Thursday, March 31, 2011

One Word: Plastics - Oh, okay, and Cans....

Cans are lined with plastic...
Ah, The Graduate. One of the best films of all times. Ask anyone who has seen the movie and I bet you they only remember two things about it:

- Mrs. Robinson
- And that unforgettable scene by the pool where Benjamin is lectured to by Mr. McGuire regarding the future. "One word.... plastics."

Turns out Mr. McGuire was right. Plastics was the future - and is the present. Boy, that sounds confusing.

Take 10 seconds and look around you. I bet you have just noticed at least 3 things that never even occurred to you was plastic 10 seconds ago. But yes, plastic is all around.

You see those fingers on the keyboard or the mouse? Yep, there is some plastic in there too. Sounds funny but I'm serious. You are what you eat - and trust me... You eat plastic. And probably every day.

By definition, plastic is a bunch of chemicals. Sadly, some of those chemicals plastics are made out of are not very stable - the most buzzworthy of those is BPA. BPA is moderately soluable. In other words, keeping your flour in a plastic container in your pantry might be okay. Microwaving your lunch in the takeout container? Not so much.

BPA is an "endocrine disruptor" - in other words it messes with your hormonal systems. It is a "xenoestrogen" - a chemical that acts as a strong estrogen. As such, it has been linked to lovely things like estrogen dependent breast cancer, prostate cancer, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and infertility.

93% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. I don't know about you, but I kind of would like to be in that 7%...

A recent (albeit very small) study shows that we can reduce the BPA concentrations in our bodies dramatically by modifying some eating habits. Here is a bit on the study: 

So if you are interested in making changes in your life to reduce your BPA exposure, here are some tips:

  • Never buy acidic foods in cans. I'm talking tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, etc. You can often buy then in jars or why not use fresh tomatoes? And really, just try to get away from using cans all around. 
  • Do not drink soda. (Like you needed another reason)
  • Never eat or drink anything that has touched hot plastic - I'm thinking microwaving your lunch in a plastic container, storing dinner leftovers in plastic while still hot. 
  • Use a ceramic or stainless steel cup for coffee and other hot liquids. Did you know that disposable cups have BPA in them? Yep, that's the lining that keeps the liquid from soaking thru the paper cup. Not to mention the plastic lid where the hot steam deposits, and then falls back into the liquid you are about to drink.
  • Store your leftovers in glass containers whenever possible. 
  • You know the inside of takeout containers? Same as the papercup idea. Lined with BPA.
  • Microwave popcorn - yep, the bag is lined with plastic. That's why the trans fats in the packet don't soak thru the paper bag. 
  • And for heaven's sakes, get rid of those old, beat up, scratched up Nalgene bottles. Glass is the most inert substitute out there but stainless steel will work in a pinch too. Personally, I adore quart mason jars but I realize that screams "Hippie!" from a mile away...
Now, I know that you can't get away from being exposed to BPA alltogether. I mean, really. This is the 21st century. The tops of mason jars are lined too and glass containers have plastic lids. But if you just start paying a little attention to this one known issue, you might have the chance to significantly improve your odds of living a healthier and longer life.

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