How Plastic and Recycling Impacts Our Health

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How Plastic and Recycling Impacts Our Health

Although it's recyclable, plastic is not good for the environment or our health. Most plastic products are designed to be disposable, single-use items. Recycling plastic involves open-air burning that is actually damaging to the environment. The best method of protecting the environment and our health is to avoid plastic in the first place. But it's very hard to do. Over 95% of adults tested had BPA from plastic in their urine, and the FDA has banned BPA from baby products. Plastic is everywhere. Here's why you should be concerned:

BPA study results

BPA has been shown to have harmful health effects. High levels of BPA have been connected with early puberty, male fertility issues, and excessive aggression. Avoiding BPA is almost impossible. Containers for items like vitamins, casein protein powder, and spreadable butter contain BPA. What's most alarming is that BPA is not being treated as a public health concern. Studies have shown that BPA has even been found to be associated with an increased risk of diabetes and even cardiovascular disease. Some countries have banned or limited BPA usage, but the U.S. has largely ignored this issue.

Sacrificing the environment is not the answer

Many pro-plastic interest groups praise recyclability as a key factor for continuing to use and produce plastic products. It's true that recycling is much better for sustainability than tossing everything in a landfill. But to recycle plastic you must melt it. And that involves making a massive open-air fire that releases toxins like BPA into the air. Biodegradable plastic is not much better because it relies on corn and molasses for production. This means to create biodegradable plastic you need to use food items that could otherwise provide nutrition to those in need.

Plastic uses oil

To create plastic, you need oil. Approximately 4% of the total supply of world oil is dedicated to fuel the production of plastic, but some figures show double that amount being used. Keep in mind these figures are for production. Recycling requires more fuel. While it's better to recycle than let things go to a landfill, recycling itself is not good for the environment.

On the other hand, plastic does a lot of incredible things to improve the lives of people all over the world. Plastic has provided tremendous improvements to the quality of life for some people. Here are a few examples of how plastic has been a positive:

Sanitary food and drink containers

Bottles of water, vacuum-sealed foods, and other products in plastic containers can be distributed during natural disasters without fear of contamination. The same goes for food pantries and food scarce cities. Once the plastic is used, lots of developing countries turn to recycling as a means to earn extra money. In this way, recycling stimulates these small economies.

Plastic saves lives

Plastic has changed the medical industry for the better. With single-use IV bags, tubes, and medical devices, hospitals and health care centers are able to keep things sterile for their patients. The packaging from these sterile tools is often recycled. In fact, up to 23% of surgical waste may be recyclable.

There are many pros and cons to plastic and recycling. While environmentalists may say plastic is not a sustainable method of packaging, surgeons in the operating room will certainly disagree. In order to improve the way plastic impacts our health, we need to come up with better ways of producing and recycling plastic. Much of the issues with recycling are similar to the issues with production. For example, using fossil fuels to make or recycle plastic is not ideal. And the potential health hazards from BPA do not seem worth the convenience of plastic.


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Dec 08, 2017 - 12:03 AM by Lynda W

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