A sharp mind and the ability to think critically are imperative to your performance, especially in this disrupted work-life today.
The pandemic changed how we work and live. One byproduct is the increase in plastic waste. In Singapore alone, a survey reported in June 2020 estimated that an extra 1,334 tonnes of plastic waste, equivalent to the weight of 92 double-decker buses, was generated from takeaway and delivery meals during the two-month circuit breaker period from April to May 2020.
The increased use of plastic food containers has raised alarm bells globally. Apart from threatening sustainability, here is another reason to think again when you choose to store food in plastic containers.
Plastics contain many “hormone disruptors,” or “endocrine-disrupting chemicals, EDCs.” These are chemicals known to interrupt hormones and threaten our health. These hormone disruptors are linked to development, brain, reproductive, immune, and metabolic health.
BPA (Bisphenol A) and phthalate are two “hormone disruptors” that are sometimes referred to as “everywhere chemicals,” as they are everywhere in our lives.
BPA is found in food storage containers, water bottles, eyeglasses, and food and beverage can linings. Studies have suggested links between BPA exposure in humans and thyroid functions, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast cancer.
In 2008, researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine, Connecticut, and Ontario Veterinary College, Canada, tried to understand how BPA may affect the human brain by working with primates. They found that BPA causes loss of connections between brain cells in primates and may disrupt memory, learning, and lead to depression.
A new study by scientists at University Bayreuth in Germany found evidence suggesting BPA could possibly cause nerve damage in the brain. According to the team, the damage doesn’t happen immediately, but over time through small exposures of BPA.
Phthalates are also found in plastic packaging and products such as deodorant, cosmetics, toys, household cleaners, and car interiors. Many studies have linked phthalates exposure to asthma, diabetes, ADHD, autism, male reproductive health, and low IQ and neurodevelopment in children of mothers that had high prenatal exposure.
A very recent study led by Melanie Jacobson from the New York University School of Medicine published in the peer-reviewed journal The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggests that phthalates may influence hormone shifts during pregnancy and contribute to postpartum depression.
The truth is, as there are at least one thousand known EDC in our surroundings, it is almost impossible to avoid them. Apart from food packaging, EDCs are also in pesticides, herbicides, pipes lined with PVC, and much more.
Plastic use is not only an environmental issue but also a pressing health threat. Early life exposures can lead to health adversaries in later years. We know that maternal exposure can impact fetus development and the child’s future health. Ongoing research is looking at its transgenerational impact and how it may affect humans in years to come.
Scientists are encouraged to keep searching for safer alternatives, and retailers are trying to launch initiatives to help consumers make conscious choices.
Here are some things we, as consumers, can do to take matters into our homes to reduce exposure to BPA and phthalates:
• Choose fragrant and perfume-free personal care products
• MInimize use of chemical products, particularly indoors
• Do not heat plastic containers in the microwave
• When possible, use glass, porcelain, and stainless steel food containers
• Avoid storing food in plastic containers and cans in warm areas
• Look for BPA and phthalates free products
• When using plastic containers, look for those marked #2, #4, 5 and avoid those marked #3, #6, #7 and PVC
• Keep rooms well ventilated, aired, dusted, and cleaned.