastics pose to all animals is often overlooked.
The primary characteristic that gives plastic its name is pliability. Flexibility and plasticity are plastic’s most useful traits and the most dangerous ones. The plasticizers that form the inter-space and glue for all plastics are mobile and on the move. Plasticizers are continually evaporating from the object that the plastic takes. The more plasticizers the object has and the more flexible that object is the more we notice that object’s smell. Remember the new car smell? That’s the plasticizers, and they are carcinogenic. Remember the smell of a new plastic bottle? That’s the plasticizers outgassing. Evaporating if you will. When plastics get old they have given up most of their plasticizers and they become stiff or brittle and they break. UV breaks the plastics down. Heat drives the plasticizers off. Oxygen in the air facilitates the aging process.
Now comes the fun part. A lot of our food comes wrapped in thin plastic packaging or sturdy plastic bottles and jars. The plasticizers from those containers then migrates into the food, sometimes giving them an “off” taste. This has been measured in many of the foods and drinks being stored for various lengths of time at various temperature conditions. The worst thing that you can do with the food you bring back from the store is to cook it in a microwave while it is still wrapped in plastic. The plasticizers do get into your food and then into your body.
Plasticizers test positive with the “Ames back- mutation test” which is one of the most sensitive tests for carcinogenicity that we have. Think about that “new car smell.” It takes a lot of exposure to those plasticizers to cause an effect (think decades). Do you really want to have that exposure added to the other carcinogens you are exposed to, when you have the choice to avoid the smelly plastic? It really is up to you. Stop using as much of those single use plastic containers as you can. You will live longer, and so will the rest of the planet.