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How Much Plastic Do You Ingest on a Daily Basis?

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19. July 2021
How Much Plastic Do You Ingest on a Daily Basis? 1 Veronika Mikec je redna študentka, pisateljica blogov in bodoča revolucionarka.
How Much Plastic Do You Ingest on a Daily Basis? 1 Veronika Mikec is a full-time student, writer, and future revolutionary.

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Plastic can be found everywhere – not only in plastic containers and other items found in our homes, but also in the sea, land, even in our food and ourselves! It enters the body mainly during us drinking and eating, and we often come into contact with it only by touch (it is also transmitted through air, water and dust, though). More specifically, it is bisphenol A (BPA) that is used to make polycarbonate plastics. And it poses bigger issues than we thought – the level of BPA in humans has been found to be much higher than initially expected, and has been said to lead to serious health risks.

Polycarbonate plastic is durable, impact resistant, and transparent, which is why it is considered the perfect material to use when producing babies’ drinking bottles, water bottles and many other containers for food and drink. It is also found in lenses, compact discs, dental sealants and plastic cutlery. We can even find it in the protective layer of metal cans. So, it is literally everywhere!

But research has raised concerns about the negative chemical effects that BPA has on human health. Some studies have shown that BPA copies or interferes with the hormone estrogen and consequently affects the reproductive system, which may increase the risk of cancer. Infants and young children are at an even greater risk because they eat and drink more than adults in terms of their weight, making them much more exposed to BPA.

How Does BPA Affect Our Health?

We have already mentioned that polycarbonate plastic affects the reproductive system – however, it causes many more issues. BPA is thought to mimic the structure and function of the hormone estrogen. Due to its shape (which is similar to estrogen), it can bind to estrogen receptors and affect bodily processes such as growth, cell renewal, foetal development, energy levels and reproduction. In addition, BPA can also interact with other hormone receptors, such as those for your thyroid, to alter their function. Your body is sensitive to changes in hormone levels; this is why BPA is able to affect your health.

BPA plastic is also associated with heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while it may also increase the risk of obesity, cause infertility in both men and women, negatively affect infants’ health, and more. BPA exposure can also be associated with the following health problems: polycystic ovary syndrome (BPA levels may be higher in women with this syndrome than in other women), premature birth (women with a higher BPA rate during pregnancy were more likely to give birth before 37 weeks) and asthma (increased prenatal BPA exposure is associated with an increased risk of wheezing in infants less than six months of age).
It also affects liver function (higher BPA levels are associated with a higher risk of abnormal liver enzyme levels), the immune system (elevated BPA levels can contribute to impaired immune function), thyroid function and brain function.

Unfortunately, this is not the complete list of disadvantages brought about by high levels BPA in the human body. There is still a lot to explore, which is why it is so difficult to come up with a practical solution. Nevertheless, we can take some precautions ourselves – keep reading!

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What Is the Easiest Way to Avoid Or Reduce BPA Intake?

This type of plastic is impossible to completely avoid as it is found almost everywhere. While scientists are still looking for the most appropriate solution to the problem, you can take care of your own health. Here are some suggestions on how to reduce the intake of plastic in your body:

  1. Do not use BPA-containing plastic containers for food preparation. You can recognize them by the number 7, sometimes also by the number 3, which are usually stamped on the bottom of the container.
  2. If you do decide to use polycarbonate containers, do not use them to heat up food. Although they are suitable for use in the microwave, plastics can break down over time when heated.
  3. Be picky when it comes to toys! Make sure the plastic toys you buy for your kids are made from a BPA-free material – especially the ones your toddlers are likely to chew or suck on.
  4. Whenever possible, use fresh or frozen food instead of canned food. This way, you’ll avoid the protective layer of polycarbonate plastic that may be found on metal cans.
  5. Use containers made of glass, porcelain, and stainless steel instead of plastic containers. This tip is especially important when serving hot food or drinks.
  6. Before buying baby bottles, make sure they don’t contain BPA – this way you can protect your baby from excessive intake of polycarbonate plastic particles.

Of course, you can avoid BPA while also helping the planet by limiting waste (or even trying out a zero-waste lifestyle) and sustainable alternatives (for example, replace bottles with bottles and replace plastic bags with reusable ones).

According to the evidence, it is best to consciously try to avoid exposure to BPA and other potential toxins from food. Women in the early stages of pregnancy in particular should limit their intake of polycarbonate plastic for both their own and the baby’s health. As for others, occasional drinking from a bottle or eating canned food is not yet a cause for alarm – however, there is no need to overdo it, and it is better to replace plastic packaging with sustainable alternatives.

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