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November 11, 2008

Plastics Are Bad
Here is another entry in a continuing series of hard-hitting Beyond Green exposés. Plastics are bad. And you should stop using them. All of them. 'nuff said.

The above was prompted by the good folks at Enviroblog. They picked up on a story of two Canadian researchers whose biology experiment was contaminated by equipment made with plain old polypropylene plastic - the plastic "interfered with the function of a human brain protein and ruined a drug experiment." It surprised the researchers and caused them to raise alarms that this kind of contamination could be occurring everywhere. Enviroblog tells us where it can be found:
These plastics are marked by recycling code 5. Just now, running to check my refrigerator, I found a pack of cream cheese, a container of spreadable butter, and a yogurt tub, all packaged in number 5 plastic. Polypropylene is also used for manufacturing thermal coffee mugs, bottle tops, kitchen appliances, cutting boards, rugs, mats, bags and even baby bottles.
No, you're not experiencing deja vu. Yes, it's bisphenol-A all over again. In fact, in another clearly unrelated coincidence, the toxicity of BPA was also discovered when BPA-laced equipment interfered with biological research. As for longterm health effects, The Toronto Globe and Mail, which reported on the underlying paper, points out:

Not enough is known about the two substances leaking from the plastic - quaternary ammonium biocides and oleamide - to know what hazard, if any, they might pose through exposure to consumer products made from polypropylene.

"It's very difficult to say whether we should be worried from a health point of view about this," said Andrew Holt, the paper's lead researcher and an assistant professor of pharmacology.

Tell you what. I'm worried.

This all goes back to the fact that, also according to Enviroblog, of the 80,000 industrial chemicals in the wild, approximately 60,000 were grandfathered into the government's chemical toxicity testing legislation enacted in 1976. The good news is that New Jersey's Senator Frank Lautenberg has introduced an updated version that would tighten testing requirements. The bad news is there are and always will be at least 80,000 chemicals in the environment (and likely in our bodies) that no one really understands. Did I mention that plastics are bad?

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Anonymous phillyprof said...

So, WW, can we PLEASE start carrying milk in glass bottles again??? This is something many members have been asking for for a long time...Other ways the coop could help members reduce their exposure to plastics (which, by the way, would also have a beneficial environmental impact - duh) would be to allow/encourage shoppers to bring their own containers for bulk and prepared foods. If we can weigh our coffee and tea with a tare weight for the bags, why not do the same for other products and other containers? I understand that some of the prepared foods are tricky -- mess and contamination could ensue if shoppers are allowed to package their own portions from large tubs of egg salad, etc. But is this really an issue for dried beans? And we already ladle soup into paper cups... Even conventional grocery stores allow customers to package their own olives, pickles, etc. The usual mantra at WW is space constraints. Ok, I get it. But let's then make this a priority for any expansion.

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