“Pick a disease, literally pick a disease,” says Frederick vom Saal, a biology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia who studies BPA.
Remember the obnoxious rich guy in It’s a Wonderful Life?
“Plastics! I’m telling you… plastics!” he yelled into the phone, before his signature “heehaw!”
Well, it’s plastics alright. And apparently they are of the devil.
As I’ve started to organicanize my kitchen — paying as close attention to the tools I use to prepare, cook and store my food as I do the food itself — it has become increasingly evident that the 800-lb. carcinogen in the room is plastics.
As Dr. Jen Landa wrote just last week, the studies the FDA touts that downplay the health risks of BPA are most often done in rats while actual studies on humans are ignored.
“A large study reviewing the effects of BPA on human health was published in December, 2013. The authors concluded that there is ‘increasing support that environmental BPA exposure can be harmful to humans’,” she wrote.
The more I look into it the worse it gets. And the more I become aware of it, the more I see it everywhere.
- The containers I store my food
- The containers that store the cleaners
- The utensils I use to prepare my food
- The vessels I use to drink
- The packages that wraps my food
And on and on and on… An NPR article documented still another problem:
“Many plastic products are now marketed as BPA-free, and manufacturers have begun substituting other chemicals whose effects aren’t as well known,” the article stated.
Frankly — to be clear — it freaks the living shit out of me. The more I try to rid myself of it, the more I see it everywhere.
Thankfully, I am not completely nutty nor am I alone. The above sourced, compellingly thorough, Mother Jones article documented one father with similar angst who each morning felt a twinge of guilt when he handed a so-called BPA-free sippy cup to his young daughter Juliette:
The center shipped Juliette’s plastic cup, along with 17 others purchased from Target, Walmart, and Babies R Us, to CertiChem, a lab in Austin, Texas. More than a quarter—including Juliette’s—came back positive for estrogenic activity. These results mirrored the lab’s findings in its broader National Institutes of Health-funded research on BPA-free plastics. CertiChem and its founder, George Bittner, who is also a professor of neurobiology at the University of Texas-Austin, had recently coauthored a paper in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives. It reported that “almost all” commercially available plastics that were tested leached synthetic estrogens—even when they weren’t 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 Bittner’s research, some BPA-free products actually released synthetic estrogens that were more potent than BPA. …
So much for BPA-free, where much of the information is blitzed in a PR campaign that Mother Jones compares to the same tobacco strategies employed for years.
“It can be difficult for consumers to tell what is really safe,” the vice president of Eastman’s specialty plastics division, Lucian Boldea, said in one web video, before an image of a pregnant woman flickered across the screen. With Tritan, he added, “consumers can feel confident that the material used in their products is free of estrogenic activity.”
In March 2011, the Environmental Health Perspectives paper by Jordan and researchers from CertiChem and PlastiPure appeared online. They’d tested 455 store-bought food containers and storage products, including several made from Tritan. The results? Seventy-two percent leached synthetic estrogens. And every type of plastic commonly used in food packaging (polypropylene and polystyrene, for example) tested positive in some cases, which suggested there was no surefire way to avoid exposure.
Are you starting to see the picture here?
It’s actually very clear once you take just a moment to wipe away the steam on the window obscuring your view because we’ve seen this page played out so many times.
Remember cigarettes? They were once ubiquitous. Everyone smoked in ads, TV shows, movies, cocktail hours, bars, etc. And for years and years health advocates argued that this thing was killing people. “Study” after study contended the risks were negligible.
I recall plainly moving from the West Coast to tobacco country in the south. A news editor of a daily paper told me he only smoked eight, carefully counted, cigarettes each day because of a study that said eight or less had no adverse health effect. This was in the year 2001, not 1971 and this was a very, very smart guy. Such was the nature of the propaganda.
It was also no coincidence that in 2001 a pack of smokes cost about $2.50 in Virginia and $6.00 in New York. Which stated had virtually every politician receiving campaign financing from tobacco companies? Any guess?
Eventually the trial lawyers attacked. Billions in lawsuits settled made a lot of lawyers wealthy from money paid by very, very wealthy tobacco companies, who paid for political lobbies to pad campaign election accounts. Everyone got paid, including the state governments who sued the companies for a piece of the action adding tobacco lawsuit money to its budgets. Everyone got paid… for a very long time except for the millions of people who died.
Asbestos? Same thing, though there the lawsuits and death tolls so significant companies actually went belly up from the pressure of the lawsuits.
And so it goes from one product or chemical to the next with money circulating among the wealthy while everyone else gets sick and dies. Saturation always delays the eventual push back. The more we need a product, or believe we need it, the less likely we are to listen to the health risk it causes, just like the news editor I knew.
Look around your house? What do you need more than plastic?
BPA may well be the next asbestos or tobacco. As the professor said, “Pick a disease, literally pick a disease.”
It won’t be cheap to replace all these things. Finding safer products that still work won’t be easy. I welcome your ideas in the comments below. Environmentally safe storage containers aren’t cheap, especially ones that are truly safe. Taking more time to heat food rather than hyper-heating a BPA-leaching product in the microwave is a hard habit to break.
In days to come I’ll rid and replace one by one until the kitchen is truly BPA free, or at least close to it. Before I replace my spatulas I’ll research the most cost-effective solution and post it here. So too my rubber scrapers and plastic storage containers and travel mugs and water bottles and … you get my point. This isn’t going to be easy… or cheap… or convenient.
But the health of me and my family is worth it. Yours is too. I hope this helps.