Saturday, 6 August 2011

Plastic Freedom

I always knew my hormones were "out of whack" but never really knew what that meant until a couple months ago when my naturopath was pondering my continuing symptoms and mumbled to herself "okay, that's low progesterone."  That prompted me to do all kinds of research that has really led me to some startling conclusions: our environment is toxic.  The things I choose to have in my home and eat my food out of, are contributing to my hormones being "out of whack."

I read a great book last year called "What We Leave Behind" by Derrick Jensen and Aric McBay, which I highly recommend you pick up if you're at all interested in environmental and health issues.  I definitely sat up and paid attention when I read:
"By now plastic is almost everywhere.  By everywhere I mean in a huge portion of consumer products, in food and packaging, in liquid containers and the liquids they contain.  By everywhere I mean in the oceans and in the air and on the land.  By everywhere I mean on Mount Everest and in the Marinas Trench and in remote forests.  By everywhere I mean inside every mother's breast milk, inside polar bear fat, inside every fish, inside every monkey, inside every songbird, inside every frog.  And rest assured, it's inside of you too."
It seems like a HUGE violation that this man made product has taken over our planet and changed it in many terrible ways.  I am convinced that plastic will be our downfall - it's just so insidious in our world.

This post will focus in particular on the plastic in our food and packaging.  I'm sure you've all heard of a little something called BPA (bisphenol A). which is a component of polycarbonate plastic.  I hate to just throw quotes at you, but I think this really demonstrates just how toxic BPA is (from "What We Leave Behind"):
"The effects on living beings are horrific.  Exposure levels of only .025 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day (at this point low levels of human exposure from diet are around 1.5 micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day, and relatively high levels are around 13; of course prior to the invention of plastic, everyone's ingestion was at precisely zero micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day) cause permanent changes to the genital tract, as well as changes in breast tissue that predispose cells to the effects of hormones and carcinogens.  Two micrograms per kilogram of body weight per day lead to a 30 percent increase in prostate weight (have you ever wondered why there are so many ads for chemicals to reduce the effects of enlarged prostates?).  At 2.4, the victims (for that's what they, or rather we, are) suffer early puberty and a decline in testicular testosterone.  At 2.5 there is an increased risk of breast cancer (and you have noticed the explosion in breast cancer rates, have you not?).  Doses of ten micrograms per kilogram per day lead to increased risk of prostate cancer (Do I need to keep putting in these parenthetical comments, of do you see this now in your life and the lives of those you love?).  That same dose leads to decreases in maternal behaviour.  Double it and you've got damage to eggs and chromosomes.  Raise it up to thirty micrograms per kilogram per day and you've got hyperactivity, and also a reversal of normal sex differences in brain structure (where are those damn family values people when you need them?).  Raise it all the way to fifty-one micrograms per kilogram and you've finally exceeded what the United States deems safe exposure."
The thing about BPA is that it can disrupt the endocrine system by mimicking estrogen.  Symptoms of excess estrogen in women can include: too much body fat around the hips and difficulty losing weight, gallstones, varicose veins, uterine fibroids, cervical dysplasia, endometriosis or ovarian cysts.  For men it can cause low libido, poor motivation, depression, loss of muscle mass and increased belly fat....there may even be breast development (from "The Hormone Diet" by Dr. Natasha Turner)  Excess estrogen has also been linked to breast, uterine cancer, and prostate cancer.  These environmental estrogens are called xenoestrogens, and they're found in many other places, which I will discuss in future posts.

The effects of BPA exposure can start to take hold while we are still in our mother's womb.  Prenatal exposure can cause irreversible damage in an unborn baby's reproductive organs.  This makes me want to hide in a corner and cry!  Exposure to BPA does make people fat - excess estrogen can causes more and bigger fat cells.  Jensen and McBay also say that BPA causes "victims" insulin to surge and crash, and they ask if there is "a correlation between the rise of plastic and the 735 percent increase in diabetes in the United States since 1935?"

In my life at the present time, excess estrogen has caused crippling PMS that takes hold of my body for 2-3 weeks every month.  Yes, I hardly get any time away from it!  Spotting and sore breasts for a week and a half, 5 days of period, and another 2-3 days of spotting after.  It causes me to crave all kinds of garbage food, and keeps a healthy supply of stubborn fat around my hips and thighs.  It makes me feel low and unmotivated to exercise to try to change all that.  It keeps me feeling utterly shitty.

I could go on and on.  I strongly urge you to pick up "What We Leave Behind." The point is, plastic is devastating.......I need a word that's even more powerful than devastating......to our health and the health of our planet. 

I decided that it's going to be up to me to bring my estrogen back to normal levels.  One way is to eliminate plastics in my food and drink - I personally don't feel that just avoiding BPA is enough.  All plastic had to go.  I took a look around my kitchen, and plastic was everywhere.  It wasn't going to be easy.  I took a trip to the Danforth, to IQ Living (http://www.iqliving.com/), and dropped some coin to buy some good quality products to replace the plastic in my kitchen.  As it stands, I have replaced all the major things that I use on a daily basis, including tupperware containers, cutting boards, cups, cooking utensils, containers to bring my lunch to work in, and my water bottle.  We have also been saving all our glass jars and using them to keep and transport food in.  Isn't everything so colourful and pretty?
Epicurean cutting board, bamboo mixing bowls,
silicone cooking utensils, ceramic food storage
containers with silicone lids, pyrex type glass bowls,
stainless steel kettle with silicone handle, & glasses to
replace plastic cups

In addition, I have not been using saran wrap or ziploc bags.  I have been buying food with less or no plastic packaging.  I no longer get the plastic produce bags, and I almost always make sure I leave the house with a reusable bag in case I go shopping.  I have bought a stainless steel water bottle that has absolutely no plastic on it, not even the cap.  It's made by Klean Kanteen (http://www.kleankanteen.com/), available at The Big Carrot.  For $35 to $40, it's an investment, but the idea of harmful chemicals leaching into my WATER, the essence of life, makes me kinda sick.  And it literally will make us sick.
Klean Kanteen Reflect

The plastics industry has lost a customer, in a very big way.  I'm pretty convinced that I will be healthier for it.  You see, in addition to the ways I already suffer from excess estrogen, I want to stay healthy as my life goes on.  I have breast cancer in my direct family: my grandmother had breast cancer at a very young age, and had a radical mastectomy.  I think that cancer is a product of our plastic world.

I have a long way to go to be completely plastic free.  It's even in can linings and on thermal paper (store receipts) - turn them down unless it's something you might need to return).  You can buy many products in jars instead, and some companies (ie. Eden Organic) have BPA free cans   Canned tomatoes were always the one thing you couldn't find in BPA free cans - even Eden Organic says the following:
"Eden Organic Tomatoes are packed in steel cans coated with a baked on r-enamel lining. Due to the acidity of tomatoes, the lining is epoxy based and may contain a minute amount of bisphenol-A, it is however in the 'non detectable' range according to independent laboratory extraction tests. The test was based on a detection level at 5 ppb (parts per billion)."
It requires a great deal of effort and creativity to go plastic free.  There's quite an amazing lady named Beth Terry, who basically lives nearly 100% plastic free.  Check out her website: http://myplasticfreelife.com/ where she has an amazingly exhaustive list of ways to go plastic-free.  She is quite inspiring to me, though I don't think I can quite aspire to reach her level.  She just proves though, that we can live without plastic.  The earliest form of plastic was only invented in 1855 and  later evolutions of plastic became widely used in the early 1900s.  For tens of thousands of years before that, there was no plastic.

Wow, we come from people who had true plastic freedom.  Why the hell did we have to go and screw it all up???

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