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All You Need to Learn About Plastic

by Sunshine Jane 10 months ago in Science
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The Silent Danger in Our Lives

All You Need to Learn About Plastic
Photo by tanvi sharma on Unsplash

Lately, the world has become more and more assailed by warnings about avoiding certain foods in order to have a healthy life.

We all need to be careful about what kind of food we eat and how much water we drink because eating healthy food and the already famous two liters of water a day have become the basic principles of nutrition plans.

However, few warn us about the containers in which they are bottled. Given the long journey from production to consumption, the type of food packaging can interfere with their structure, adding substances that are very dangerous to the human body, some even carcinogenic.

Plastic is made from oil, gasoline, and coal. Most of the materials used to make the plastic come from oil refining residues, which would otherwise be burned or wasted.

As a curiosity, the natural decomposition of plastic in the environment takes over 500 years due to the materials that make it up. A versatile material, plastic is found in almost everything we consume, from bottles, glasses, plates, bags, to pots, boxes, and even kitchen utensils, and although it is very convenient for us to use them (because they do not break, are easy to transport, etc.), we must pay special attention to these packages.

The problem is that the exact ingredients of the packaging are not often mentioned because they are protected by the relevant legislation and cannot be disclosed, the manufacturers claiming that they only comply with the relevant regulations.

Some experts claim that no less than 6,000 chemicals are used in the packaging industry, with numerous studies showing that some types of plastics directly affect our health directly, which is why international regulations have forced manufacturers to use them. stamp on the packaging the type of material from which it is made, either by symbols or by letters or numbers.

Thus, by checking what is written on the bottom of the packaging, we can learn to decipher each one separately.

PET or PETE (Polyethylene Terephthalate) (type 1) - are disposable containers. They can release heavy metals that affect hormonal balance. PET is probably the most widely used type of packaging for flatwater marketing.

But many types of packaging are made from this material. Due to the fact that repeated use of this type of packaging increases the risk of harmful substances as well as the increase in the number of bacteria, PET packaging should not be reused. Proper decontamination or cleaning would in turn involve harmful chemicals.

HDP or HDPE (high-density polyethylene) (type 2) - is probably the safest type of packaging. That is why modern water supply installations are made of this type of material. It is a plastic material that practically does not release any chemicals.

Experts recommend choosing this type of packaging when purchasing plain water, being probably the healthiest option available on the market. HDPE is a rigid plastic used mainly in packaging for natural milk and juices, liquid detergents, chlorides, oils, corks, glasses, canisters (barrels), ice boxes, bowls, food boxes, and toys.

PVC or V (Polyvinyl Chloride) (type 3) - is a non-recommended packaging for products intended for human consumption, given that it can release two toxins that cause hormonal diseases.

PVC is a softer, more flexible material. It is usually made from food foil, oil bottles, medicine blisters, and many other products. Due to its low cost, it is an economical type of packaging. Also, due to the fact that it is not affected by the sun's rays and the effects of the weather, it is also used in carpentry (double glazing) or garden hoses.

Polyvinyl chloride is particularly dangerous because it contains DEHA, a chemical used to make plastic more flexible, but which is harmful, according to experts. They warn that prolonged exposure to DEHA can cause weight loss, liver damage, and cancer.

PVC is found in food containers, shower curtains, toys, vegetable oil bottles, cosmetic packaging, surgical gloves, tubes, catheters, blood bags, oxygen masks.

A US study has shown that PVC in shower curtains releases 108 toxic chemicals that can damage the lungs, central nervous system, liver, and kidneys. Orthophthalates, better known as phthalates, are used in the manufacture of PVC.

Phthalates are therefore found in products such as soaps, shampoos, deodorants, cosmetics, water pipes, toys, electrical wires, medical tubes, and vinyl flooring. Phthalates interfere with the development of hormones. Manufacturers are required to indicate on the label the existence of phthalates, except for perfumes.

The phthalates used may have different names: Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Dimethyl phthalate (DMP), Diethyl phthalate (DEP).

LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene) (type 4) - this type of plastic cannot be used physically in the production of bottles, but rather for bags, nets, and household bags.

However, due to the fact that this type of material does not release harmful chemicals, lately, new uses have been found in the production of furniture and clothes.

It is also found in the packaging of cosmetics and hygiene products, such as tube types (toothpaste, cleansers, creams), pharmaceutical bottles, storage bags, food packaging foil, glasses, bowls, or flexible toys.

PP (Polypropylene) (type 5) - a type of white or semi-transparent plastic, used for packaging yogurts, juices, cereal cans, disposable diapers, buckets, pans, bottle caps, and boxes for margarine and yogurt. It is a rigid but light material, with a special thermal resistance.

Provides a barrier to moisture, chemicals, and grease. It is used in opaque or semi-opaque containers, such as some bottles, bowls, drinking straws, some cans of yogurt, cosmetics, and bottles (if you really want to use plastic baby bottles, this type of plastic is recommended).

PS (Polystyrene) (type 6) - although often used in the food packaging industry, it is another hazardous material, as it releases carcinogenic chemicals, such as styrene. It is used to make coffee glasses, juices, fast food dishes (shell packaging).

Many fast food packages are made of PS, due to the fact that it is a good thermal insulator, not allowing food to cool or cold juices to heat up. It is a cheap, light, and deformable plastic.

It is also known as "styrofoam". It is often used in construction as a thermal insulator (expanded or extruded), but also in egg packaging and for wrapping household appliances for safe transportation.

