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Monday, June 22, 2020

The more we learn about plastic and food the more we realize the health risk we face

SHOCKING: Consumer Reports magazine warns readers, "You may be consuming as much as a credit card's worth of plastic a week."

Factories destroy environment,
we ingest harmful chemicals


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- For more than a decade, we've been trying to limit our intake of the harmful antibiotics used to raise meat and poultry on America's factory farms.

And in recent years, we've been buying and eating far more pesticide-free organics -- thanks to lower prices at Whole Foods Market, and a growing selection of organic and non-GMO food and beverages at Costco Wholesale and ShopRite Supermarkets.

But we were ignorant of the dangers posed by all of the plastic packages and wrapping much of that food comes in.

And we didn't know about the recycling scam perpetrated by the petrochemical companies that are building more plants -- usually near minority neighborhoods -- to poison the air, and churn out even more harmful plastic packaging.

How we end up eating plastic

In a special report, the June 2020 issue of Consumer Reports magazine tells readers how to limit their risk of consuming "as much as a credit card's worth of plastic a week."

"Scientists say we each may be ingesting" plastic "through contaminated food and water, to the likely detriment of our health."

Nearly a century ago, plastic was advertised as "The Material of a Thousand Uses," Consumer Reports says.

Today, plastic is found in "the plates we eat from, the straws we drink through, the furniture we sit on," toys, clothes, cars and even in life-saving medical equipment.

"And -- more than anywhere else -- plastic is in our packaging, encasing ... the food we eat and the beverages we drink," CR says.

"Cracking open a brand new plastic bottle or tearing a wrapper off a sandwich releases fragments of plastic that we might end up ingesting.

"Reliable research now shows that tiny bits of plastic -- called microplastics -- are in our food, drinking water, the air we breathe, and, yes, inside our bodies," the magazine reports.



These symbols on plastic -- called "chasing arrows" -- are familiar to anyone who tries to recycle. But the vast majority of plastic bottles and other containers end up in landfills or oceans. This chart is from the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council in Steamboat Springs, Colo.


Most plastic isn't recyclable

CR says that in the United States, 76 percent of plastic garbage goes into landfills, about 16 percent more more is burned -- fouling the air -- and 1 percent of that total goes into the oceans, breaks down and ends up in seafood.

CR's figure -- 76 percent -- apparently is taken from NOVA, the TV science documentary:

In a July 2017 report, NOVA said that 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic -- of the 8.3 billion metric tons created between 1950 and 2015 -- are out of use and "most of it is in landfill and nature."

"The very idea that recycling makes plastic use acceptable comes from plastic manufacturers," says Judith Enck, a former Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator who is quoted by Consumer Reports.

"The reason the public thinks recycling is the answer is that the plastic industry has spent 30 years on multimillion-dollar [advertising] campaigns [falsely] saying that," she says.


"That was absolutely the wrong message. The message should have been: Don't use so much plastic," Enck says.




Glass containers are recommended over plastic for storing and reheating food. (Photo is from RealSimple.com).


How to use less plastic

Consumer Reports lists 6 ways to cut back on using plastic:

  • Drink tap water. Don't rely on bottled water.
  • Don't microwave food in plastic containers or covered by plastic wrap. 
  • Buy and store food in glass, silicone or foil, not in plastic that may contain harmful chemicals.
  • Eat fresh food as much as possible. Don't rely on processed food wrapped in plastic.
  • Vacuum regularly to avoid inhaling dust in your house that could be loaded with microplastics and chemicals that are found in plastic.
  • Join forces with community level recycling groups or so-called zero-waste groups.



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