Plastic Problems

October 26, 2008

Plastics are one of those wonderful technical breakthroughs that have proved a huge boon – but we are starting to see the downside, particularly for health. We now have plastic products all around us and as well as being bad for the environment, they do you no favours either. Don’t think you are affected? Do you have a DVD or computer and have any plastic kitchen appliances? Do you wear spectacles or have contact lenses, use reusable plastic containers for your water on the move or use plastic feeding bottles for your baby? Plastics are used in construction materials, paints, as well as in linings for food and drink cans. You literally cannot avoid them.

The health culprit is Bisphenol A, (BPA), an organic chemical which is the essential basic building block for high performance polymer plastics and coatings. Scientists first synthesized it in the late 1800s and just 40 years later it was found to have oestrogenic properties which we now know are linked to cancer. Scientists continued to develop ways to use BPA in making plastic containers and resins that now line most food and soft drink cans.

The problem is that BPA polymer decays over time, so traces of the synthetic oestrogen are released into canned foods, water in plastic bottles and even baby formulas and the dummies and plastic cutlery that children are often given. Research continued into the effects of BPA on animals, and the results showed reproductive and hormone-related problems. It wasn’t at this stage being tested on humans, but the use of plastics was becoming increasingly popular.

In the updated 2008 Risk Assessment Report on BPA published last June, the European Commission concluded that products made from BPA, were safe for consumers and the environment when used as intended. Worldwide, that has been the conclusion of other regulatory bodies including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.

So everything is ok – except that it isn’t. In September, in the Journal of the American Medical Association they published a study which concluded that high urinary BPA concentrations might be linked to increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and abnormal concentrations of liver enzymes. Is this relevant? Well, according to a Columbia University scientist, more than 90% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their urine and I don’t imagine we are that far behind in the UK.

The Journal’s editorial does not hold out any hope of things changing in the near future. They said: “One factor that may be contributing to the refusal of regulatory agencies to take action on BPA in the face of overwhelming evidence of harm from animal studies…is an aggressive disinformation campaign using techniques (‘manufactured doubt’) first developed by the lead, vinyl, and tobacco industries to challenge the reliability of findings published by independent scientists.”

That’s fairly clear, and once again the responsibility for taking care of our health and wellbeing is placed squarely back on the individual’s shoulders. A simple first step is just to eliminate the use of plastics wherever possible, particularly for children, so buy bottled water in glass containers and avoid canned food. China, glass and metal containers offer you a safer alternative for your food and drink so pack away the picnic plates and upgrade to the china ones!


Article by  


What do you think of this health article by ? Join the discussion...