More Plastic Than Plankton

Share this article on FacebookShare this article on TwitterShare this article on LinkedinShare this article on RedditShare this article on PinterestExpert Author Eric Bakker ND
I can remember growing up in the sixties in a world which was still relatively “plastic free”. Do you remember when foods were actually packaged in glass, paper and cardboard? Do you also remember when the paper and cardboard was thicker back then? I can still remember as a boy looking at one of those “foam” cups made from polystyrene and crumbling it, it was in the late sixties, wondering what the heck it was made of! The one litre soda bottle was made from glass a long time ago, for which I got twenty cents for when I collected them from the side of the road and brought them into the corner store.

No foods were stored nor packaged in plastic, and the grocery store bags were a thick brown paper, not those flimsy plastic bags of today which you can just about “spit” through. The only toys I had as a boy which were made from plastic were those little green plastic soldiers from China, my Matchbox cars, my Triang tricycle and later on my Raleigh bicycle were all made from good solid British metal with minimal if any plastic parts. Back then, China was the word used for something you drank a cup of tea out of, not found on a sticker on just about everything you buy from a shop involving any type of plastic. Today, it is hard to find any toy which is not 100% plastic, amazing! And the scientists call it “better living through chemistry”. I would like to believe that my great grandchildren will live in a world one day where chemistry will go green, and scientists may one day understand the serious health risks imposed on a population growing up in today’s plastic world.

This article will focus on what a lot of people have been talking about – plastics in our foods, and in water – I take it you drink bottled water? There is no “best plastic” to contain food or drink. It is my hope that this article will clarify this viewpoint. By the time you’ve finished reading, you should be closer to forming your own evaluation of plastics, and hopefully you will try to reduce your exposure and use of plastics in your everyday living.

Unlike the sixties, plastic today is used in contact with nearly every single packaged food. Most cardboard drink and milk containers are now even coated with plastic rather than wax. In many countries, a type of liquid plastic compound is even sprayed on both commercial and organic produce to preserve its freshness. Yes, crazy as it may seem, but in many cases plastic is even used to irrigate, mulch, wrap, and transport organic foods. “Organic” bananas come from overseas South American wholesalers with a fungicide containing sticky plastic wrapping the cut stem to protect the bananas from a black mould. These so called organic bananas themselves are wrapped in a plastic as they grow to prevent fruit bats from getting to them. Did you know that whenever you eat or drink things that are stored in plastic, or if you taste it, smell it, wear it, sit on it, and so on, then that plastic actually becomes a part you?

In fact, when any food gets into plastic – the plastic gets into the food and eventually you. So, quite literally, you are what you eat.. drink… and breathe – plastic!

Is Plastic a Low-Dose Threat?

Plastic is everywhere in our lives because it is convenient and relatively inexpensive. It is widelt regarded and advertised as safe and that it even “saves lives”. The problem with plastic is that its safety is based on an outdated science and flimsy regulations. And while it may saves lives in the short run, the record against plastic is looking quite different. Its convenience comes from being lightweight and it comes in an endless range of colors and finishes, is pliable, and is easily formed and molded. Most would say it’s a perfect material, right? But – here’s where the bad news begins. It is interesting when you consider that there between 87,000 to 100,000 chemicals in commercial production registered with the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) registry. Of all these chemicals, only about 200 have been tested on humans, and most never on pregnant women or children.

Consider this – If you want to market a new pharmaceutical drug, you will need to convince the authorities like Medsafe or the FDA, in multiple tests over the course of many years of clinical trials that it won’t cause serious harm. If you want to sell a new sheep drench or pesticide, you will need to prove the same thing. The manufacturers have to prove the chemicals in these concoctions are “safe” and the government makes the final decision. But what if you want to market a brand new chemical, not a drug or a pesticide, just a chemical? And what if this chemical comes into contact with a young child or pregnant woman? I’m not sure about NZ, but I expect it’s much the same as in America; it is up to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to prove that it is unsafe, using whatever chemical data is supplied by the chemical manufacture, with little power to ask for more information. Chances are it was never really tested by the government at all. According to Richard Wiles, executive director of the non-profit Environmental Working Group in the USA: “It’s completely backwards”.

As bio-monitoring has improved, scientists can now detect human exposure levels of chemicals as small as one part per trillion, which is about a twentieth of a drop of water in an Olympic sized swimming pool. Scientists have also discovered that humans are carrying far more chemicals than previously thought. And because of this, for example, scientists have learned that some toxins are extremely toxic even at very low levels. Take a look at lead for example, the “safe” limit for lead (which can directly reduce a person’s IQ) has been lowered from 60 micrograms per deciliter (100mls) of blood down to 10 mcg.

And that discovery was only made in 1970! Now imagine for one minute what kind of understanding we will have about heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead, and not to mention all those zillions of chemicals like plastics in our blood forty years from now – in 2050. That’s right, we will have a much better understanding and will wonder how chemical manufacturers actually got away with it all those years. Better living through corruption, lies and corporate greed? The next global crisis may not be in terms of dollars, but chemical toxicity as we drown in our own man made chemical concoctions. Why not become aware of your body’s burden right now and undergo regular annual detoxification of your liver and kidneys? Try to reduce the amount of exposure you have to plastic and chemicals in your life today, I’ll talk more about this later.

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