During my days as a teacher, I’d be sitting in the classroom on a PTM (Parent Teacher Meeting) day, and one common concern most parents had was – I buy expensive stainless-steel water bottles and lunch boxes for my child and he/she loses it in school almost every other day. I’d politely guide them to the “lost and found” section in the school premises and ponder upon how the parents of today have replaced and rejected plastic.
There is no denying that inexpensive plastics have made many aspects of food and water distribution much easier in our daily lives. But we often read articles or watch videos that warn us against their usage. As Moms we are now paranoid when it comes to using plastic. Whether it is an infant or a toddler or a pre-schooler or for that matter even a teenager, plastic ware is a part of essential items they use on daily basis. An infant will use feeding bottles, teethers, toys, even baby gears made of plastic. A toddler and a pre-schooler would use a lunch box, toys, water bottle, games and what not!
Personally, I’m convinced that our health and the health of our planet would be much better off if we used the right kind of plastic. It is significant for we as Moms to be aware of the choices we make for our kids. So even if we choose plastic, we must be aware of what kind of plastic is safe for us and the environment.
Plastic is of different types and kinds and can be broadly classified as:
– Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
– High density polyethylene (HDPE)
– Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
– Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
– Polypropylene (PP)
– Polystyrene (PS)
– Others (usually polycarbonate)
To find out if we’ve been unwittingly poisoning our children and ourselves with chemicals, it is imperative to understand the good, bad, and OK plastics not just for us but also for the environment.
What are the hazards of using certain kind of Plastics?
Certain chemicals in certain plastics, like Bisphenol-A (BPA), have got media exposure for their potential health problems but there’s much more to the problem than a few isolated chemicals.
BPA is used only in the manufacture of one plastic, called Polycarbonate, to make it strong and transparent. But it was once given to animals like cows and chickens to cause them to gain weight before slaughter. BPA is known to disrupt hormones and can mimic the effect of oestrogen in the body, leading to weight gain and hormone imbalance.
Phthalates are also found in only a few plastics and in high levels in the indoor air. The European Union banned them in 2005 and many other countries have banned them as well. Phthalates are harmful to men and boys, especially those exposed in utero.
When we understand the time it takes for plastic to degrade we will be able to measure the gravity of the problem. A single plastic bag can take up to 1,000 years to degrade. Pollution caused by plastic has not only affected humans but also the marine species.
UV light and the salt in seawater cause microscopic particles of plastic to emit toxic chemicals such as PCBs and DDT. When ingested by many types of marine species, these can be mistaken for estradiol, a sex hormone, causing a variety of symptoms related to endocrine disruption. This can eventually lead to tainted populations of fish that humans regularly consume.
What We As Moms Must Do?
One big thing we can all do is to monitor the plastic products we are buying and using.
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE)
Polyethylene Terephthalate, known commonly as PET or PETE is best known as the clear plastic used for water and soda bottle containers. As a raw material, PET is globally recognised as a safe, non-toxic, strong, lightweight, flexible material that is 100% recyclable. In fact, it’s the most widely recycled plastic in the world!
Virtually all municipal recycling programs in the US accept PET packaging, with recycling of thermoformed PET containers on the rise. So, let’s all keep that trend going!).
PET is known to not leach any chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer or disrupting hormones.
- Avoid using disposable plastic water bottles. Even better, fill your water bottle from a re-usable water filter that will also help reduce chemical exposure from water.
- When you purchase toys, feeding bottles, sippy cups, lunch boxes or anything made from plastic for your child, make sure it is made of PET or any safe plastic which is BPA free.
- Switch to reusable grocery bags instead of plastic or paper bags.
- Stop buying processed foods that are packaged in plastics. This is a huge step for your health on its own, but it will also reduce the amount of plastic waste we produce each year.
- Replace plastic bags and plastic food storage containers with safer reusable options.
- When buying kitchen ware for your home, make sure it is made of safe plastic.
- Recycle whatever you can!
Appropriate knowledge about plastic and its kinds will reduce our own exposure to plastic pollution, our planet’s plastic load, and will often save money as well.