When plastics were introduced many years ago, no one even thought to question their safety. They are now everywhere, in pipes, bottles, plastic containers and even clothes. Plastics are made from petroleum and coal products, and some of them off-gas substances that are carcinogenic or interfere with the endocrine system, and others are relatively safe. This article discusses less safe as well as safer types of plastics, and what we can do to reduce our use of plastics in the home.
Less Safe Plastics
Some of the plastics you want to try to stay away from include:
Vinyl (this includes polyvinyl chloride or PVC) -- found in household chemicals, crib bumpers, floor tiles, raincoats and galoshes, shoes, shower curtains, baby and child toys, pacifiers and teethers, water pipes, and more. Vinyl out-gassing releases vinyl chloride, which can cause cancer, skin diseases, liver problems and chronic bronchitis.
Urea-formaldehyde plastic resins off-gas formaldehyde, which is a suspected human carcinogen, and also has been known to cause breathing problems, swelling of the throat, headaches, insomnia and asthma attacks.Urea-formaldehyde is found in particleboard, plywood, tissues, toilet paper, paper towels, and fabric finishes (especially "no-wrinkle" fabrics, such as polyester/cotton sheets and many cotton shirts and pants).
Polyethylene is a suspected human carcinogen, and is found in carpets, plastic drinking glasses, food containers, plastic bags, squeeze bottles, toys and chewing gum.
Acrylic plastics contain substances that are suspected human carcinogens, and are found in clothing, blankets, carpets, contact lenses, floor waxes, disposable diapers, sanitary napkins and paints. It can cause nausea, weakness, headache and fatigue.
Styrene plastics such as styrofoam can not only irritate your eyes, nose and throat, but may cause dizziness. They are found in many common household items such as clocks, paints and telephones.
Polyester and nylon in fabrics can also cause some problems such as skin rashes.
Melamine formaldehyde plastics, like certain dishware and Formica countertops seem to be relatively inert and hence relatively safe (as long as you're not eating it!).
Cellulose plastics that are mostly made up of cellulose fibers from cotton or wood, such as pens, toothbrush handles and eyeglass frames also seem to be safe.
Help! Plastic is Everywhere in My Home! What do I Do?
First of all, like all toxins, we all need to try to reduce our exposure to them as much as possible, but don't think you have to get rid of all plastics right away. Many of us wouldn't dream of throwing away our phones, computers, televisions or DVD players, and we don't necessarily need to. If we reduce our use of plastics where ever possible, our bodies will be better able to eliminate the toxins that come out of products that we do have, like telephones and TVs.
Plastics came into widespread use after WWII. Before that, people used things like straw baskets, glass jars, paper and cloth bags, leather shoes, wooden toys, glass dishes, wool diaper covers, wooden boxes, cotton shower curtains and natural fiber clothes such as cotton, silk and linen. If you want to try to reduce the amount of plastic you have in your home, my recommendation is to start by what is most important, such as children's toys or teethers that go into babies mouths, plastic containers that are used to store or heat food, and clothes that come in direct contact with your skin. Then, over time, you can switch to more natural materials in various things that you bring into your home.
Copyright, 2008, Karen Pijuan. This article may be copied in its entirety if all links remain intact, including those in the resource or about the author box.
Karen Pijuan is the owner of several health-related websites and has written numerous articles about nutrition, vitamins, healthy living, whole food supplements, natural body care and cleaning products, natural weight loss and more. Find out more about what to look for in a truly
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