Plastics & Forever Chemicals in our Daily Lives

A new study has recently been released on the amount of plastic we consume in our daily lives and it’s worse than previously believed.

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, Columbia University researchers introduced a novel technology capable of observing, quantifying, and scrutinizing the chemical composition of nanoparticles present in bottled water. Contrary to the previously estimated 300 particles per liter, the research team discovered that three popular water brands in the United States contained anywhere from 110,000 to 370,000, if not more, plastic particles. 

Nanoplastics, identified as the most concerning form of plastic pollution for human health by experts, possess the ability to infiltrate individual cells and tissues within vital organs. This infiltration raises concerns about potential disruptions to cellular processes and the deposition of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including bisphenols, phthalates, flame retardants, per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS), as well as heavy metals.

This is more evidence that buying any food packaged in plastic comes with risks. Not only can we not depend on plastic being recycled, in spite of our best efforts, but the lasting effects go as deep as our cells.

Based on the recent studies, are you ready to go exclusively to a stainless steel, glass, or a ceramic lined reusable bottle? Remember, most of your routines are just habits, and habits can be adjusted in a relatively short period of time – especially when it impacts your personal health.

And remember also that whatever is polluting and toxic to the environment is polluting and toxic to us living beings –  including pets and animals!

Toxic Chemicals

All of the P-words can be confusing. Two of the biggies are Phthalates and PFAS – which are different classes of chemicals with distinct properties and uses. Here are the key differences between phthalates and PFAS:

Chemical Composition:

Phthalates: Phthalates are a group of chemical compounds primarily composed of esters of phthalic acid. They are commonly used as plasticizers to impart flexibility and durability to plastics.

PFAS: PFAS stands for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, which are a group of human-made chemicals. These chemicals have been widely used in various industrial applications and consumer products due to their unique properties, such as resistance to heat, water, and oil. PFAS are known for their persistence in the environment and the human body, earning them the nickname “forever chemicals.”

USES:

  • Phthalates: Phthalates are commonly used as plasticizers in the production of flexible plastics and vinyl products. They are also found in personal care products, such as fragrances, lotions, and nail polishes.
  • PFAS: PFAS have been used in various applications due to their water- and grease-resistant properties. Common uses include non-stick cookware, water-resistant clothing, firefighting foams, and food packaging.

Health Concerns:

  • Phthalates: Some studies have raised concerns that certain phthalates have been associated with endocrine disruption and other health issues.
  • PFAS: Certain PFAS have links to various health issues such as immune system effects, developmental effects, and potential links to certain cancers.

Workout Gear & Underwear Materials

Materials of synthetic origin, a significant portion of workout clothing, is crafted from materials like polyester, nylon, or spandex. While these materials have specific properties that make them popular choices in the textile industry, they are derived from chemical processes involving polymers derived from petrochemicals. Therefore, from a chemical composition standpoint, they are considered types of plastics. Here’s a brief overview of each:

  • Polyester: Polyester is a synthetic fiber made from petrochemical-derived polymers. It is widely used in textiles and clothing due to its durability, wrinkle resistance, and moisture-wicking properties.
  • Nylon: Nylon is another synthetic polymer that belongs to the family of polyamides. It was developed as a substitute for silk and is commonly used in various applications, including clothing, stockings, and industrial materials, due to its strength and elasticity.
  • Spandex: Spandex, also known as elastane or Lycra, is a synthetic fiber known for its exceptional elasticity. It is commonly used in stretchable fabrics for sportswear, activewear, and undergarments.

While these fabrics are often selected for their moisture-wicking abilities and stretchiness, they do not offer the same breathability as natural fibers. This reduced breathability can result in heightened moisture and warmth, potentially creating conditions favorable for the proliferation of bacteria and fungi.

Chemical textile treatments designed for features such as moisture-wicking, antimicrobial properties, or stain resistance are common with workout clothing. Be mindful of the chemicals utilized in the production process and consider whether they might have any implications for your health. As for underwear, go with natural fibers as a rule. I find it’s healthiest to wear organic cotton. I’ve been buying Pact underwear for awhile now.

Some folks exhibit sensitivity or allergies to specific synthetic fabrics, as well as the dyes and chemicals employed in their production, triggering discomfort, skin irritation, and in certain instances, skin-related issues.

