I've been writing for the past year about the toxic chemicals in our stuff, most notably the endocrine disrupter BPA, found not just in plastics, like water bottles, and in the linings of cans of food, but in cash register receipt paper and on dollar bills. It seems like every week brings news of toxic chemicals where we least expect them. Just recently we learned about formaldehyde on wrinkle-free fabrics. I was beginning to wonder, wearily, if I was becoming paranoid about plastic?
Not scared enough, it turns out. Here's a link to an NPR report on plastics warning us that even BPA-free plastic isn't safe, because of the many other estrogen-like compounds that enter plastics during the manufacturing process.
Not only are many plastics made with toxic chemicals, but we're trashing the planet with plastic. Plastic doesn't biodegrade. Most of it isn't recycled. Tons of it ends up in the oceans, where it does great harm to wildlife--and returns to our bodies when we eat their flesh.
Beth Terry, the creator of the blog Fake Plastic Fish, did an excellent video about cutting plastic consumption. I admire people who undertake such --well, I was about to say Quixotic endeavors, but she was effective. She cut her plastic consumption radically. I watched her video. It made me much more aware of how much plastic comes home with me--and then goes into the recycling bin. I decided to try an experiment to break the Plastic Cycle: I would take no plastic into the house for a week.
I lasted two days.
However, I'm going to try again--and again. Awareness is the beginning of change.
"Aw, come on, trace elements...", you're thinking. But it is hard to ignore what serious scientists have to say about BPA--what a terrible poison it is, and how we end up ingesting it when it migrates into water and food. When a level-headed scientist warns you that he is trying to keep it out of his own home, that's enough for me.
I've had kidney cancer--and that has made me want to be careful about toxins. (I write about the cancer in Slow Love, and I'm fine now.) But I'm having a hard time getting the information I need to make smart choices. Why? The chemical industry doesn't want us to know the facts. We have no idea what is in our stuff. There are no lists of ingredients on plastic items--even though those ingredients get into our food, mandated by the FDA and USDA to list ingredients! Unintentional toxins don't count, I suppose.
Why should I be trying to figure out what has poison in it, and what doesn't? I don't run a lab; I don't have access to testing facilities. It is impossible for me to know the facts without the help of scientists who are not on chemical industry payrolls. Why is our safety up to us, the consumers? Why are all chemicals innocent until proven guilty? We can only know that after they have affected us!
Until the chemicals in plastics are proven safe, I'm going to assume that they are not good for me or my children. I'm going to rid my house of plastic, and use glass to store food and drink.
My colleague at the Environmental Defense Fund, Richard Denison, has done a heroic job in his excellent blog covering the toxins we're exposed to every day and the efforts for--and against--reform. His blog is a must-read. To find out what you can do to let Congress know that you don't want toxic chemicals in your stuff, visit the I Am Not a Guinea Pig Campaign, watch their video, and learn about how to support desperately-needed reform of the chemicals industry.