Told You So

I hate to say “I told you so,” but I told you so. Actually that’s not true. I don’t hate it, I really like saying “I told you so” because it makes me sound so smart and prophetic. Anyway, I told you so. I knew 20 years ago that plastic containers were a bad idea for food and beverages. I told everyone I knew, but did anyone listen to me? That would be a big NO.  But now I’ve been proven right, finally. In the last few years, report after report has come out against the use of plastic bottles, usually for environmental reasons. My reasons were not environmental, but health related. And now there are reports surfacing that plastic food and beverage containers could be a danger to our health. Yep, I told you so. (Man, I love saying that!)

So how did I know years and years ago that plastic wasn’t such a great idea for food and beverages? Easy. I used common sense. I’m far from a scientist or health expert; I flunked Mister Wizard and Bill Nye the Science Guy on TV. I’m no soothsayer or prophet either. However, as far fetched as it might sound, I was blessed with a working brain. And through the years as I saw the proliferation of plastic being used for everything from ketchup to peanut butter to water, my brain had a conversation with my gut and they agreed… plastic containers for food and beverages can’t be a good thing for people.

Plastic, you see, is made from petroleum, which is processed under heat with other chemicals. The molecules in plastic break down and seeps into whatever is contained within it. Those chemical molecules absorb into the liquid or food which is kept in the plastic container. Then you drink from it or eat from it and who knows what effect that might have in your body.

Lots of people think that plastic water bottles are clean and safe to drink from, but it ain’t necessarily so. Most water bottles have something called Bisphenol A, which is an organic compound present in polycarbonate plastic. There have been tests, and they have shown that Bisphenol A goes into the liquid that is in it. This means that the water bottles that many people drink can have harmful chemicals in them.

The current (June) issue of Men’s Journal states that Bisphenol A (BPA) can cause cancer and other illnesses. Not only that, but even water bottles that are so-called BPA-free can often contain other chemicals that act in the same way – leaching into foods and drinks. These chemicals are absorbed into the body and mimic the hormone estrogen, increasing the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, and reproductive problems.

The article goes on to cite a study which showed that phthalates, a compound found in plastics, were linked to a 20% reduction in male fertility. CertiChem, a plastics testing company (yes, there are such things), has tested over 450 products and found that nearly all, even those labeled as BPA-free, leached chemicals that mimicked estrogen. Some experts have said that there is no such thing as a totally safe plastic; some are just safer than others.

No one knows for sure what the ultimate damage may be to a person’s health after years and years of consuming drinks and food packaged in plastic.  Michael Green, executive director of the Center for Environmental Health said, “We’re doing an unplanned, intentional science experiment on ourselves.” Plastic is so pervasive in everything we use today, it’s almost impossible to avoid it. Think about what’s packaged in plastic: baby bottles, sippy cups, cheese, meat, toothpaste, mouthwash, bread, milk, every kind of condiment, even soft drink and beer cans are lined with it.

Men’s Journal recommends avoiding water bottled in plastic and drinking only tap water instead. Studies have shown that tap water contains fewer contaminants than bottled water. That’s something I always did. I never used bottled water when I could drink tap water.

Thinking back, it was probably peanut butter in plastic jars that first clued me in to the wrong-headedness of plastic containers. I noticed after opening the plastic container that the peanut butter would take on a rancid smell in a relatively short period of time. That never was the case with glass jars. If it happens with peanut butter, it’s got to happen with other foods and drinks as well.

You can’t avoid all of it, but you can try to limit your exposure to plastic has much as possible. Buy stuff in glass bottles and jars when you can. Use aluminum foil or waxed paper to cover leftovers instead of plastic wrap. Microwave your food in glass, not plastic. Think before you buy household appliances, check to see if they are mostly made of stainless steel instead of plastic. Use common sense.

And always remember the most important thing of all … I told you so.        

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