More and more plant-based workout apparel companies are popping up. Here are a few that have caught my attention. Be sure to look closely at what chemical processes they employ on their fabrics.

Plant Athletic

PlantTec™ Leggings | Monstera

Reprise Activewear

MOVE by MATE

Natural Fibers to Look For: 

Plant-based materials are obviously derived from plants. They can be a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to synthetic materials.  ‘Can be’ because some may go through a chemical process (as with Rayon), so it’s important to verify a manufacturer’s process. Some common plant-based materials include:

  • Cotton: Cotton is one of the most widely used natural fibers. It comes from the cotton plant’s seed hairs and is commonly used to make clothing, bed linens, and various textiles.
  • Linen: Linen is made from the fibers of the flax plant. It is known for its breathability, durability, and natural luster. Linen is often used in clothing, tablecloths, and bed linens.
  • Hemp: Hemp fibers come from the hemp plant’s stalk. Hemp is a versatile and sustainable material that can be used to make clothing, accessories, and even building materials.
  • Bamboo: Bamboo is a fast-growing plant that can be used to produce fibers for textiles. Bamboo fabric is known for its softness and moisture-wicking properties. It is often used in clothing, bedding, and towels.
  • Tencel (Lyocell): Tencel is a fiber made from wood pulp, typically sourced from eucalyptus trees. It is known for its softness, breathability, and environmentally friendly production process.
  • Modal: Modal is another type of rayon fabric made from beech tree pulp. It is soft, lightweight, and has moisture-wicking properties. Modal is commonly used in clothing, including underwear and sleepwear.
  • Jute: Jute fibers come from the stem of the jute plant. It is a strong and coarse material often used for making bags, ropes, and other durable products.
  • Sisal: Sisal is a natural fiber extracted from the leaves of the agave plant. It is commonly used to make twine, ropes, and carpets.
  • Coir: Coir is a fiber extracted from the husk of coconuts. It is used to make products like doormats, brushes, and geotextiles.
  • Kenaf: Kenaf fibers come from the hibiscus cannabinus plant. It is used in various applications, including paper products, textiles, and biodegradable plastics.

These plant-based materials offer a renewable and often biodegradable alternative to synthetic materials, contributing to more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices.

Yes! Rayon is considered a plant-based fiber. It is a semi-synthetic or regenerated cellulose fiber, meaning it is produced from natural raw materials, primarily cellulose derived from wood pulp. But be aware that while the raw material is plant-based, the production process involves some chemical processing.

What About Baby?

There is ongoing research on the potential health effects of disposable diapers on babies. Some studies suggest that certain chemicals, such as dioxins and phthalates, found in disposable diapers may have health implications. Dioxins are environmental pollutants that can be produced during the manufacturing process of diapers, while phthalates are used in the production of plastics, including those used in diaper components.

Several studies have investigated the potential presence of chemicals in disposable diapers, including dioxins and phthalates. It’s important to note that the findings and interpretations of these studies may vary, and the overall consensus in the scientific community is that disposable diapers, when used as intended, do not pose significant health risks. Here is a study that explored this topic. While this study doesn’t focus specifically on diapers, it explores the broader topic of phthalate exposure and its potential health implications in children.

Textiles that go on or close to Baby’s skin should be natural (no chemical treatment) and/or organic. Period.

Let’s just agree that removing toxins from a Baby’s environment is not only important, it’s easier than ever in 2024. Don’t give babies and small children plastic to chew on. Don’t feed them with plastic dishes and utensils. There are many options to plastic these days: bamboo; silicone nipples, pacifiers, and utensils; and ceramic and glass and metal.  Check out the organic Kid’s section at green design GOODS.

And invest in a natural, organic mattress and natural changing pad for your child, no matter what the age.

Non-Toxic Swaps

When purchasing food, always buy in paper/cardboard, glass, or metal packaging. All are recyclable and metal/glass are infinitely recyclable with a steady market value.

Reusables from green design GOODS

Get used to using reusables! Bottles for water and beverages hot & cold, coffee cups for your cup ‘o Joe on-the-go, beeswax wraps to replace cling wrap and foil, silicone snap-close bags + clamshells to replace single-use plastic baggies, stainless lunch boxes and food pots for your bring your own lunch days and kid’s lunch bag. And don’t forget your reusable utensils!

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Please contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have. Also visit the Green Design Goods store for my favorite environmentally sustainable products.

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