About fifteen years ago a friend said to me, “you drink out of plastic bottles?” That one statement was enough to end my use of plastic bottles. I never reasoned it out. It was really an intuitive decision. Although, I have to admit, my intuition was “informed” by my training as an environmental chemist as well as an human physiologist.
Plastics are known endocrine disrupters. This means that they mess up the way our normal hormones work in our body. I’m not an expert on all their effects, but at the time I was studying estrogen in college and I knew that plastics as well as many other chemicals we use mimic estrogen. Too much estrogen can lead to an increase in inflammatory issues among other problems.
When the research on BPA (Bisphenol A) hit the news I just thought, “are we surprised?”
Then I was really shocked when people continued to use plastic and felt placated by the BPA free stickers. My mind thought, “great, they have replaced BPA with some new chemical that is probably worse, but not tested yet”.
The bottom line is that plastic bottles leach chemicals that are harmful. BPA is just one. Another is a class of compounds called phthalates. Phthalates are found in all plastics and other products like perfumes, cosmetics, personal care products and detergents. When I worked in an environmental lab in San Francisco we were unable to get water that was free of phthalates – which means if you are not drinking reverse osmosis water or something like that you are probably drinking phthalates as well.
I’m prompted to write about this today, because I was just reading a recent study on how phthalates are linked to increased incidence of type II diabetes and insulin resistance. This is a nice summary of the findings if you are interested. Basically, people with higher levels of phthalate exposure (as measured by increased metabolites in their urine) have a higher rate of insulin resistance and type II diabetes.
I recommend everyone minimize their exposure to plastics. Keep your water in glass, use glass containers to store food, and don’t heat food in plastics in the microwave. Don’t be fooled! Just because manufacturers will sell you food in plastic or plastic coated paper does not mean that it is safe for consumption. And bless your liver. It is busy breaking these things down and flushing them out of your body.
Glass is essentially made of sand and it is inert. Even if some heavy metals find their way into the glass, scientists have found that glass has a low propensity for leaching. Nothing in and nothing out. Colored glass has the added benefit of energizing the water it holds, especially when set out in the sun for a few minutes.
To get a nice stock of glass bottles, buy some sparkling water and reuse the bottles. I hope everybody does this right away so that people stop looking at me weird when I pull out my bottle.