Friday, May 9, 2008

more on plastics...

Yesterday a friend of mine passed along a great link regarding plastics (thanks Shannon!).  Check out this blog/company regarding information and products for plastic-free living:

Be sure to review their plastic-free products and their "Facts on Plastics".  According to this site there are potential dangers with some plastics containing recycle code #1.  This was news to me as I had only heard that to-date codes 3, 6, and 7 (some 7s) were considered potentially dangerous to one's health.  I did, however, know that codes 1 and 2 are meant for single-use only.  At this point I don't have any information to back up what is saying regarding code #1 but you can be sure that I'll be on the look out.  

Of course, there are those out there who say there are no dangers proven from plastics of any resin-type and that any chemical leaching is negligible.  However, Canada is not one of them.  Did you know that Canada is proposing legal action to reduce the exposure of BPA to newborns and infants?  For more information check out Health Canada.  GO CANADA!  

I was sipping coffee with friends the other day and glanced down to see that my Starbucks disposable lid was a #6.  Aaaahhh!  Hot coffee + potentially hazardous material when heated = not a good combination. I called Starbucks and as I expected they assured me that all of their products are safe and comply with government (US) standards. They also assured me that should any information come out showing otherwise they would act accordingly and quickly. While I agree they comply with government standards (after-all we have no laws banning Starbucks, and other food/beverage companies, from using these plastics), that doesn't mean I'm in favor of the current standards. I told the customer service rep that those lids are #6, which represents polystyrene plastics. According to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the following risks could exist with these plastics.

Styrene can leach from polystyrene plastic.

Styrene is toxic to the brain and nervous system,

among workers with longer-term exposures but also

has been found to adversely affect red blood cells, liver, kid-

neys and stomach in animal studies. Aside from exposure

from food containers, children can be exposed to styrene

from secondhand cigarette smoke, off-gassing of building

materials, auto exhaust fumes and drinking water.

The Starbucks Customer Service Representative told me that the recycle code represented the fact that the product was recyclable, not what the product was made of. I disagree with her on that. From what I've read the code is meant to designate the type of plastic, which in turn allows recycling facilities to determine whether or not it's recyclable (not all recycling facilities recycle every code). Therefore, the code does represent the type of plastic and it does not automatically mean that it's recyclable. Refer to the American Chemistry Council for further information.

And speaking of the American Chemistry Council, they say that Health Canada's assessment of BPA actually supports it's safety. Click here for further details. The discrepancy of information out there is enough to make your head spin, right? I'm fully aware that studies showing risks so far have either been on animals or on humans with long-term and/or significant exposure. So I do recognize that it's possible that the leaching of BPA and other substances is "safe" in small doses. But again, at this point I feel more comfortable erring on the side of caution, especially since we don't necessarily know the long-term affects to small amounts of exposure or the long-term affects to exposure on young children.

So, back to my Starbucks cup, I'm going to make a point to remember my own portable mug next time I go to Starbucks or Caribou Coffee (my other favorite coffee spot) - better for me and the environment. Until now I never really gave it much thought that the two platforms may actually be one. But to me it makes complete sense that something that has a hard time breaking down in the environment probably isn't well tolerated by our bodies either.

One more thing before I go for the day: did you know there is a site specifically for BPA? Of course it's a "pro-BPA" site so take the source into consideration. Here you go: Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group

Until next time, Tricia

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