Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our great future in plastics

I’m reading a fascinating book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams. It’s written in a casual, fun-to-read style, and I’m learning a lot about evolutionary theories, cultural trends, and ecology. I rarely read non-fiction, but this book has drawn me in the way a novel might.

The problem I’m having is that last night before I fell asleep, I read the chapter on plastics. I learned a lot about the chemicals that are in plastics and our cosmetics, and how scientists think these things may be contributing to early puberty (and what early puberty means in terms of cancer rates). I didn’t know that BPA was originally used as an estrogen replacement in women, a replacement for DES. That makes its use in so many products today seem much more ominous to me. When Williams wrote the book, she had herself and her young daughter tested for many of the chemicals she was learning about, and then tried to reduce the presence of those chemicals in their life, but found it very hard to do.

I woke up this morning, thinking about our exposure to these things. I already try to buy lotions and soaps that don’t contain parabens and phthalates. But plastics are ubiquitous. I made my orange juice this morning in the juicer we received as a wedding gift--that was ten years ago, before BPA was being questioned so much. I sliced peaches to put in oatmeal for the girls and me on a plastic cutting board that for all I remember at this point may have been treated with triclosan. I served the kids their oatmeal in brightly colored plastic dishes that I’m pretty sure are BPA free--but what else is in the plastics? I am generally pleased with myself for not feeding the kids a lot of processed foods, but every time I pack us a picnic, I put cut up vegetables, sliced fruits, and sandwiches into plastic containers. Canned beans seem like such a quick and easy alternative to soaking and cooking dried beans, but do they contain chemicals from the cans? I reheat leftovers in the microwave in plastic containers that say they are safe for microwave use, but how do I know? Our water bottles say they are BPA-free, but what is being used in the plastics that can hurt us? Even the produce I buy at our farmers’ market comes home in plastic bags.

I’m finding myself feeling helpless and hopeless. I remember a similar feeding years ago reading Our Stolen Future for a college course, but then I was only worried about myself. Now I’m wondering what effect the choices I make have on my daughters.

1 comment:

Christina said...

I have a very good friend who transitioned to a zero-waste lifestyle a couple of years ago, thinking about herself but mostly about her boys. She uses glass jars that she takes to the store with her for her meats and cheeses from the deli... things like that. No plastic baggies, no plastic containers or dishes, no paper packaging either. And she primarily shops at Whole Foods since that is what's available to her (in Monterey). It's do-able. You're next.