In the 1967 classic movie, The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character has just finished college and is seeking direction for his future career. The unsolicited advice from a family friend? “One word: plastics.”
Plastics certainly have become ubiquitous in the past forty years since those prophetic words. Everything from water bottles to medical equipment to the cars we drive depends on them. While this has brought many conveniences to life, it’s wise to stop and examine the consequences of all this “better living through chemistry.”
We are now exposed to tens of thousands of substances that did not exist a century ago. It’s impossible to predict how all of these will affect our bodies’ systems, which are adapted for the natural world.
A study just published in July 2011 in Environmental Health Perspectives found that chemicals called phthalates and bisphenol A (or BPA) can harm thyroid function. The thyroid gland is responsible for regulating our body temperature and energy levels, and thyroid problems have been increasing in recent years. This just adds to the body of evidence about the harms of these chemicals, which are found in numerous household plastic items, food can liners, and even some toys. What can you do to protect yourself?
In this case, the best offense is a good defense – in other words, limit your exposure as much as possible. Avoid plastic water bottles, and even microwave popcorn (the bags are lined with harmful chemicals). Never microwave food in plastic containers; only use ceramic or glass. Look for BPA-free baby bottles.
Look around your house, and cut down on the number of chemicals as much as possible: yard treatments, cleaning products, even beauty products. Choose organic produce, meat, and eggs at the grocery store to avoid exposure to organophosphate pesticides.
Industry and regulators would argue that these chemicals are present in consumer goods in safe amounts. While this may often be the case for individual products, what is almost never studied is the cumulative effect of this toxic soup that we now live in. Most of these chemicals are stored for years, even decades, in our fat tissue.
If you’re concerned about the effects of such chemicals on your health, talk to a holistic physician about lab tests for your chemical levels.