Why Plastic + Hormones Don't Mix
I’ve been shouting from the rooftops lately about plastic pollution for two main reasons: the environment and our hormones!
Yep, plastic is toxic to Mother Earth and our own physiology - let's jump in.
the plastic problem
I honestly cannot imagine our world without plastic. Everywhere I look, I see something plastic. Just near my desk: the cap on my essential oil bottle, pens, phone case, lighter for candles, even my contacts! Sadly, it’s everywhere.
Plastic use has been around for centuries but has slowly evolved to being nearly all synthetic plastic. There are thousands of types, all with different structures and purposes. In general, they are polymers made from carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, chlorine, and sulfur (1).
The creation of plastic has been beneficial in many ways with medical equipment and technology. Despite the pros, our dependence on plastic is out of control. Nearly everything is packaged in plastic. Most processed foods, beauty and cleaning products, infant formula, pet supplies, and even single cucumbers *eye roll*.
These plastics are piling up and polluting the land and oceans. These chemicals are also building up in our bodies at the microscopic level and potentially causing serious health issues.
how does it affect hormones?
DO THE LETTERS BPA RING A BELL?
Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a compound commonly found in plastic that has been found to mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen. A few years ago, news about the harmful effects of BPA swept across the nation and caused a ruckus.
Research has found associations between this type of plastic and reproductive issues including decreased sperm count, miscarriages, premature delivery, and increased inflammation (2).
*Note: Most research of BPA has been done on rodents and only associations have been drawn in humans.
Manufacturers quickly responded by making BPA-free materials. This change came with a huge sigh of relief as everyone was coming into contact with this chemical at an all-time high. There is still a huge problem here though.
When manufacturers removed BPA, they replaced it with a similar compound called bisphenol-S (BPS). Not surprisingly, this has also been found to leach from the plastic into our bodies. The best way to avoid any of this nonsense is to ditch plastic whenever possible (see my tips below).
HOW ABOUT PHTHALATES?
Phthalates are another group of estrogenic compounds used to make plastic more flexible.
These are commonly used in cosmetics, perfumes, shampoos, soaps, air fresheners, nail polish, plastic-wrapped foods (especially fatty foods like meats and cheeses), and even in pesticides.
These also interfere with both male and female reproductive health. One study found males with phthalate exposure had a 20% decreased fertility rate (3). Research also shows that these chemicals can be passed from mother to baby through the placenta, which is why I definitely recommend pregnant women avoid these chemicals.
what you can do
CHOOSE A METAL OR GLASS REUSABLE WATER BOTTLE/CUP
The upswing on the reusable container trend brings so much joy to my heart because it means less waste and even more eco-friendly options. Sadly, many of the popular reusable bottles are made from plastic, which can be harmful even if BPA-free.
Metal containers are an awesome alternative because they keep liquids hot or cold. My favorite is Healthy Human ( head here to receive 15% off your first order)! I recently discovered some beautiful glass bottles created by Sand Cloud + they donate 10% of profits to marine conservation efforts.
IF MICROWAVING FOOD, DITCH THE PLASTIC
I shudder when I think back on the days I microwaved my food in plastic tupperware. I have since learned that plastic is much more likely to leach harmful chemicals when heated.
Instead, transfer to a plate or a microwave-safe glass container first (or reheat on the stove or in the oven). With the same thought in mind, make sure to thoroughly cool food before storing in any plastic containers!
If possible, I suggest transitioning to glass storage containers. These are much more durable and reheat with no problem!
CHOOSE BETTER BEAUTY + HOME PRODUCTS
Thankfully, more people are becoming aware of these toxic chemicals, and companies are making changes. There are countless non-toxic skincare, make-up, cleaning, period, and home products to choose from (and they don’t always need to break your bank).
Memorizing specific ingredients to avoid and comparing products in store is a pain. Instead, I recommend checking out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. I love this site because you can type in nearly any beauty product and it will rate it based on safety. It’s easy to make an informed decision this way and avoid BPA, phthalates, and other plastics.
Thrive Market is another one of my favorite resources for better products at wholesale prices. Plus, it’s is easy to shop by various values (e.g. vegan or gluten-free).
Although it’s basically impossible to avoid plastic altogether in today’s world, every effort we make is better for the planet and for our health. Do you have any resources you love for healthier products? I’d love to hear in the comments!
How Plastics Are Made. https://plastics.americanchemistry.com/How-Plastics-Are-Made/. Accessed July 17, 2018.
Rubin BS. Bisphenol A: An endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2011;127(1):27-34. doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2011.05.002
Buck Louis GM, Sundaram R, Sweeney AM, Schisterman EF, Maisog J, Kannan K. Urinary bisphenol A, phthalates, and couple fecundity: the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study. Fertil Steril. 2014;101(5):1359-1366. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2014.01.022