The Hidden Costs of Plastics: A Closer Look at Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

The Hidden Costs of Plastics: A Closer Look at Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

Researchers have uncovered a significant link between the daily use of plastics and the rising disease burden in the North America. The impact is staggering, with associated costs surpassing $250 billion in 2018 alone.

Understanding the Culprit: Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs):
Plastics, ubiquitous in our daily lives, harbor a range of hormone-disrupting chemicals, including polybrominated diphenylethers, phthalates, bisphenols (associated with immune system issues), and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS, associated with kidney failure and gestational diabetes). These chemicals have been identified as contributors to a spectrum of health issues, spanning from preterm birth to obesity, heart disease, and various cancers.

Researcher Dr. Leonardo Trasande stresses the urgent need for a global initiative to address these concerns. A proposed global plastics treaty by the United Nations Environment Assembly aims to combat plastic pollution comprehensively, encompassing its production, design, and disposal. Scientists also advocate for proactive measures by governments and companies to reduce exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. By doing so, we can potentially mitigate the prevalence of chronic endocrine diseases such as diabetes and obesity.

In the interim, patients can take simple yet impactful steps to minimize exposure to these harmful chemicals. Dr. Trasande suggests reducing plastic use to essentials, opting for alternatives like glass or stainless steel. Avoiding the microwave for plastic containers, limiting canned food consumption, and handwashing plastic food containers are additional measures to consider.

Reducing exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) found in plastics can be achieved through simple, everyday practices. Here are some easy and practical ways that people can limit their exposure:

  1. Use Glass or Stainless Steel Containers: Instead of plastic bottles or containers, opt for glass or stainless steel. These materials do not leach harmful chemicals into food or beverages.
  2. Avoid Microwaving Plastic: Heat can facilitate the leaching of chemicals from plastic into food. Use glass or ceramic containers for microwave heating, and avoid microwaving plastic containers even if they claim to be “microwave-safe.”
  3. Minimize Canned Food Consumption: Canned foods often have a plastic lining containing endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Choosing fresh or frozen alternatives can help reduce exposure.
  4. Handwash Plastic Food Containers: Avoid cleaning plastic containers in machine dishwashers, as the heat and harsh detergents may contribute to chemical leaching. Instead, handwash them with mild soap and water.
  5. Choose BPA-Free Products: Bisphenol A (BPA) is a known endocrine disruptor found in certain plastics. Look for products labeled as BPA-free to reduce exposure to this chemical.
  6. Be Mindful of Plastic Types: Different plastics have varying levels of risk. Plastics labeled with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (often containing BPA) may be more likely to contain EDCs. Choosing products with alternative materials can be a safer option.
  7. Opt for Wooden or Metal Toys: Children’s toys made from plastic may contain EDCs. Choosing toys made from wood or metal can be a safer alternative.
  8. Choose Natural Fiber Clothing: Some synthetic fabrics, especially those treated to be stain-resistant or water-repellent, may contain EDCs. Opt for natural fiber clothing like cotton or wool.
  9. Check Beauty and Personal Care Products: Some cosmetics and personal care products may contain EDCs. Choose products with minimal synthetic chemicals, and consider organic or natural alternatives.
  10. Stay Informed: Keep yourself informed about the latest research on EDCs and plastics. Stay updated on product recalls or safety concerns related to specific items.

By incorporating these practices into daily life, individuals can take proactive steps to reduce their exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and contribute to their overall well-being

1, Leonardo Trasande, Roopa Krithivasan, Kevin Park, Vladislav Obsekov, Michael Belliveau, Chemicals Used in Plastic Materials: An Estimate of the Attributable Disease Burden and Costs in the United States, Journal of the Endocrine Society, Volume 8, Issue 2, February 2024, bvad163, https://doi.org/10.1210/jendso/bvad163

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