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How Do Plastic Impact Human Health?

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Author: Hai Le

Updated on October 19, 2023 • Estimated read time: 5 minutes

While plastic has many benefits, and it's hard to imagine a world without them. There is growing concern about the impact of plastics on our well-being.

From food packaging to household items, plastics have become a part of our daily lives. However, the toxic chemicals used in plastic production and the microplastics that pollute our food and water can harm our health in a variety of ways.

That's why in this blog post, we will explore how do plastic impacts human health, and discuss what we can do to reduce our exposure to this harmful material.

What Is Plastic And Why Does It Affect Human Health?

According to Britannica, plastics are synthetic materials that use polymers as a main ingredient. Plastic is lightweight, durable, and has the capability of being molded or shaped into anything, usually by applying heat and pressure.

So, why does plastic affect our affect human health?

Well, it is important to note that not all plastics are created equal when it comes to their impact on human health. Some plastics, labeled with recycling codes 2, 4, and 5, are considered safer options because they are less likely to leach harmful chemicals into our food and beverages.

On the other hand, plastics labeled with recycling codes 3, 6, and 7 should be used with caution because they are more likely to contain harmful chemicals that can be released into the environment during production, use, and disposal.

Additionally, plastic can also breakdown from larger pieces into smaller tiny pieces of plastic that are less than 5 millimeters, known as microplastics. According to The Guardian, microplastics have been found in human blood, breast milk, and even placentas. They could lead to various health problems, including cancer and reproductive disorders.

Summary: While plastic is a versatile material that comes with many benefits, it also has a significant impact on our human health. This is due to the toxic chemicals being used in plastic production and the microplastics that can get into our food and water supply.

What Are The Health Risks Associated With Plastics?

Exposure to plastic harmful chemicals and microplastics can have a number of negative health effects, including:

Hormone Disruption: According to National Institutes of Health, some plastics contain harmful chemicals that are known to cause endocrine disruptors. They can interfere with the body's hormonal system and can lead to a variety of health problems.

Cancer: According to Breastcancer.org, some of the chemicals in plastic products, such as bisphenol A (BPA), may increase the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Immune System Problems: Another study by the National Institutes of Health claims that exposure to plastic at a certain level can cause damage to tissues and organs and weaken the immune system, making people more susceptible to infections.

Here are a few other potential health risks associated with plastic exposure:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Neurological problems
  • Respiratory problems
  • Digestive problems

Summary: One of the biggest concerns about plastic is its impact on human health. Plastics contain a variety of chemicals, some of which can leach and be absorbed into the human body when we eat or drink. Studies have linked exposure to plastic with a range of health issues, including hormonal disruptions, reproductive problems, cancer, and immune system problems.

Microplastic fish on a white plate with place setting

How Can We Reduce Our Exposure To Harmful Plastics?

While it may be impossible to completely avoid plastics in our modern world, there are a number of things that we can do to reduce our exposure to plastic and protect our health:

  • Avoid Single-Use Plastics: Plastic bags, straws, and water bottles are a major source of plastic pollution and can leach harmful chemicals into our food and drinks.

Tip: Opt for reusable alternatives whenever possible, such as reusable water bottles, stainless steel straws, and reusable shopping bags.

  • Limit Microwaving Food In Plastic Containers: Heat can cause chemicals to melt and leach into your food. So, when microwaving food, avoid using plastic containers.

Tip: For food and beverage containers, choose glass or metal over plastic whenever possible. Glass and metal containers are less likely to leach harmful chemicals into your food and drinks.

  • Avoid Plastic Products That Contain Phthalates, BPA, And Other Harmful Chemicals: These chemicals are known to disrupt the endocrine system and have been linked to a variety of health problems, including cancer and reproductive problems.

Tip: Opt for natural and eco-friendly alternatives to plastic products whenever possible, such as using a sustainable bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic toothbrush.

  • Filter Your Drinking Water: A water filter can help to remove microplastics and other contaminants from your drinking water.

Tip: Use reusable water bottles made from safe materials, such as stainless steel or BPA-free plastic, to help reduce your exposure to unnecessary harmful plastics.

Summary: There are a number of things we can do to reduce our exposure to harmful plastics, such as avoiding single-use plastics and plastic products that contain harmful chemicals, limiting microwaving food in plastic containers, and filtering our drinking water. By following these tips, we can reduce our exposure to plastic and protect our health.

Quick Takeaway

Plastic is a versatile material with many benefits, but it also comes with a cost to our human health. This is due to the toxic chemicals used in plastic production and the microplastics that pollute our food and water.

Exposure to these harmful chemicals and microplastics can have a number of negative health effects, including hormone disruption, cancer, and immune system problems.

Frequently Asked Questions Relate To This Blog:

Question #1: How do we get exposed to plastic?

Answer: There are 2 main way human can be exposed to plastic, first, we may accidentally ingest plastic particles through our food and water. Second, plastic particles can also absorb through our skin, especially when we come into contact with contaminated water or soil.

Question #2: What are the health risks we may face from being exposed to plastic?

Answer: Plastics contain a variety of harmful chemicals that can cost negative health effects when being exposed, some of which can lead to endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, cancer, and immune system problems.

Question #3: What can I do to reduce my exposure to plastic?

Answer: According to Bon Appétit, microplastic can be found in most of our food and water supply. So if you are concerned about being exposure to plastic and plastic being in your drinking water, you can use a water filter to remove them.

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