Health effects of plastic

Plastic is everywhere in our modern world. This has a massive impact on our environment, but there are also health effects of plastic – especially for our kids.

Watch the video or continue reading below to find out more about the health effects of plastic for kids.

The Health Effects Of Plastic

Kids are much more vulnerable to adverse health effects caused by environmental toxins like plastic. They are still developing – their gut, immune system, brain and reproductive systems are still under construction! This makes them more prone to the negative impacts of plastic exposure.

Which chemicals are found in plastics?

There are a number of chemicals in plastics that can cause health issues.

The first, and most commonly known, is Bisphenol A(BPA). Many of us are aware that BPA is toxic. That is why many plastic products are now marketed as BPA-free.

The main effect of BPA is that it’s an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disrupting chemicals affect the production and activity of hormones. BPA can mimic oestrogen and bind to receptors in the body. This can mess up the hormone balance and cause a lot of damage through the body.

BPS is the most commonly used alternative to BPA. But unfortunately, studies are starting to show that BPS has just as many side effects as BPA! So even when you think you’re doing the right thing by choosing BPA-free plastics, it can be just as bad for your family.

Another chemical that is found in many plastics is phthalates. Many of us know that these can be found in synthetic fragrances that can add to indoor air pollution. But phthalates are also added to plastic to make it soft and flexible. Phthalates also have endocrine-disrupting properties.

What are the adverse health effects of plastic?

Many of the adverse health effects of plastic are due to the endocrine-disrupting properties. Hormonal issues linked to plastic exposure include:

  • Early-onset of puberty
  • Enlarged breasts in males
  • Infertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Low sperm count
  • Low androgen (male sex hormone) levels in males
  • Imbalances in oestrogen and progesterone in females

In fact, plastics can play a big part in the rising incidence of issues like infertility. This is a huge concern, particularly for kids who are heading towards puberty.

However, plastic chemicals are also linked to other major health concerns. Other linked issues include:

  • Obesity
  • Foetal brain development – which means pregnant women need to be particularly careful about plastic exposure!
  • Hyperactivity
  • ADHD
  • Low IQ
  • Asthma

It’s obvious that plastic chemicals can affect the health of the endocrine system. But the nervous, immune and digestive systems are also at risk.

Common sources of plastic exposure for kids

So how are our kids being exposed to plastics? There are a few obvious ones, but some might surprise you!

Common sources of plastic exposure include:

  • Drink bottles – both reusable and single-use bottles
  • Canned foods – cans and tins are lined with plastic
  • Soft drink cans
  • Baby formula tins
  • Food packaging
  • Food storage containers
  • Lunchboxes
  • Bottles, dummies and teething rings
  • Toys – think about blocks, dolls, cars and even bath toys
  • Dental materials
  • Cash register receipts – this contains BPA that lingers in your system

No matter what their age, your child is probably being exposed to plastics on a regular basis.

Taking action: how to reduce plastic exposure

This might seem like a lot to deal with. You don’t need to get overwhelmed and feel helpless. Instead, focus on making small changes to reduce your child’s exposure to toxins and chemicals.

Here are 5 tips to get you started.

1 – Make sure you’re not heating food or drinks in plastic

When you heat food in plastic, or put hot food straight into it, these toxic chemicals can leach into the food. That’s why we never want to heat our nutritious wholefoods in plastic!

Instead of using plastic to reheat, transfer the food to a ceramic or glass container first. You also want to let food cool before putting it into a plastic container, or use a ceramic bowl with a lid to put leftovers into instead.

The same goes for water and drinks in plastic bottles. Even just leaving it in the car on a warm day can be enough to leach plastic into your drink. Switch plastic bottles for stainless steel or glass water bottles instead.

You don’t have to chuck out all of your plastic containers overnight. Instead, replace them as they wear out or break.

2 – Reduce your use of canned foods

Tinned foods are typically lined with plastic such as BPA. So we want to try and reduce the intake of tinned foods.

This is particularly important with more acidic foods like tinned tomatoes because they leach more out of the lining. Try switching tinned tomatoes for passata in a glass bottle.

3 – Reduce packaged foods and increase fresh foods

The more fresh foods you include, the easier it is to reduce your plastic use. There is far more plastic used to package food in a supermarket versus a farmer’s market.

If you have a local farmer’s market, you can head there to get a lot of your food. If you do shop at the supermarket, get yourself some reusable produce bags. It’s also best to avoid pre-wrapped produce where possible.

4 – Avoid receipts wherever possible

Whenever you can, skip printing out or accepting your receipts. This is a better option for the environment and for health reasons. When you have little ones in the trolley, don’t hand them your receipt to play with!

If you have older kids who work at a supermarket or store, you might want to talk to them about the problem with handling receipts.

5 – Know your numbers

At the end of the day, it’s unrealistic to completely avoid all plastics. So that’s where you can also pick your plastics. On the bottom of plastics, you’ll find a triangle with a number in it. The numbers that include endocrine-disrupting properties are 1, 3, 6 and 7.

Numbers 2, 4 and 5 are less of a concern, so while it’s best to limit them, they are less detrimental to your health.

Want to start reducing the health effects of plastic in your home?

Make sure you enter the Toxin-Free Family competition I’m running. You’ll have a chance to win $100 to spend in the Biome online store and a 45-minute online consultation focusing on reducing toxins in your home. Click here to enter!