I had to do a double take while reading this article (‘Banning plastic packaging may compromise food safety,’ in the Aug. 16 Lakeside Leader) promoting plastic packaging as ‘safe’ for foods. The writer makes so many assumptions about Canadians’ knowledge, and has certainly missed the most recent research, and quite a few lawsuits that resulted in changes to plastics manufacture, the additives used, and specifically, the type of plastics in contact with food.
Concerns about plastics in contact with food go back a long time. BPA is a plastics additive used to make hard plastic containers. Researchers have linked BPA to developmental and health problems in children, including learning and behavior conditions like Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD), anxiety and depression; early puberty in girls; diabetes; obesity; and heart disease. BPA was declared toxic in Canada back in 2010. Since then, you may see the label ‘BPA free’ on plastic water bottles, but it’s still used inside some metal food cans, on fresh food labels, in sportswear and other places.
Phlalates are additives used to produce soft plastic; they are shown to be dangerous to our health as endocrine disruptors, but are not yet banned. Phthalates can be found in most products that have contact with plastics during producing, packaging, or delivering.
Exposure over a long time will adversely affect our endocrine systems and the functioning of multiple organs, with negative long-term impacts on the success of pregnancy, child growth and development, and reproductive systems in both young children and adolescents.
Styrofoam is famous for ‘off gassing’ styrene, with implications for use serving food: styrene has been linked to cancer, vision and hearing loss, impaired memory and concentration, and nervous system effects
Microplastics (little pieces of plastic) can enter our bodies through food, air, and skin. It’s estimated that all humans are now getting about a credit card worth of microplastics into our bodies each week.
We ingest microplastics when we drink beverages from plastic bottles (some brands more than others). There is no doubt that storing and especially heating food in plastic increases our risk of additional microplastic consumption.
Studies show that microplastics can affect various systems in the human body, including the digestive, respiratory, endocrine, reproductive, and immune systems. Digestive systems are affected when microplastics are ingested, and physical irritation may cause inflammation, resulting in various gastrointestinal symptoms.
Microplastics may also cause changes in the intestinal microbiome, resulting in an imbalance between beneficial and harmful bacteria, which can lead to various gastrointestinal symptoms, such as abdominal pain, bloating, and changes in bowel habits. In addition to their physical effects on the digestive system, microplastics can cause chemical toxicity, which involves the absorption and accumulation of environmental toxins such as heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The human health effects of microplastics are being intently studied right now, because we need to learn more about this.
I really hope no one is taken in by the Troy Media excuse for a story, which ignores all evidence in order to plump for continued use of more and more virgin plastic. We humans have got to get our plastics use under control! We are in a transition period right now, and while no-one has all the answers, we know that continued use of the concept ‘disposable’ spells trouble for ourselves, and especially our children and future generations.
In friendship, Letter to the Editor
Regional Environmental Action Committee