What Is Wrong With Plastics?
Which Plastics Are “Safer”?
The Most Dangerous Plastic.
Safe, Renewable, Biodegradable Plastics.
by CS Sherin
March 3, 2016
Photo: Kamilo Beach Algalita.org
What Is Wrong With Plastic?
1. Most plastics are not biodegradable and never totally break down or go away. According to the EPA, “Every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”
2. Plastic breaks down. And, it does break down quickly in water. Yet, plastics never totally break down. Lifespan estimates….Diapers: 450 years. Plastic bottle: 450 years. Fishing line: 600 years. Plastic Bags: 500-1,000 years.
3. A lot of plastics leach harmful chemicals/toxins into food, water, air, via heat – that cause and/or are linked to serious health problems like reproductive and developmental disruption, cancers, respiratory and immune health being compromised, obesity, nervous system effects.
4. Plastics are all that is available in many regions for humans to use. Plastics are, in a way, forced especially on humans with little economical freedom or power, who may give little thought to the serious issues with single use plastics.
5. Plastics break down over time into microplastic (pieces that are smaller than 2/10 of an inch to microscopic) that is compromising the health and well-being of bodies of water, and all life that depends on it, all around the world.
6. Microplastic pollution has entered our food chain and our bodies. Plankton and other sea creatures mistake plastic for food or eat creatures that have mistaken it for food.
7. As much as 1.7 million particles of microplastic were reported to be found in Lake Erie alone in 2013.
(Source: American Chemical Society 04/08/2013)
8. Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die each year due to plastic pollution. More than 1 million sea birds die each year from ocean pollution via ingestion or entanglement.
9. “Rob Krebs of the American Plastics Council says that people value plastics for exactly what creates the most problems in bodies of water and on lands: their durability.” – Claire Le Guern Lytle, Plastic-Pollution.org
Humans are constantly and recklessly consuming and wasting plastics daily as if it is limitless disposable, sustainable, and completely harmless. Which it isn’t.
10. Plastic is sourced from crude oil and byproducts of natural gas and petroleum. Plastic is not renewable, sustainable, or healthy for anyone.
Photo: Chris Jordan. Albatross at Midway Atoll Refuge.
Which Plastics Are “Safer”?
Actually, no plastic is healthy or safer for the environment in the short or long-term at this point. Many of the following plastics kill and harm wildlife every day, and pollute waters to a state of crisis. However, out of all plastics the following are considered safer than most during use by humans: Numbers: 2, 4, 5.
(These numbers are a system used in the United States to identify different types of plastics and separate them into groups for recycling purposes.)
#2 Plastics: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE). Thick and opaque. Opaque drink containers like milk, water, juice; bleach, detergent and shampoo bottles, garbage bags, yogurt and other food containers, frozen food bags, cereal box liners, hard hats, hula hoops, cosmetics, motor oil containers, grocery and shopping bags. Limit refills with this plastic. Considered a low hazard plastic, yet most plastics have been found to release estrogenic chemicals, which are suspected to cause health problems and alter the structure of human cells. Can be recycled only once.
#4 Plastics: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE). Soft and flexible. Frozen food bags, plastic wraps, squeezable bottles, bread bags, grocery/shopping bags, trash bags, shrink-wrap, coating for paper cartons and hot and cold beverage cups, container lids, toys, dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, shrink-wrap. Can be recycled into new products.
#5 Plastics: Polypropylene (PP). Hard but flexible. Condiment containers, yogurt, ice cream and butter containers, medicine and syrup bottles, bottle caps and closures, reusable bags, injection molding, drinking straws, opaque plastic storage containers, salad bar containers, diapers, baby bottles.
The Most Dangerous Plastics
(Aside from out of control waste and pollution of all plastics, especially single use.)
AVOID plastic numbers: 1, 3, 6, (and some of 7)
Nylon: Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE). Thin and clear usually. Water and drink bottles, single use bottles, jelly, pickles, chewing gum, coffee stirrer, plastic bags, toys, mouthwash, peanut butter, salad dressing, cooking oils, microwavable trays, soda pop, detergent, cleaning containers. Can be recycled into fabric, carpet, plastic lumber, toys.
Never re-use or heat #1 bottles!
A suspected source of cancers. Shown to leach endocrine disruptors into food in high temperatures. Heat causes toxic leaching.
Antimony is leached. The Center for Disease Control states that antimony causes: acute and chronic health issues: diarrhea, vomiting, stomach ulcers. Storage at 85 degrees for 1.3 days is enough for toxicity. – Dvorsky & Bennington-Castro; see full source below.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC, Vinyl). Rigid or Flexible. Used in deli packaging, blister packs, pill storage, bags for bedding, tamper resistant lids, toiletries containers, crib bumpers, cosmetics, pacifiers, floor tiles, shower curtains, garden hoses, outdoor furniture, siding, auto upholstery, inflatable pools, bath tub toys, table cloths, children’s bags, PVC pipes, water pipes, toys, bibs, mattress covers, commercial grade plastic wrap, shoes, clear food and non-food containers/packaging, plastic wrap, some squeeze bottles, shampoo bottles, cooking oil, peanut butter jars, detergent/cleaning bottles, shower curtains, medical tubing, construction products.
