Throughout the world, the average person consumes about 5 grams of plastic every week. That works out to over 250 grams per year, which is more than half a pound!
Did you realize you were consuming so much plastic every year? Do you want to reduce your exposure and minimize the negative health effects of plastic consumption? Read on to learn what you can do to make this happen.
Before we dive into the health risks of plastic exposure and how to reduce the amount you consume, let’s touch on how plastic ends up in our environment (and, eventually, in our food and water supply) in the first place.
One of the most common ways that plastic gets into the environment is through improper trash disposal. Lots of people throw plastic bags, bottles, and containers into the trash rather than recycling them. As a result, they end up getting dumped into the water supply.
From here, the plastic breaks down into smaller pieces, also known as microplastics, that can’t always be filtered out through traditional water treatment processes. Fish and other marine life may also eat the plastic that gets into the water. When humans, in turn, eat these animals, they may end up consuming the plastic that they consumed.
Microplastics have also been found in a variety of other foods and beverages. This includes common items like water, even more in bottled water (and other bottled drinks), bread, pasta, rice, sugar, and milk. Microplastics have even been found in some fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables can accumulate microplastics by absorbing them through their roots from contaminated water and soil. Personal care items like toothpaste and toothbrushes may also contain microplastics.
How does microplastic consumption affect our health? Several issues can arise as a result of excessive plastic exposure, including the following:
Many types of plastic contain additives like phthalates and BPA (short for bisphenol A), both of which are endocrine disruptors. Phthalates have been linked to lower testosterone levels in men. They may also contribute to early menopause in women. On the other hand, BPA is linked to an increased risk of infertility and certain types of cancer. Exposure may also increase your risk of metabolic health disorders like diabetes.
When you’re regularly consuming large amounts of microplastics, you may develop chronic inflammation. Inflammation is especially common in the intestinal tract since your digestive system has to work so hard to process these foreign substances.
Chronic intestinal inflammation can result in a wide range of digestive issues, including cramping, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. All of these issues can contribute to problems digesting your food and absorbing nutrients, which, over time, can wreak havoc on other aspects of your health.
Microplastics may contribute to neurotoxicity, too. The term “neurotoxicity” describes harmful alterations to the nervous system. Over time, chronic exposure to neurotoxins can kill the neurons, which play a key role in transmitting and processing brain signals. This can lead to severe symptoms, such as weakness or numbness in the limbs, memory loss, vision loss, headaches, behavioral problems, and sexual dysfunction.
Many products are advertised as a BPA free plastic that makes it seem safer but these plastics still may contain BPS, BPF, BPAP, BPAF, BPZ, and BPB, and others that are just as or even more harmful than BPA
It’s understandable if you’re feeling anxious about the health risks associated with plastic consumption. Fortunately, though, there are lots of steps you can take to reduce your plastic exposure, including the following:
If you’re in the habit of drinking bottled water or tap water, it’s time to change that. Plastic water bottles are a major source of microplastics, but they’re also a fairly easy thing to cut out of our lives. Tap water may also contain a significant amount of microplastics due to plastics disrupting our environment.
Instead of drinking from plastic water bottles or tap water, invest in a quality water filter that’s specially designed to capture microplastics. That way, you can enjoy fresh water at home whenever you want. You’ll also save money in the long-run since you won’t constantly be running out to replenish your stash.
Do you store your food in plastic containers?
If so, consider switching to different types of containers, such as glass, natural wood, bamboo, or stainless steel. These containers are less likely to leech pollutants into your food, and they tend to last longer than plastic, too.
It might be time to upgrade your dishes and cookware as well. Do you eat off plastic plates or drink out of plastic cups? Do you use plastic utensils or spatulas? If so, you might be consuming more plastic particles than you realize.
If you can’t bring yourself to get rid of your plastic containers or utensils, at least do yourself a favor and stop cooking with them and heating your food in them.
When you microwave these containers, you increase the likelihood of microplastics getting into your food. This is especially true if you’re putting the containers in the microwave for several minutes at a time. When you cook with plastic utensils you are most likely introducing microplastics into your food.
Do you buy a lot of prepackaged products? If so, consider buying in bulk instead. When you buy in bulk, you reduce the amount of plastic your food is exposed to while it sits in the refrigerator or pantry. As a bonus, you also have less plastic to worry about recycling.
In addition to minimizing your plastic consumption, it’s also important to think about safer replacement materials. Glass is a popular choice, but there are plenty of others to consider, including the following:
Remember, you don’t have to overhaul your entire kitchen in one day. Instead, focus on making gradual changes over time. Pick one issue to start with, such as your plastic water bottle usage or heating plastic containers in the microwave. Once you’ve tackled that matter, move on to another one, until you’ve significantly reduced your plastic intake.
Now that you know more about the risks of plastic consumption, are you ready to start taking steps to reduce the amount in your body? From switching out your cookware to investing in a water filter, there are plenty of ways to lower microplastic exposure and improve your health. Implement the tips listed above so you can make some effective swaps, lower your plastic intake, and feel your best while also taking better care of the planet.