4 Lesser Known Reasons Why to Have A Plastic-Free Home
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Plastic-Free Home: Now's the Time
It's a new year! This is probably one of the best times (there's no wrong time, of course) to cultivate a better lifestyle. And for us zero waste enthusiasts, one essential part of improving our day-to-day routine is to go plastic-free.
We've talked about how plastic has become a juggernaut of a problem worldwide. Around 27 million tons of plastic waste are thrown in landfills, while another 8 million tons end up in the ocean.
According to Greenpeace, the oceans are "slowly turning into a plastic soup", which impacts marine life in several ways. Not only do plastic debris kill marine life, they also get mistaken as food. So the overwhelming plastic debris is disheartening, but microplastics are an even deeper problem.
Microplastics contribute to animal starvation (marine creatures' stomachs become filled with the material) and are now practically at every level of the marine food chain. So they do end up in the seafood we consume.
Of course, with the topic of plastic, we know how harmful it is, we just don't have ideal alternatives for some plastic, at least not yet.
4 Lesser Known Reasons Why You Should Start A Plastic-Free Home
1. Plastic Contains Phthalates
Yes, it's a tongue-twister, but phthalates (pronounced "tha-leyts") are a serious health concern for all of us.
Phthalates are a group of industrial chemicals, two types of which (MEHP and DEHP) serve as "plasticizers" - chemicals that make plastic moldable, sturdy, and durable.
Phthalates are in various household and personal care products. These include vinyl products, medical tubes, lubricants, cosmetics, and liquids like solvents, lotions, perfume, and lacquers.
What's the deal about phthalates? Well, there is a growing body of evidence that these chemicals can leach off plastic products. And when humans come into contact, there are serious health consequences.
The surprising finding is that phthalates can elicit genital dysmorphia in males. It's actually termed the" phthalate syndrome". The syndrome includes incomplete testicular descent, smaller testis weight and size, shortened distance between anus and genitals, to name a few. All these characteristics impact the sperm count, amount of testosterone produced in the body, and sperm mobility.
Phthalates are also linked to other health risks, such as obesity. In one study, for instance, mothers had their phthalates metabolites measured during pregnancy. Findings suggest that the phthalate levels in mothers are linked to a faster BMI increase for their newborns - even in 3-month old infants!
So, the short of it? Phthalates are bad. And unfortunately, we are exposed to these chemicals even in utero! Phthalates are everywhere, but minimizing plastic use in a plastic-free home can certainly cut down exposure.
2. Plastic Can Hurt Us At Cellular Level
Want another reason to shift to a plastic-free home? Not only do we have to worry about phthalates leeching off plastics to impact our reproductive and hormonal health. Microplastics are also a significant health concern!
Microplastics are plastic particles that are smaller than 5 millimeters. They are hard to contend with as they are literally everywhere - we ingest and inhale the stuff! And it looks like the impact is more insidious than what we have thought.
A team of researchers reviewed 17 previous studies that measured the toxicity of microplastics on human cells. The review ranked the level of damage microplastics cause from consuming polluted seafood, table salt, and drinking water.
Results suggest that the microplastics we eat can DIRECTLY cause damage to our cells. And it happens in four ways: cells could die, cells or the cell membranes could get damaged, and could trigger an allergic response.
Another interesting finding? Microplastics with irregular shapes cause more cell damage and death than spherical ones. However, most laboratory research focuses on spherical microplastics. This could be why there are some findings that microplastics pose a low risk to our health. But even with varying results, the consensus is singular: microplastics directly affect human health, so prolonged exposure to it (via air and ingestion) should be greatly reduced.
3. Plastic Waste Affects Environment and Health
The sheer amount of waste made of plastic is probably the most familiar issue tied to plastic. All plastic waste management technologies, including incineration, gasification, pyrolysis - result in the release of other toxic substances.
And there are dire consequences that still connect to our health. For instance, recycling activities like a burn pile could produce toxic emissions. This can travel long distances and contaminate soil and water sources. Inhalation of contaminated air, drinking of water, and such will cause gradual accumulation and breakdown of living tissues. So plants, animals, and humans are all vulnerable to these waste byproducts.
Instead of going plastic-free, the world is trying to fix the plastic waste problem with recycling. As a result, the fix brings another set of problems.
4. Plastic Supports the Petrochemical Industry
This isn't put in front of our faces as much as plastic waste killing turtles, but it's worth always mentioning: plastic is derived from fossil fuels. As much as 99% of plastic comes from fossil fuels! The industry is a major reason why we have so much plastic in our environment.
It's well documented how the extraction process for oil and gas releases harmful chemicals into the air. And in significant volumes! Greenhouse gases like carbon and methane? They have dire consequences for our climate, our natural resources, and our health. Aside from these two, over 170 fracking chemicals used to create plastic pellets can cause health problems.
Choosing plastic products means supporting the petroleum industry and all its harmful impacts.
Making A Case For A Plastic-Free Home
We're fortunate that research is now enlightening us about how the convenience of plastic may not be so worth all the hazards it brings.
Consumers now know about the true benefit of plastic-free options for the environment. We've shared here some of the lesser-known issues tied to plastic. The impact of phthalates, microplastics, and plastic production - these all deepen the havoc that versatile plastic causes.
The facts are alarming. But more than scare people, hopefully, such info and findings push lawmakers and us consumers to move faster towards a plastic-free home and society.
Have any thoughts or questions about this article? Tell us what you think in the comments!