Avoid this plastic! Not recommended for food storage!
Leaches endocrine disruptors, DEHP and/or BBzP, linked to reproduction and developmental disruption, asthma, allergies, cancers, and negative effects on liver, kidney, spleen, bone formation and body weight. DEHP is banned in Europe in toys for kids under 3 years of age. Leaches chemicals into water. Can cause: genetic changes, chronic bronchitis, ulcers, skin diseases, deafness, vision failure, indigestion, liver dysfunction. PVC is linked to asthma in children. Dioxins are during the manufacture of materials containing chlorine, including PVC and other chlorinated plastic. Dioxin is a known cause of cancer. harmful to humans, animals and environment.
Can contain phthalates to soften it. Phthalates are synthetic hormone chemicals used to make plastics. They are known to disrupt the endocrine system: hormonal, reproductive, and developmental disruption. Not easily recycled.
“A characterization by the National Institute of Standards and Technology of cancer causing potential evaluated dioxin as over 10,000 times more potent than the next highest chemical (diethanol amine), half a million times more than arsenic, and a million or more times greater than all others.” – Claire Le Guern Lytle, “FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC”, Plastic-Pollution.org
Polystyrene (PS). Rigid, light. Used in Styrofoam containers, clear bakery containers, packaging peanuts, clam shell containers, foam packaging, CD/DVD cases, building insulation, floatation devices, ice buckets, wall tile, paints, serving trays, hot drink cups, toys, egg cartons, disposable cups, bowls, take out food containers, plastic utensils, compact disc cases, boxes, cups.
AVOID this plastic.
Leaches toxic styrene when in contact with warm food, drinks, alcohol, oils, and acidic foods… – an endocrine (hormone) disruptor and known neurotoxin. Migrates to food and stores in body fat. Elevated rates of lymphatic and hematopoietic cancers for workers.
NOT recommended for use at all!
A Separate Miscellaneous Category of Plastics: #7
Other plastics combinations, Polycarbonate, bio-plastics. Any plastics and combination of plastics not in the first six number categories. This includes dangerous plastics and the safer, renewable bio-degradable bio-plastics. Polycarbonate is included in this category. The endocrine disruptor BPA is found in polycarbonate and epoxy and is not recommended for food storage. It is linked to cancers, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, and immune function being compromised. As an endocrine disruptor, it is linked to reproductive and developmental disruptions as well.
“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.” – The Scary New Evidence on BPA Free Plastics, by Mariah Blake, March/April 2014, Mother Jones magazine.
Polyester is used for bedding, clothing, disposable diapers, food packaging, tampons, upholstery.
Can cause eye and respiratory tract irritation and acute skin rashes.
Urea-formaldehyde is used for
resin sealant, particle board, plywood, building insulation, fabric finishes.
Formaldehyde is linked to cancer and has been shown to cause birth defects and genetic changes.
Inhaling formaldehyde can cause cough, swelling of the throat, watery eyes, breathing problems, headaches, rashes, tiredness.
Polyurethane Foam is used for
cushions, mattresses, pillows.
Can cause bronchitis, coughing, skin, and eye problems.
Can release toluene disocyanate which can produce severe lung problems.
Acrylic is used for
clothing, blankets, carpets made from acrylic fibers, adhesives, contact lenses, dentures, floor waxes, food prep equipment, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins, paints.
Can cause breathing difficulties, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, weakness, headache and fatigue.
Tetrafluoroethelyne is used for
non-stick cookware, clothes irons, ironing board covers, plumbing and tools: can irritate eyes, nose and throat and can cause breathing difficulties.
Bio-based plastics are or can be made from renewable sources such as:
corn, potato, sugar, mushroom, bamboo, hemp.
While biodegradable plastics give us hope and need to be implemented, there is a great danger of continuing the pattern of reckless consumption and daily copious waste as we replace them with bio-plastics. Nevertheless, bio-plastics are a positive and necessary immediate path along with changing habits, lifestyle, networking, and working together to clean up.
Basic human lifestyle patterns need to change substantially. Of great importance is for humans, businesses, etc. to stop living in a way that is constantly and recklessly consuming, wasting, and polluting. Humans need to now refuse not only single use plastic, but also consumerism and the label and practice of “consumer”.
CS Sherin, WildClover.org. 2016©
- Plastic-Pollution.org Claire Le Guern Lytle n.d. “When The Mermaids Cry: The Great Plastic Tide” under “FACTS ABOUT PLASTIC”.
- Amercian Chemical Society ACS.org
- George Dvorsky & Joseph Bennington-Castro. 03/28/13. Daily Explainer. io9.gizmodo.com “How to Recognize the Plastics that are Hazardous to Your Health”