Thursday, March 14, 2013

I LOVE Plastic, I eat it every day!

And so do you!  Plastic is everywhere, the defining product of our throwaway society today is plastic.  It is everywhere, and it is poisoning our environment as well as our actual bodies.  Plastic unfortunately, is not inert, and in fact does breakdown giving off gases and chemical compounds that infiltrate the products that are packaged in the plastic, and then after being discarded, the plastics continue to pollute the environment with their byproducts and the actual plastic litter itself. 

There is an estimated 22 billion pounds of plastic made every year, 50% of which ends up in landfills.  About 45% of the remainder ends up in the environment as litter, eventually being washed out to the sea where it breaks apart by wave action and friction to become huge floating trash islands. These are formed by the action of currents that form whirlpool like effects called gyres that aggregate the trash into the piles that are in the case of the north Pacific, almost three hundred thousand square miles in size.  The UN estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of ocean.  It is huge, and consists of not only large floating plastic trash, but primarily of small pieces of plastic down to nearly microscopic in size, all broken down by the action of the oceans.  The problems with the all this floating trash in various stages of degredation are that it all looks like food to marine life.  Turtles, fish, whales, everything, eats the stuff.  One of the most horrific movies EVER made is Midway, the Movie, by Chris Jordan.  You can watch the 3 minute trailer for it here. (Trailer)  It shows birds on Midway island and the effects of living near the Great Pacific Trash Vortex.  Watch the trailer, you will never buy another plastic bottle of water again.

So marine life eats plastic, but you don't right?  Wrong.  Plastics do in fact breakdown right after being heated to form whatever product they are to be manufactured into.  Some of the chemicals that are given off are bisphenol-A, BPA and pthalates.  BPA is linked to disruption of embryonic development, heart disease and cancer.  Pthalates dysregulate gene expression and cause genital anomalies, especially in baby boys, that may pass down several generations.  And both have been linked to multiple organ damage.Everytime you heat leftovers in the microwave and use a plastic container, both of these chemicals are released into your food.  If you eat canned anything, the lining used in the cans gives off both of these chemicals during the heating used in the canning process.  BPA is so prevelant in our society that 95% of adults tested show significant levels in their urine.  Eating canned food however increases the BPA level in the urine by almost a 1000 times.  Kind of scary.

BPA is an endocrine disrupter, which means it interferes with your body's hormonal system. An animal study found that BPA damages chromosomes and interferes with reproductive cell development which could lead to spontaneous miscarriage, birth defects, and Down syndrome. In other studies, BPA has been linked to obesity, insulin resistance and cancer. According to Texas A & M geneticist Dr. David Busbee, less than one trillionth of a gram of BPA per one milliliter of food is sufficient to change the functioning and development of cells in your body.  BPA studies have captured the public’s attention, and there is growing legislation to limit its use, as a result. The state of California just declared BPA a reproductive health hazard

 It is all a bit scary, I mean plastics are suppose to be the miracles of modern life.  They are the things that make life possible.  How can they possibly harmful to us?  Again, like so many things in our lives, a simple discovery is used to make money, without ever bothering to find out the long term effects.  I don't think that anyone ever thought that there would be floating islands of plastic trash in the ocean that are larger than the state of Texas. 

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