If you are at home right now take a moment to look around you and make a mental list of all the plastics you can see: shirt buttons, computer keys, picture frames, light fixtures, and more. I’m sure you will be surprised to notice that plastics are everywhere.
how to reduce plastic use
It is nearly impossible to avoid plastic in our everyday lives because it is everywhere. Plastic is cheap and versatile but it is made of various chemicals that improve its properties. These chemicals can leach out when exposed to small changes in temperature or light.
Acrylic is found in dentures, blankets, cleaning waxes, diapers, sanitary napkins, carpets, and food processors. It can cause vomiting, loose stools, fatigue, headache, and breathing problems.
BPA is commonly used in making water bottles. It is a potent endocrine disruptor, and since the endocrine system regulates several vital functions of the body, its disruption might cause bad metabolism, problems with digestion, mood swings, sleep disturbances, irregular heartbeat, reproductive problems, impaired immunity, obesity, diabetes, thyroid problems, and hyperactivity.
Formaldehyde is mainly used in building insulation and finishing fabric. Inhaling it causes cough, throat swelling, watery eyes, headaches, difficulty breathing, kin rashes, fatigue, birth deformations, genetic mutations.
Heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, and bromine are added to plastic as fillers, pigments, stabilizers, and retardants. Exposure may cause impaired nervous system, kidney dysfunction, poor mental development.
Phthalates are used as plastic softeners and produce soft vinyl products like surgical gloves, vinyl clothing, footwear, and food wrap. Phthalates are linked to asthma, infertility, developmental problems, endocrine disruption, hormonal imbalances and changes, and I mmune system impairment.
Polystyrene is used in packaging, disposable spoons and forks, disposable serving trays, plates, cups, and clear containers for storing biscuits. It is believed to cause eye, nose, and ear irritation, and dizziness.
PVC is commonly used in packaging food, pacifiers, toys, cosmetic and toiletry containers, tiles, and shower curtains. It can cause birth deformations, bronchitis, ulcers, skin diseases, deafness, vision problems, liver problems, and digestive problems.
Polyethylene is mainly used in making water bottles and soda bottles and is suspected of being carcinogenic.
Polyester is found in sanitary napkins, diapers, bedding, and clothing are made using polyester. It is known to cause eye irritation, respiratory tract problems, skin rashes.
Polyurethane foam is used in mattresses, bedding, cushions, and pillows. It can cause lung problems, bronchitis, coughing, skin rashes, and eye irritation.
Tetrafluoroethylene is used for non-stick coating, plumbing, and ironing boards and can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, as well as breathing difficulty.
It’s almost impossible to remove something so ubiquitous from our homes so the most practical approach to take is to discard the plastic items that are you come into close contact with, such as water bottles or cooking utensils.
Collect as many plastic items from around your home as you can and place them in a pile. Then hold one item in your hands at a time and examine it.
Is it worn out and decaying?
Does it come in contact with food?
Does it come in contact with your body?
What kind of plastic is it?
Just look for the number printed on the bottom the containers. It’s a number from 1 to 7, enclosed in a broken triangle. This symbol closely resembles the recycling symbol but has nothing to do with recyclability.
If you feel you want to keep it then find a place in your home for it. If you suspect that it could be leeching harmful chemicals discard it and replace it with something made from a safer material.
#1. PET (Polyethylene) is safe but don’t reuse or heat.
#2. HPDE (High-Density Polyethylene) is the safest and is okay to reuse.
#3. PVC (Polyvinyl chloride or Vinyl) is not safe because it contains lead, phthalates and dioxin.
#4. LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) is safe and can be reused.
#5. PP (Polypropylene) is safe but do not microwave.
#6. PS (Polystyrene) is not safe because it leaches a neurotoxin known as styrene.
#7. This catch-all category is sometimes safe but watch out for BPA, BPS, or BPAF or other bisphenols.