by Alyssa Cohen
We live in a word consumed by plastic. It is a cheap and convenient material that we use in virtually every aspect of our lives. Water bottles, children’s toys, food packaging– plastic, plastic, and more plastic. However, despite the material’s practicality, it is high time that we, as a nation, take a step back and ask ourselves: Is plastic doing us more harm than good?
Plastic contains a chemical called Bisphenol A, more commonly known as BPA. According to Medicalnewstoday.com, BPA is an endocrine disruptor found in hard plastics that may be linked to heart disease, reproductive disorders, breast cancer, asthma, and type 2 diabetes. Although public authorities in the United States claim to set BPA safety levels, scientists believe that the amount of BPA that a plastic may legally contain should be drastically lowered based upon new research. According to a study performed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), a shocking 95% of adult urine and 93% of children’s urine contained bisphenol A. This study shows that BPA affects nearly every member of our society, therefore if the chemical proves to be as hazardous as it is suspected to be, we are all in over our heads.
“I had no idea what a serious threat BPA posed to our lives before learning about it in my environmental science class,” shared NAHS senior Kyra Siano. “Frankly, I’m very scared.”
However, although BPA contact may seem unpreventable due of our nation’s tremendous reliance upon plastic, it is not entirely unavoidable. In fact, there are many ways you can reduce or even eliminate your BPA intake altogether. The most effective way to remove the chemical from your life would be to limit your day to day usage of plastic. Stainless steel and glass serve as terrific substitutes. For example, instead of storing leftovers or packing your lunch in plastic bags or containers, try keeping your food in mason jars, glass Tupperware, or in a metal thermos.
Additionally, there are also several great alternatives for plastic water bottles. Brands such as Klean Kanteen, Hydroflask, and Yeti offer many terrific options of stainless steel water containers that will keep your drink colder, too.
“Upon learning about the dangers of BPA, I bought a Hydroflask water bottle, and honestly just the knowing that I am drinking out of a safer material makes me feel healthier,” explained senior Neha Doddipalli.
However, although the complete elimination of plastic would be the most ideal way to combat the health risks of BPA, it is not entirely realistic. Therefore, you must consider the kind of plastics you use in your day to day life and whether or not you are using them appropriately.
Most water bottles and other plastic containers have a number from 1-7 that you can find in a small triangle at the bottom of the vessel. This number will determine the toxicity of your container. According to Babygreenthumb.com, you should always avoid using any plastic labeled a 3 or 6 as they are highly toxic. On the contrary, plastics categorized as a 2, 4, and 5 contain minimal chemicals and are typically the safest option. Additionally, plastics labeled a 1 or 7 are safe for single or minimal use, but you must approach these plastics with caution. A 1, for instance, is the usual toxicity number of a Poland Springs water bottle which is safe for one use, however once it is refilled for a second time, the bottle will become poisonous. According to flourishonline.org, after its first use plastics labels as ones, or polyethylene terephthalates, may leach the carcinogen DEHA into your food or water.
Like ones, plastics labeled as a seven, such as the popular Nalgene brand water bottles, can also be quite tricky. For example, a water bottle labeled as seven may be advertised as BPA free, when Bisphenol A has simply been replaced in the plastic for different yet equally dangerous chemicals. North Attleboro High School Senior Angela Firicano shared her experience with plastic categorized as a seven.
“I saw this really pretty water bottle on sale at Marshall’s one time that had ‘BPA free’ printed directly onto the plastic, so I thought buying it would be a safe option,” Firicano said. “I was quite disappointed when a few weeks later, after learning about the danger of BPA in their environmental science class, my friends showed me how to check the toxicity of plastic and I learned that my favorite water bottle ranked as a seven.”
In order to maintain good health, it is essential that we reevaluate the use of plastics in our daily lives. However, even aside from the the personal health risks of BPAs, we must consider the future of the Earth. Plastic is consuming the planet. Unlike substances like paper, glass, and metal, that originate from the Earth and then eventually biodegrade back into the soil, plastic is an entirely man-made compound that will never completely decompose. There is already a rapidly growing island in the Pacific the size of Texas that is exclusively composed of plastic pollution. If we do not exponentially reduce our use of plastic, we may eventually destroy the planet we call home. So make the smart choice for the health of yourself, your loved ones, and your planet and say “nay” to BPAs.