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This post about plastic plates is for anyone who uses plastic in any form, including parents of kids who eat off plastic plates and drink out of plastic cups, at home or at preschool. But wait, this post is also for anybody who struggled with weight gain, who knows somebody whose kids started going through puberty at 10-11, or who knows somebody who has thyroid disorder or breast cancer or infertility. In other words, whether you are concerned about plastic or not, this post is for you.
Plastic Plates in Preschools
If your child is in preschool, the chances are that she/he is eating off plastic plates and drinking out of plastic cups. Plastic is unbreakable, colorful, and cheap. Unfortunately, plastic plates are not as great as they seem to be.
By now, most of us know to stay clear of BPA (Bisphenol A) plastic. BPA is a plasticizer used in some plastic products. BPA mimics the female hormone estrogen, and causes a lot of ill health effects. The good news is that a lot of products are now marketed as being BPA-free. The bad news is that emerging evidence suggests BPA-free plastic is no better than its BPA-containing counterparts.
Why don’t we ask what plastic is made of?
Plastic is made with undisclosed ingredients. We simply do not know what manufacturers put in their plastic products. Some of us know to ask whether a product is BPA-free. But the most important question we should be asking is, “If it doesn’t have BPA, what does it have instead and in addition?” The problem is that there is not enough of us to ask these questions so corporations know if they ignore the questions, their bottom line is still safe.
All plastics leach out synthetic estrogen
George Bittner, Ph.D., a Stanford-educated professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, the founder of CertiChem lab, went a different route. Instead of asking, he tested. He tested a variety of different plastics and reported back that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they were not exposed to conditions known to unlock potentially harmful chemicals, such as the heat of a microwave, the steam of a dishwasher, or the sun’s ultraviolet rays. According to Dr. Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA.
Fight with the $375-billion-dollar-a-year plastics industry
The $375-billion-dollar-a-year plastics industry did not like the findings and launched a campaign to discredit Dr. Bittner’s research and also filed lawsuits against CertiLab and its sister company PlastiPure. In short, the courageous Dr. Bittner is not giving up but his initial $91,000 grant from the National Institute of Health is depleted.
Is the level of leached out estrogens too small to do damage?
You might think that the level of those leached out estrogens is too small to make an impact. Unfortunately, scientific research shows “[t]hese compounds work at very low concentrations — at the parts per trillion or parts per quadrillion level — and when you mix them together they affect estrogenic signaling differently and more dramatically than they do individually.” Also, the same amount of these compounds will affect preschool kids more than adults. Why? Because they eat more food per pound of their body weight so they take on more toxic chemicals per their body weight, and food stays in their digestive tract longer so they absorb more toxic chemicals.
What do estrogen-mimicking chemicals do to us?
These tiny estrogen-mimicking chemicals leached out of plastic disrupt the function of the body’s endocrine (hormone) systems, which may lead to a number of health issues, such as early pubertal development, obesity, decreased male and female fertility, breast cancer, ovarian or prostate cancer, abnormalities in reproductive male organs, immune system diseases, and thyroid disorders to name a few. There is a good chance that you have one of those health problems or know somebody who has one or a few.
How soon do the health problems from plastic show up?
I used to think that those health problems come from age. So why do we have to worry about preschool kids eating off plastic plates? Unfortunately, scientific research shows that early exposure to endocrine disruptors may not manifest itself until later in life. Moreover, the endocrine disruptors may not only affect the offspring but also the offspring of the offspring.
So why bother to do something about plastic?
We were all already affected at some point… I think about reduction of exposure to toxic chemicals as a glass that you do not want to get full. Every time you reduce your exposure, the glass does not gain liquid or even loses it. And I feel great about it. I am very competitive so this is my type of sport.
Do we really need to know that the illness we got came from plastic?
While we can’t say with confidence that this particular illness of yours came from using plastic or that this particular plastic you are using today will cause an illness, do we really have to? Do we really have to look for the ultimate proof of where illnesses came from before we make small changes in our lives? Do we really have to wait when Dr. Bittner wins a fight with the $375-dollar-a-year-industry? I always ask myself about who has the means to win and who has a financial stake in the matter. And I know the answer. Do you know what I mean?
The changes I propose throughout this blog are easy and the changes do not fundamentally change the way we live. You do not have to drop out of society to make the changes. These changes can make us feel good about improving our chances and the chances of our kids to live healthy lives!
Why do I want my son to get a healthy start in life? (just kidding)
I want my son to get the best start in life. That’s why we do not use plastic bottles, plastic food containers, plastic sippy cups, plastic plates, plastic cups, plastic spatulas, plastic jars, plastic coffee-makers at home. Now he goes to preschool. And while I know there are things that will be out of my control and he will be exposed to plastic here and there, not using plastic plates at preschool seems to be an easy place to reduce his exposure to plastic.
We will be healthier and happier (and skinny)
And if we all know about the dangers of plastic and at least are open to idea of changing our habits, we will definitely have healthier kids and we will be healthier too.
In the next post, I will put together a list of the best plastic-free plates, bowls, and cups that can be used in preschool or for camping. Please share this post with anybody who you think might need to know about plastic and plastic plates, even if you are not concerned about plastic yourself. And please drop a note, let me know what you think about plastic or anything.