PC (Polycarbonate) or unlabeled plastic (type 7) - is the most dangerous type of plastic food packaging, can remove BPA (bisphenol A), and is often used in the production of water bottles for athletes, food containers, and, from Sorry, even baby bottles.

This category has been designed to include both polycarbonate and other plastics, so the recycling and reuse of this category of packaging are not standardized. Basically, bisphenol A is a side effect of xenoestrogen that affects the endocrine system.

Concerns have been raised about the possibility that, under certain conditions, bisphenol may migrate to food in an amount that could endanger health. Under these conditions, there has been a demand for the replacement of polycarbonate with alternative materials that do not contain BPA.

A study conducted by the National Toxicology Program, led by the US National Institutes of Health, showed the health impact of bisphenol-A (BPA), the most dangerous compound in polycarbonate plastic, abbreviated PC - that hard plastic. BPA is present in most plastic packaging, but also in the composition of CDs, DVS, and electronic and medical devices.

It has been shown that BPA can enter the food or liquids it comes in contact with. Contamination can be caused by microwave, contact with a very hot liquid, or acidic food (or juices).

A significant amount of BPA is released into food when boiled water is poured into the vessel. Thus, bisphenol is released 55 times faster than in other situations and persists even after hot water has been discarded. This indicates that even washing the plastic cup or bottle with hot water increases the BPA content.

The health effects of BPA are particularly serious, as it causes diabetes, cancer, even in people who have ingested small amounts of bisphenol A, structural damage to the brain, hyperactivity, increases aggression, weakens learning power, increases the risk of obesity, and weakens the immune system.

Researchers are still studying whether phthalates and BPA are actually the cause of all these health problems and, if so, how much they can trigger.

In pregnant women who come into contact with plastics, studies over time have shown that folic acid or vitamin B9 protects the fetus from any potentially negative effects of bisphenol.

We must have a preventive approach and minimize contact with plastics, at least the most harmful ones. Here are 6 simple tips to reduce your exposure to potentially harmful plastics:

Learn How To Develop And Maintain Healthy Habits

Learn the codes. Look at the bottom of the plastic to find the recycling symbol (a number between 1 and 7 surrounded by a triangle of 3 arrows). The code indicates the type of plastic you are using and can give you important safety tips.

The safest is considered to be 1, 2, 4, and 5. Try to avoid using plastics with 3 or 6, as these chemicals can be harmful. Number 7 falls into the "and other" category, which includes BPA-containing plastics called polycarbonates. These plastics, which should be avoided, will have the initials PC printed below the number 7. The numbers 3 and 7 have nothing to look for in the refrigerator.

If no recycling code is passed on the product, it is best to contact the supplier or the manufacturer. Also, do not boil polycarbonate bottles and containers (type 7), do not heat them in the microwave and do not wash them in the dishwasher.

The best solution for storing flour, sugar, and cereals is to place them in stainless steel or ceramic containers. Another solution is to buy food in bulk or even directly from some farms. Plastic containers that do not contain polycarbonate are semi-opaque or colored and are marked with either "BPA free" or the number 05 or the marking "PP". They do not endanger your health.

Reconsider using plastic in the microwave. Heat can increase the emission of plastic chemicals.

Boxes labeled "microwave safe" have been tested by international food organizations and found to release only extremely small amounts of harmful substances. However, some experts recommend that people keep the plastic away from the microwave.

Food can be placed just as easily and quickly in ceramic or glass plates and bowls and can be warmed up a thousand times healthier. And never cover food with plastic wrap in the microwave, as it can melt. You can use wax paper or a paper towel instead.

The international symbol for "food-safe" material is a glass of wine and a fork. The symbol indicates that the material used is safe for contact with food.

This includes food and water containers, packaging materials, cutlery, etc. The Regulation applies to any food product whether it is made of metal, ceramic, paper, cardboard, or plastics.

The symbol assures the consumer that the surface of the vessel is not contaminated with any toxic compounds and that the material from which it is made will not become a potential source of toxic substances.

Use them for the purpose for which they were created. "Disposable" plastics, designed to be used only once, must be used only once. Some types are not designed to be heated or cooled. Water bottled in PET and left in the car is very dangerous to health.

The heat causes the release of toxins from the plastic. Use a stainless steel or glass container when possible. Most plastics with recycling code number 1 are for single-use, such as disposable water bottles. Don't keep them, throw them away.

They are generally recommended for refrigerated waste but are not designed for heat exposure or long-term use. Matte, opaque, polyethylene (type 2 or type 4), or polypropylene (type 5) are much safer.

Wash them by hand. Only place plastics in the dishwasher with a label that allows you to do so. If you want to be more careful, wash all plastics by hand or use only glass and ceramic dishes. In the dishwasher, plastics are exposed to detergents and heat, which can accelerate the release of BPA.

Do not freeze. Only put plastics that have a label on them in the freezer. The cold temperature can damage the plastic, and increase the release of chemicals into food when the containers in the freezer thaw or reheat. Plastic releases dioxin into frozen water.

Dioxin is an extremely toxic chemical that can cause cancer. It is present in small quantities in a wide range of products and materials used by us in our daily lives: resin objects, bleaches, non-organic disposable diapers, as well as in many food packaging.

Also, pay attention to plastic-wrapped meat, choose the product with the most recent packaging date, as some types of plastic wrap emit dioxin.

Don't panic!

Minor exposure to chemicals that can be harmful to plastics can only be beneficial to our health, but many other things in life have far greater risks than exposure to plastics, such as smoking, alcohol, and so on. unbalanced diet and even driving.


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Sunshine Jane

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