I am overwhelmed trying to remove plastics from my family’s life. I’ve heard they can be really damaging to my children. Can you help?
– Jeff, CA
Yes, I know, the challenge seems daunting. To soften plastic into its flexible form, manufacturers add “plasticizers,” and the chemicals are hormone disruptors, among other things. (See my short video and article on hormone disruptors, here.) The release of this study about how asthma risk increased more than 70 percent among children exposed to plasticizers in the womb was very disturbing, especially because the chemicals are so ubiquitous!
Do take heart, though. One of your best protections against plasticizers is to pay close attention to what you smell and taste.
Have you have brought bread and plastic-wrapped cheese to a picnic on a hot summer’s day? Plastic-tasting cheese is the unhappy result. Or, who hasn’t bought a shower curtain that smelled so strongly of PVC that you had to put it outside in the sun for a few days? (Back when I bought them, I used to put my new ones over the car to outgas in the hot sun.)
If you can smell plastic track down the source and remove it. If you can taste plastics, don’t eat that type or source of food again!
Take removing plastic from your life one step at a time. Of the ten ways to watch out for plastics, pay attention to what you are eating, drinking, breathing, and absorbing through your skin. Here are 10 ways to eliminate plasticizers from your family’s life:
1. Drink from glass or stainless steel. Make a special point to avoid polycarbonate, the “hard” plastic with a recycling code of #7 (more about this under #6, below). And for infants, be sure to use glass baby bottles.
2. If there was ever a reason to stop eating processed foods, this is it! The plasticizer adipate is used as an additive in all sorts of foods, including ones you wouldn’t expect, such as fat, dairy, and egg-based deserts, frozen fish, processed fruit, and breakfast cereals. It is a chemical that helps material resist high temperatures and is also used in foods as a bulking agent, stabilizer and thickener.
Here is the shocking list of where this plasticizer can be found in food!
3. Skip plastic food wraps. Did you know that many are made of PVC, #3 on the recycling code? It’s especially important to refrain from storing hot, fatty food in plastic as the plastics easily migrate into the food, skip the cling wrap, and go for glass food storage containers. Never heat food in plastic in a microwave.
4. Check for #3 and #7 recycling codes, and use plastic-free alternatives for the products. #3 is commonly used for packaging of salad dressing, ketchup, mineral water, cooking oil, mouthwash, shampoo, etc. #7 is commonly found in aseptic packaging and baby bottles. [ link to the video] It is also found in some reusable water bottles, stain-resistant food storage containers, most canned foods, and hard plastic water bottles.
5. Go for a natural manicure. While Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) has been removed from many nail polishes, there are still other plastics in the products, as well as other chemicals, such as neurotoxic solvents, that can be harmful to your health. Look for brands that are DBP, toluene and formaldehyde-free. If you are pregnant, skip all but natural manicures.
6. Skip all synthetic fragrances. Avoid anything with “fragrance or “parfum” on the label in personal care products such as hair gel, air fresheners, laundry detergents, cleaning products, perfume, and more. Who knew, but plasticizers make scents last longer and so are widely used for this purpose!
7. Pay attention to how much PVC is in your life! Eliminate PVC shower curtains, purses, vinyl floor tiles, anything that has that “plastic smell,” such as inflatable furniture, electrical wire coatings, etc.. Outgas PVC pipes, and other PVC-based plastics outside in the hot sun for as long as possible. Keep garden hoses outside as well.
8. Air out new computers, televisions, and other electronics. Do this outside if possible, and in the hot sun. If that isn’t possible, provide ventilation until the smell has “outgassed.”
9. Don’t burn plastic, whatever you do. Not to start a fire in the fireplace or wood stove, not to clean up a camp site before you leave, and not in the backyard trash bin.
10. Buy products packaged in glass or learn to make your own. Most of our personal care products are packaged in soft or hard plastic. This means that your creams and lotions, shampoo, salves, and lubricants, can all be contaminated with plasticizers. Some DIY recipes can be found in my book Better Basics for the Home has hundreds of easy-to-make natural personal care products that you.
Have a question for Annie? Write to her at annie [@] atruefind [dot] com!
By Annie B. Bond, the best-selling and award-winning author of five healthy/green living books, including Better Basics for the Home (Three Rivers Press, 1999), Home Enlightenment (Rodale Press, 2005), Clean & Green (1990), and most recently True Food (National Geographic, 2010 and winner of Gourmand Awards Best Health and Nutrition Cookbook in the World). She has authored literally thousands of articles and was named “the foremost expert on green living” by Body & Soul magazine (2009).