Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Plastics: A Cause for Concern?

OK in honor of Earth Day lets talk plastics. I'm starting to read more and more about BPA and Plastic #7 and not washing plastic in the dishwasher and not microwaving plastic. I hear zip top bags and thin flexible plastic is bad and hard unbreakable plastic is bad. The lining in canned goods is bad. Reusing single serve water bottles is bad.

So the question becomes how bad is it? And do I really need to be concerned or make changes? Or is this just the current media target like the egg was in the late 80s?

Here's the thing. I have four kids. They are little. They break anything that can be broken. They take lunch two or more days a week. They spill things. They throw things. They wear plates on their heads. How am I supposed to serve their food and drinks?

OK at home in theory if plastic is really bad we could go to using regular dishes and be very vigilant for the flying plate or cup and hope it didn't take too long for them to learn that they break. And hope they don't think it is hilarious when they do and do it on purpose.

But what about lunch boxes? I can't send glass to school. Everything can't be wrapped in wax paper. Plastic baggies are bad because they kill fish and leach chemicals too. I can buy stainless steel water bottles but most aren't spill proof and I could only afford one per child. What happens if it is dirty. What do I put applesauce in or other messy items that can't be wrapped in wax paper or foil?

Then there is the cost. If I were to decide to ban plastic, I would have to buy more dishes, new food storage containers, new glasses, new water bottles, etc. That costs money. The stainless water bottles I've looked at for the kids cost $15-$20 per bottle, plus shipping. That is a lot of money for something that is likely to get lost at school and has to be hand washed. Given current gas and grocery prices I don't have extra money to buy all these products.

Scientific research has not proven that BPAs are harmful to humans. They have shown that high levels of BPAs in mice/rats/whatever can cause some side effects (OK so I don't remember exactly what and I'm not going to look it up right this second but I think it is probably cancer). But didn't a scientific study show that lima beans were carcinogenic about 10 years ago? My mother still expects me to eat those so maybe I'm OK.

Michael and I were discussing this whole plastic issue and he was pointing out that there are two billion people in the world that don't have clean drinking water and we are worried about what we put our clean drinking water in. His point was that we are at the fringes of what, for the world, is the real problem. We have clean water, enough food to eat, and aren't contracting things like Malaria. We are spending a lot of time and mental energy on something that might cause something a long time from now when 2 billion people are at risk of death from their only available water source today. Hmmm. That kind of puts it in prospective. So maybe instead of spending $100 on water bottles I should send it to World Vision or another such organization that helps people get things like mosquito nets and clean water. Maybe that is where the money would do the most good.

So I don't know the answer to the question and I don't know how much I should worry about it but I think Michael has a point. If the worst thing I have to worry about is whether or not plastic might be harmful I've got it pretty good.

Happy Earth Day,


Jenn said...

I edited the post to change 6 billion to 2 billion. Here is an email with some interesting stats Michael sent me today:

I was a little off: "Worse, about 2 billion of Earth's human inhabitants lack access to clean, piped water. That is a major reason why, according to various estimates, around 2 million people — mainly babies and small children — die from cholera, dysentery, and other water-borne diseases each year. Meanwhile, another million and a half or so people — mostly women and children — die from the effects of burning dung and wood in poorly flued cooking fires. "

MMaham said...

She doesn't mention that I'd fallen asleep when she asked me "how many people did you say don't have clean water?" :)

Shelly said...

Thanks for this very informative post putting our lives into perspective. I'm going to remember to be thankful when I'm getting clean filtered cold drinking water from my refrigerator for the girls (in their practically ancient plastic sippy cups) before they go to bed.