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Plastic Free July-Using Less Plastic Means Decreased Chemicals in the Body

By Larraine Roulston:

Many people have viewed photographs showing the horrific amounts of discarded plastics found onthe world’s land and in its oceans. Recently a small pilot study, entitled ReThink Plastic, reinforces the notion that we also should reduce our physical exposure to it. Viewed as a health hazard, many plastics contain estrogen-mimicking chemicals that can enter the body through handling food packaging and other single-use plastics. This particular project was designed to measure the exposure to these chemicals, to monitor life-style changes, and to encourage others to alter their habits.

Made possible through California’s Breast Cancer Research Fund, the pilot was conducted by Child Health and Development Studies that partnered with the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Consisting of 93 participants who studied the contaminating effects, they succeeded in educating 539 individuals through several presentations. A subgroup of participants agreed to have their blood tested prior to the start of the study. At its conclusion, blood drawn again from the 19 women indicated a 68% reduction in estrogenic activity.

Researchers who piloted the project have shown that when women lessen their exposure to plastics, estrogen-mimicking chemicals will decrease within a 30-day period. Strong evidence that linked breast cancer to these chemicals was determined.

During the month, participants were required to choose plastic use alternatives such as these:

  • carrying tap water in glass jars, ceramic cups or stainless steel thermoses
  • using (appropriate) glass plates andbowls when microwaving
  • storing food in containers other than plastic
  • skipping the purchase of canned foods and beverages
  • avoiding takeout foods, as fast food wrappings contain chemicals in the grease-resistant paper
  • using only wooden or metal spoons, soup ladles, potato mashers, flippers and other kitchen gadgets
  • trying not to handle cash receipts with bare hands, as Bisphenol A (BPA) (used to stabilize the ink) appears on the shiny side of the paper. When you come in contact with such receipts, wash hands with soap rather than sanitizers. Cashiers should consider wearing thin rubber gloves.

Because the pilot project’s goals were met, the researchers have applied for a 3-year grant to conduct a larger study and provide a more detailed report. Their approach augurs well for future success in spreading awareness of reducing our exposure to plastic chemicals that will benefit not only our health but also the environment.

The ReThink Plastic team as well as other researchers and scientists, who have also warned factory workers about inhaling plastic fumes, deserve our thanks. We all can be educators by encouraging family and friends to begin reducing plastic use whenever possible.

My thought is to urge all fast food advertisers to illustrate foods and beverages using ceramic plates, cups, glass and metal cutlery in lieu of plastics. We all know that advertising works; therefore, my theory that “people believe what they see”also applies to all film and stage directors to use reusable cups as beverage props.

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Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating. To view, visit www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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