Collier and Lee Counties Edition
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It’s Time to Acknowledge that Plastic is a Problem

Within the past decade, researchers and engineers have made countless safety-related improvements in everything from rearview cameras in cars to outlawing dangerous head-to-head contact in football. Yet, the danger of plastic escapes the spotlight.

Unless we are aware, it’s easy to overlook the prevalence of plastic in our home, particularly in the bathroom—shampoo and conditioner bottles, soap dispensers, toothbrushes, soap dishes, children’s bath toys, hairbrushes, combs, shavers, toilet brushes, exhaust fan coverings, light switches, toilet paper dispensers and more.

It’s also easy to be oblivious to the plethora of plastic in the refrigerator, in the form of a milk or orange juice jug, tub of butter, container of salad dressing, mustard and yogurt, as well as packaged cheese slices and meat. Even healthy items such as strawberries, blueberries and broccoli are packaged in plastic.

Many plastics contain Bisphenol A (BPA), an industrial chemical added during the manufacturing process. Because BPA isn’t always sealed into the container, it can mix into food or liquid. Research indicates that high exposure to BPA levels can impact the liver, kidneys and possibly the reproductive, nervous, immune and cardiovascular systems.

While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has declared that BPA is relatively safe because humans aren’t ingesting it in high levels, the organization is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology program to carry out additional studies examining BPA’s impact on the body. Beyond BPA, there also is BPS (Bisphenol S) and BPF (Bisphenol F), which in more than 32 studies have shown to be compounds as toxic to our endocrine and hormonal system as BPA.

Make a choice to use glass as much as possible. Storing food or reheating leftovers in glass or ceramic containers eliminates unnecessary exposure to BPA, BPS and BPF. If there are children in the home, it’s important to begin addressing this issue now. Rather than thinking that they will be okay because they are young and healthy, for their long-term health, buy products from companies that package products in BPA-free containers. Look for the special label, or commit to only purchasing ketchup, mayonnaise and other products in glass bottles.

One of the most prevalent sources of plastic in our lives is bottled water. It’s relatively inexpensive, around $5 a case or less, and convenient. Unfortunately, an estimated 60 million water bottles are thrown away daily in the U.S. Even subtracting BPA from the equation, bottled water might not be any better or cheaper than other water sources. Use a whole home filtration system and glass water bottles or a glass water dispenser. Most importantly, don’t pour filtered water into a plastic bottle. Instead, use a glass container without a plastic straw.

While it may be challenging to avoid plastics completely in home-life, applying five simple strategies can help.

  • Purchase a reusable drinking glass or stainless steel water bottle. Buy one suitable for home and one for the road. Clean out kitchen cabinets and recycle any plastic cups.
  • Portion food. Use glass or ceramic containers to store and heat leftovers instead of disposable plastic containers or baggies. Consider taking containers to restaurants for leftovers.
  • Buy local produce and support local farmers while purchasing fruits and vegetables that are not coated in plastic wrap.
  • Sip from the glass or upgrade your straws, which can pose an unnecessary exposure to plastic. Stainless steel and glass straws are safe alternatives and are now sold online and in many retail stores and supermarkets.

One prevalent way that BPA and other endocrine disruptors get into the body is when plastic is warm, so getting food hot in plastic containers leaches the BPA directly into the food. If drinking water from plastic bottles has sat in the sun, got hot and then cooled, only water plants from that bottle.

Decisions today impact our bodies, environment and budget for years to come. On the next trip to the kitchen, spend five minutes taking an inventory of the contents in the refrigerator and cabinets. Awareness ultimately leads to a healthier lifestyle.

Pamela Hughes, DO, the founder of Hughes Center for Functional Medicine, located at 800 Goodlette Rd. N., in Naples, provides patients with modern modalities and evidence-based, leading-edge functional and integrative medicine. For more information, call 239-649-7400 or visit

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