The negative impact of plastic on the environment is widely known, however awareness of the risks it poses to health is limited. The use of toxins such as BPA in plastic food containers can have serious and lasting damage on health, especially that of children. This article sheds a bit of light on the health hazards related to plastic lunch boxes and plastic bottles.
BPA, BPS and BPH
You might have heard of BPA, or bisphenol A, a chemical commonly used in food containers, baby bottles and other plastic products. 92% of non-industry funded studies have found significant negative effects of BPA exposure. That is because BPA is said to mimic the structure and function of the hormone estrogen, leading to hormonal malfunction.
The negative effects are mostly related to infants and young children and include risks to:
- Fertility: several studies show that BPA can negatively affect both male and female fertility, increasing the risk of miscarriages and decreasing egg and sperm production.
- Infant growth: most studies have observed that babies born to mothers exposed to BPA at work weigh up to 0.2kg less than children of unexposed mothers.
- Heart disease and diabetes: studies report a 27–135% greater risk of high blood pressure in people with high BPA levels, while higher BPA levels were linked to a 68–130% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
- BPA exposure has also been linked to several other health problems, such as issues with brain, liver, thyroid, and immune function.
Those risks have been recognized in Europe, Canada and the US, with most of these regions banning the use of BPA in baby bottles. However, the industry has replaced BPA by similar chemicals in the form of BPS and BPH (bisphenol S and H), thus not solving the underlying issue.
Plastic contamination is widespread in bottled water as shown by a study published in Frontiers in Chemistry that analyzed samples taken from 259 bottled waters sold in several countries and found that 93% of them contained “microplastic”. This resulted in an ongoing investigation by the World Health Organization into the safety of plastic bottled water.
Although it is not yet clear whether microplastics pose a risk to human health, several studies have found correlation between higher levels of microplastics in the body and the risk of obesity, diabetes, hearth disease, cancer and reproductive problems.
Interestingly, studies showed a much higher level of microplastic contamination in bottled water than in tap water, indicating that it might be much safer to drink from tap than from water bottles marketed as cleaner.
How to avoid exposure?
Although staying away from BPA and microplastics completely might be impossible, there are simple ways of considerably reducing your exposure:
- Avoid packaged foods: eat mostly fresh, whole foods while staying away from canned foods and foods packaged in plastic containers.
- Drink from glass bottles: buy drinks coming in glass bottles or cans.
- Be selective with toys: make sure that plastic toys you buy for your children, especially those that are likely to be chewed or sucked on, are made from BPA-free material. Consider buying wooden toys instead.
- Don't microwave plastic: microwaving plastic increases the amount of BPA released in food, therefore use glass containers to microwave and store food.
At KAMi, we care about your health by providing you with a wide range of BPA-free products. Less plastic, more fish!