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Plastics In Your Food

Stop Eating Plastics – Here’s How!

If I told you that you eat the equivalent of one plastic credit card per week, would you believe me? Well, according to the University of Newcastle researchers, it’s true!

This post will discuss the latest research on plastics in our food supply, why you should even care, and how to make the right nutrition choices to minimize the amount of plastic that you consume, so you can contribute to your vibrant health and not detract from it.

In case you don’t know, we are eating microplastics. There are two types of microplastics, one is made for industrial purposes….but the one we are going to focus on is the plastic that is generated when larger plastics, like plastic bags or water bottles, break down. Even recycling these plastics creates more microplastics.

So why should you care about microplastics in the first place?

Microplastics may be toxic to humans because they hold endocrine disruptors – this means they can lead to abnormal organ development or harm to unborn babies. Bisphenol A and phthalates, which are synthetic estrogens, migrate easily into the microplastics and take up a permanent residence there.  A group of 25 studies on hormone disruptors in the diet found there was a 200 percent increase in estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer rates in women with high exposure levels. (J NCI, 2019) Microplastics can also change how you break down fat in the body and cause cell damage by increasing oxidative stress and brain cell damage. Just this year, researchers have discovered microplastics in human blood. In a small study, 17 of 22 participants – so about 3 in 4 participants, had plastic in their blood. (Environment International, 2022) So chances are, you do too. And while lab tests show microplastics can damage human cells, including allergic reactions and cell death, there are no population studies right now to prove that microplastics negatively impact human health. But, some researchers are asking: Are the plastics harmless or could they lead to an immune response by the body that causes scarring, fibrosis, or cancer? We don’t have answers yet, but given the fact that a recent analysis identified 2,400 potentially hazardous chemicals in plastics, perhaps it’s time to stop eating so much of them. (California Water Resource Control Board)

So, where do you find microplastics in your food supply? Microplastics are everywhere. In 2014, there were 51 trillion pieces of microplastics in the world’s oceans. I’m not sure who counted that. So, it’s very easy for fish and shellfish to pick up that plastic and carry it with them through the food chain, so when we eat fish to be healthier, we are eating plastic too. Meat is another food source that contains microplastics. Now, some researchers suggest that you have bigger threats out there – that you can inhale more plastic fibers from the air, your clothes, carpets, and furniture than you will if you eat seafood. Sea salt is another culprit and so is beer. You can also get microplastics from personal care products like toothpaste or lipstick.

So rather than take away your favorite tuna fish sandwich or lip gloss.There are several ways you can limit your exposure to microplastics:

Use a reusable water bottle. Doing this alone will make a huge impact because bottled waters hold crazy amounts of microplastics.  Water from plastic bottles has about 2 times the microplastic level of tap water.  Another study found PET, which is associated with stunted growth and lower energy levels, made up six percent of plastics analyzed in bottled waters. Even repeated opening and closing caps on plastic water bottles can cause high accumulations of these plastic particles around the bottleneck, so don’t drink straight from the plastic bottle either. (Water Res, 2019)  

Next, limit your use of plastic in wrapping food at home because the microplastics cling to the food. Ask for cardboard take-out boxes. Bring reusable bags to the grocery store and avoiding purchasing food wrapped in plastic.

Microplastics have been detected in 12 different American beers containing water from the Great Lakes. (Public Lib Sci, 2018) Wine is a better choice here if you like wine.

Up to 90% of all table salts contain microplastics and sea salt according to a more recent study. Salt samples from 21 countries in Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Asia were analyzed, and researchers found only three brands that did not contain microplastics are from Taiwan (a refined sea salt), China (a refined rock salt), and France (an unrefined sea salt produced by solar evaporation). Maybe the big take away here is to avoid salt from Indonesia, where the highest amounts of microplastics have been found. You may want to also avoid salt extracted from seawater too. It is suggested that Himalayan pink salt is the purest salt found on the earth because the lava-covered sea beds have been protected against pollution. (Environmental Sci Technol, 2018)

Finally, switching to reusable items like stainless steel straws when you drink your smoothies, and using sustainably made bags, bamboo items, and reusable mugs can help reduce microplastic pollution. You can do your part, right? Until we find out just how much our bodies detest microplastics, I hope these ideas will get you started and help you keep your credit cards in your wallet and not in your mouth. 

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