plastic in your body

Plastic is everywhere in our environment. It is found in nearly all packaging of consumer goods. If you want to buy juice for your family, the likelihood is it will be in plastic. Water? Right again. Almost all water bottles are made of plastic. Where does it all go when we are done with it? There are massive quantities in the ocean and in landfills. And now, researchers report that it is in us as well. Chances are good that you have plastic in your body or chemicals from plastic in your blood stream and urine.

Plastic Is NOT Impermeable!

Most people think that plastic is inert. It seems solid enough. But we began to suspect something was up with plastic almost 50 years ago. When we were in graduate school at the University of Michigan we met a woman who had worked in a communications job for the plastics industry. She warned us that the industry she had worked for was paying careful attention to questions about the leaching of chemicals out of plastic containers.

This was just a few years after Dustin Hoffman heard the word plastic in the movie The Graduate (in 1967).

The Graduate “One Word: Plastics”

Mr.McGuire pulls Dustin Hoffman aside

“I just want to say one word to you. Just One Word

“Yes Sir

“Are you Listening?

Yes I am

“Plastics

“Exactly how do you mean?

“There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

“Yes I will

“Enough Said. That’s a deal.”

If you want to see the actual scene from this memorable movie, here is a link.

Is There A Problem With Plastic?

Plastics have indeed come to dominate our lives. We take plastic for granted and assume it is safe. And yet we have learned that plastics contain chemicals that get into our bodies. Phthalates are found in most soft plastic. These chemicals make plastic pliable. Phthalates are also called plasticizers.

Decades ago we became aware of the possible toxicity of the phthalates in plastic intravenous containers. An article in Drug Intelligence & Clinical Pharmacy offered this early warning (Sept. 1982):

“Many containers for intravenous solutions are made with plasticized polyvinyl chloride, the common form of which is di-2-ethylhexylphthalate (DEHP). Extraction of DEHP into blood and plasma stored in such plastic containers can occur, and harmful effects of DEHP in the human body consequently have been suggested. Reports on toxicity of DEHP in animals during pregnancy and the developmental period are critically reviewed.”

Endocrine Disruptors:

Many ingredients in plastic, like bisphenol A (BPA) have been dubbed endocrine disruptors. That means they may act like hormones in the body, especially estrogen. Perhaps you remember the baby bottle furor from a few years ago.

The New York Times summed it up nicely (July 17, 2012).

“The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that baby bottles and children’s drinking cups could no longer contain bisphenol A, or BPA, an estrogen-mimicking industrial chemical used in some plastic bottles and food packaging…”The F.D.A. declared BPA safe in 2008, but began expressing concerns about possible health risks in 2010.”

An article in Scientific American titled, “BPA-Free Plastic Containers May Be Just as Hazardous” raised new concerns about plastic (Aug. 11, 2014).

More recently, an article in National Geographic’s Science & Innovation publication (Sept. 13, 2018) offers additional concern: “Why ‘BPA Free’ May Not Mean A Plastic Product is Safe.”

Is There Plastic in Your Body?

Almost assuredly there are phthalates circulating in your blood stream.

A large study by the CDC concluded:

“CDC researchers found measurable levels of many phthalate metabolites in the general population. This finding indicates that phthalate exposure is widespread in the U.S. population.”

But what about actual plastic in your body? A small study that included eight participants from Japan, Russia and Europe found tiny particles of plastic in their stool (United European Gastroenterology annual meeting, Vienna, Austria, Oct. 23, 2018). Nine different types of plastic were detected out of the ten the researchers were looking for. Polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) were the most common.

What Does It Mean To Have Plastic in Your Body?

No one knows the implications of these findings. How widespread is plastic contamination of the human digestive tract? Scientists suspect that perhaps half the people on earth carry microplastic around in their guts, but this has not been proven.

They also do not know whether microplastic particles might alter immune responses or affect hormonal systems. What is clear is that we cannot continue to add plastic to our environment and expect to remain unaffected.

If you want to learn more about these issues, we interviewed an expert on How Do Endocrine Disruptors Affect Your Health? You can stream the audio for free at this link or purchase a CD.

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  1. Cindy
    Seattle
    Reply

    Even here in Seattle Washington, a city known for its “eco” sensitivity, there is literally some little piece of plastic trash on almost every square foot of ground. I noticed this when I was helping a friend look for a cash register receipt she lost. And the public trash bins! When they’re full, people just throw the piece of trash in the general direction of the bin…even if it lands on the ground, they feel like they’ve “done their duty,” at least in spirit. But many don’t even bother to look for a trash bin and just drop the thing where-ever… After all, who could tolerate carting that heavy, heavy empty pop can or water bottle all the way back to their house to recycle it properly! And the first big wind or rainstorm? Half that garbage ends up in Puget Sound, and the plastics problem continues to grow. If this is true for Seattle, Washington, I shudder to think about the rest of the country. We can try to educate, with limited success, but can we genetically re-program people not to be clueless, lazy, selfish IDIOTS?! No, I believe we are doomed.

  2. Sandra L.
    Virginia
    Reply

    Dear Joe and Terry: I Am 75 and have had 3 hip replacements (1 was worn out after 16 years), which devices are made of titanium and (yep) plastic. I have heard your programming on plastic absorbtion in our bodies and know it is not a good thing. I, too, use pyrex now for most everything.

  3. Joyce
    NJ
    Reply

    I have not been feeling well (stomach hurts) and started thinking a couple of weeks ago that my body may not be breaking down the plastic covering many vitamins that I have been taking every day for many years. I am 87 years young and believe that age has something to do with breaking down. Thank You. Joy

  4. Heide Kaplan
    Delray Beach, FL
    Reply

    Of course there are plastics in our bodies. When you drink from a plastic water bottle the leached plastic has no where to go but into the body. When Tupperware came out in the early 60’s, maybe even in the 50’s,people were heating some foods in it in the Micro wave. More plastic in our bodies. I changed to only Pyrex storage units over 25 years ago for fear of what the plastics could do, but sadly, I am afraid it is too late for all of us. Sad our oceans and water ways are getting the plastics too.

  5. Richard
    San Antonio TX
    Reply

    I recall the article a while back on micro plastics in bottled water. So what are these doing to the nephrons in the kidneys?

  6. Mary Jane
    NYC
    Reply

    I don’t know why we should be surprised at this.

  7. Mary
    SC
    Reply

    I had a partial knee replacement 4 months ago and was told that one surface was replaced with plastic and the other with metal. Should I be concerned?

  8. Carole
    Ohio
    Reply

    I think we need to be thinking seriously about replacing plastic PERIOD!

    I am not sure what we can replace it with–but I am betting on American ingenuity.

    • Ed
      East coast
      Reply

      Carole, I would not count on the same short-sighted, monetizing attitude and ingenuity to solve Any problems. After being aware for many years of the hazards of plastics in the oceans and the environment, I am not aware of any solutions being offered.

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