Plastics are present in almost every one of the things that are used in today’s society, from the most everyday hygiene objects such as combs, furniture or toys to large means of transport such as airplanes or trains, but above all they can be found in the packaging of the food that is consumed.
The plastic revolution has allowed modern society to advance immeasurably. The malleability of this material, together with its light weight, has allowed it to be used in all kinds of technology and has endowed human beings with achievements that would not have been possible without this polymer.
However, the high exposure of people to plastic is being questioned, since depending on the type it is and the use it is given, it can have harmful consequences for health.
Are plastics safe for health?
This question cannot be answered in an absolute way, since it has a large number of nuances that should be explained.
Most plastics are safe. Sitting in a plastic chair or driving behind the wheel of a passenger car whose cabin is made almost entirely of this material, is no greater problem than if they were made of any other material.
There are many types of plastics, as has been commented, the vast majority of them are completely safe. Those that should be debated are those that are used directly for human consumption, since they are the most sensitive to contaminating the body.
Plastics in food, do they have a negative influence?
That plastics are in question is mainly due to two substances found in many of them: phthalates and bisphenol A.
What is bisphenol A
Bisphenol A, also known as BPA, is an organic chemical that is used in the manufacture of many types of plastics. It is present in countless products for daily use, some even related to food, such as the coating of food cans, bottles, containers or plastic containers.
This substance contaminates the food with which it is in contact, especially if heat is applied to it. By consuming contaminated food or water, the person also ingests their dose of bisphenol A.
Despite being such a widespread substance, its harmlessness to people is questioned, since it has been presented as a powerful endocrine disruptor.
Endocrine disruptors are substances that can function like hormones and interfere with the endocrine system of humans, causing problems that can become very serious.
Regarding the toxic effects of this substance, they have been observed:
- Alterations in the male reproductive system , such as alterations in spermatogenesis, with a decrease in the production of sperm and testosterone, as well as changes in sexual behavior.
- Harmful effects on the female reproductive system , such as decreased oocyte maturation, increased incidence of polycystic ovaries, endometrial disorders, spontaneous abortions, premature births or precocious puberty.
- Alterations on the brain, by interfering with neuronal differentiation.
- Greater incidence of cardiac alterations and hypertension, in addition to a greater accumulation of fat and produce weight gain.
- Thyroid disorders.
- Higher incidence of hormone-related cancers, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.
What are phthalates
Phthalates are chemicals widely used in the manufacture of plastics and, like bisphenol A, can harm human health due to exposure to their pollutants.
Phthalates also act as endocrine disruptors, so you should be cautious with their use and avoid, as much as possible, their contact with food.
Types of plastics
There are different types of plastics, some considered safe and others that are not so safe.
At the base of the containers you can find a coding in the shape of a triangle made of arrows, with some letters or a number.
The numbers 1, 2, 4 and 5 are supposedly safe for health, while those that are coded with the number 3, 6 and 7 are to be avoided.
Plastics marked with the number 3 are PVC compounds and have been linked to different types of cancer and birth defects. They contain phthalates and some of them, bisphenol A.
Those with the number 6 are made of polystyrene, which is considered a carcinogen, since it releases dioxins. The disposable trays in which many foods are deposited are made of this material, so you must be very careful not to heat it.
Those that are coded with the number 7 are polycarbonate plastics and other non-recyclable substances. They contain bisphenol A.
Tips to avoid pollutants in plastics
With careful safety measures, many of the contaminants present in plastics can be avoided.
- It is preferable to avoid plastic containers to store food as much as possible and to choose those made of glass.
- If you use plastic containers to store food, do not heat it inside them in the microwave, but use a plate or a pyrex container.
- It is better to opt for glass containers instead of cans, especially when it comes to acidic foods such as crushed tomatoes.
- Wash plastic containers by hand instead of in the dishwasher, to prevent harmful substances from being released from the heat.
- Do not use plastic bottles.
- Do not drink hot beverages in plastic cups and, above all, avoid cups made of polystyrene (white foam cups from coffee machines).
- Do not reuse plastic bottles.
By adopting these and other simple safety measures, you can significantly reduce your exposure to harmful substances from plastics. The well-being of people will be much greater if they stop receiving toxins in a systematic way through plastics.
Hello Readers, I am Nikki Bella a Psychology student. I have always been concerned about human behavior and the mental processes that lead us to act and think the way we do. My collaboration as an editor in the psychology area of Well Being Pole has allowed me to investigate further and expand my knowledge in the field of mental health; I have also acquired great knowledge about physical health and well-being, two fundamental bases that are directly related and are part of all mental health.