Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Plastic Just Continues to Rear It's Ugly Head

Here at the end of the school year, we are beginning to close up shop. 2014 definitely has been weird with the knowledge that our school is closing at the end of the school year (which is really coming up), months of job hunting (and finally landing), taking 2 continuing education classes for my reinstating my teaching certificate...all the while still doing the day job (and the home job).

One of the jobs in my college-level classes has been to do 2 article reviews on issues of health, safety, and nutrition for the young child.  Of course, where would this girl go?  The environmental route.  
[Playful aside:  The 4th grade teacher told me last week that one of her fellas--who I had last year--wrote in his ECS memoirs: "In 3rd grade I had Mrs. D. She was a good teacher and I learned a lot. She was a tad more eco-friendly than my liking, but I learned to cope."  But, if you've been following along with Green Team Gazette for any period of time, you already knew that, and have already learned to cope with that yourself!  ]
The article “Plastics & Plastic Toys” is from a June 2012 Eco-Healthy Child Care® publication. Eco-Healthy Child Care is part of the Children’s Environmental Health Network and is concerned with helping to create environments that are not only eco-friendly but also health-focused. They are particularly interested in reducing every child’s exposure to toxic and harmful chemicals. The focus on this 2-page info sheet is the health effects for children exposed to plastics in toys, bottles, teething rings, etc. 

The gyst:  This article discusses the negative impacts of plastics: particularly phthalate and Bisphenol A (BPA) which are two toxic ingredients in plastics. Given that children’s young and still-developing bodies are so small, the effects (of even minimal amounts of these substances) have a greater impact on young children than adults—yet the two are toxic to adults as well. Additionally, children have a very “hand to mouth” nature, further increasing the chance of ingesting these chemicals. Phthalates are found in soft plastics (including PVC), and they are added to the fragrances, solvents, or fixatives in many bathroom products/beauty items. They can be inhaled through usage, absorbed through skin, ingested when chewing on toys/bottles. Research has shown they can be responsible for “hormone disruption, developmental and reproductive problems, asthma, preterm birth, low sperm count, undescended testes, genital malformations, premature puberty, and development of some cancers.” 

 BPA also disrupts hormones, and it is used more when making hard clear plastic items (baby bottles, canned food liners, water bottles). Exposure comes in many of the same ways as phthalates, as well as from eating food housed in these types of containers. Negative health effects “include prostate cancer, breast cancer, miscarriages, birth defects, early puberty, low sperm count, hyperactivity and aggressiveness.” The article goes on to discuss how important it is to look at the recycling codes, and to definitely avoid any plastics listed with #3, #6, and #7 as these are the most harmful types of plastics of any of the coded plastic types.
One of the statistics in the article was eye-opening: “Traces of BPA can be found in more than 90% of the U.S. population.” Given this statistic, it would seem our country is slowly plasticizing itself through the current fast food, pre-packaged dining society. It is valuable for parents to be aware that convenience does not always equate to healthiness. The article lists three additional websites that are good resources to learn more about the toxicity of plastics. It also has a list of ten tips for safer use of plastics. If all parents, teachers, child care providers had access to this list on their refrigerator, people would be able to make healthier food-related choices when it comes to plastic.
Through its evolution through time, plastics have been known to be very helpful to our world: medically, economically, and also for convenience. Yet, as more research is being done since the inception of Tupperware, there are also many findings that there are severe health risks hidden in the clear veneer of plastic. Susan Freinkel’s book “Plastic: A Toxic Love Story” would be a good read for anyone who wanted to take an in-depth look on how plastics have worked wonders in the medical field, yet our over-reliance on it in the house could be leading to a plastic-saturated nation. Based on newer data than the Eco-Health Child Care article, scientists are beginning to find that even non-BPA or PVC-free plastic wraps may be equally as bad for you. By discarding any plastic food containers with scratches (which indicates the plastic is leaching off the container), eating fresh produce, and not microwaving food/drinks/baby bottles in any plastic containers, people can begin to improve their own health and that of their children. Likewise, as parents, let your purchases (and dollars) being a sign of what you (as a consumer) value. By doing that, product availability and production may change.

Pics from:

Screen Shot of the Plastics & Plastic Toys article from

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