Please Try a Sandwich Instead!
After hearing yet another “young” person’s cancer story, I feel absolutely compelled to write this post. It’s too late for me to prevent my cancer, but it may not be too late for you or your mother, sister, daughter, friend, wife, husband, son, father, aunt…
I am writing today to urge you to limit your intake of the harmful chemicals found in plastic. Because the dangers of plastic use have been largely ignored by the powers that be, you probably ingest more chemicals than you even realize each and every day.
As a breast cancer patient diagnosed in my early thirties, I am literally sick over this. I am actually quite surprised that I haven’t posted about this topic sooner because it is something I think about every day. Until I was aware of the danger (at some point after my cancer diagnosis), I ate and drank from plastic packaging at least as much as the average consumer. I used plastic water bottles and those plastic travel coffee mugs all the time. I left water bottles in the hot car and drank from them without a thought. I consumed soups and other foods from cans, used plastic food storage containers, plastic wrap and plastic bags, and I didn’t think twice about handling store receipts coated with BPA (bisphenol A, a hormone-disrupting chemical often found in plastics and register receipts and linked to cancer, obesity, heart disease and other diseases).
Can I blame my cancer on my exposure to the chemicals in plastics and other products? No, probably not entirely. But do I think this played a role in encouraging my illness? Yes, definitely. As a young person with no family history and no risk factors for breast cancer, I feel pretty justified in pinning some of the blame on an environmental cause, especially since I am in a segment of the population that has seen an increase in breast cancer rates since plastic use became so widespread.
Plastic is EVERYWHERE. Food, drinks and personal care items like lotions and cosmetics are packaged in plastic more often than not. This makes chemical exposure almost inevitable. I have tried to eliminate plastic from my life (and from my children’s lives) but have determined that this would be far too costly and time consuming for tired ol’ me. In the world we live in today, plastic exposure is virtually unavoidable. So I have refocused my energy on limiting our plastic use.
Some of my favorite ways of reducing our plastic exposure:
-We drink from glasses and mugs whenever possible. I have recycled most of the kiddie cups that once filled the shelves of my
cupboard (and I wish I could take back the years I used plastic sippy cups for the kids). We make a concerted effort to use non-plastic drinking vessels now.
-I reuse my empty glass Snapple bottles. I fill them with water (and other beverages) and carry them in lieu of a plastic water bottle. I usually keep one or two with me and have a couple in the fridge so I can just grab them and go. Of course you can do this with any glass bottle. Not only will you be making a healthier choice for yourself, but you’ll also be making a good choice for the environment.
-We store food in glass and never in plastic. At first this was really difficult because I just had a few glass storage containers. I made makeshift containers by putting plates on top of bowls as lids — not a good use of space! But I have since asked for Pyrex for Christmas and birthdays and my little collection is growing.
-We have reduced our use of canned foods. BPA is often found in the lining of food and baby formula cans.
-I avoid leaving cosmetics, lotions and other liquids packaged in plastic in the car. You may have heard the warning about not leaving water bottles in the car for the same reason — heating plastic encourages the release of toxic chemicals.
-We don’t use “steam in the bag” foods like frozen vegetables.
-Whenever glass is available (for food, beverages, personal care products), I’ll choose it over plastic, even if it costs a little bit more. We are on a REALLY tight budget, but I think it’s worth it. Unfortunately, though, it’s not usually a choice — glass is often hard to find. Even the organic hormone-free milk at my grocery store comes in a plastic container!
Why am I publishing a post like this? It is not because I’m having a bad day and need to vent (that’s just a coincidence!). It is not because I am trying to blame someone for the hell I have been through in the past few years. It is because I want to save someone else from the pain and the loss I have experienced and will likely continue to experience. It is because I want to save YOU.
While I realize you may not be able to nix plastic from your life entirely, I hope you will please do your best to cut out as much plastic exposure as possible.
And PLEASE ask your friends and family and everyone you care about to do the same. If you are worried about sounding like an alarmist or a nutcase or a conspiracy theorist, take comfort in the fact that there is enough evidence to support the cancer – plastic link to validate your plight.
You can also consider joining an email writing campaign to urge companies to use safer packaging. Or sign a petition urging the FDA to ban the use of packaging that contains carcinogens. Here’s one asking the FDA to ban BPA, a carcinogen found in cash register receipts, in many of the plastics we eat and drink from, and in the bodies of more than 80% of Americans! It will just take a minute and could make a big difference:
I googled “breast cancer plastic” and at the top of the list of search results (other than images of plastic ‘breast cancer awareness’ items — that’s another blog post!), I found an article that was featured on one of my favorite go-to sites for breast cancer information and support — breastcancer.org. While I love bc.org and think the article is great for creating awareness, I do disagree with one section. It lists “safe” plastics, but based on my research, it seems there may be no truly “safe” plastics. Plastic = Chemicals. Right now the focus is on BPA which was long considered “safe” by the FDA (we’re talking half a century here!). I believe it’s just a matter of time before more of these chemicals are studied and deemed carcinogenic. In the meantime, here is the breastcancer.org article:
Of course I hope you will share this post with everyone you know and I hope you will work to reduce your chemical consumption. But I know that’s a lofty dream in today’s world. So, please do whatever you can. Whether you do one of these things or all of them, know that I am proud of you.
If we can prevent even one more person from getting sick, we’ve done something good.
If you have an idea for a way to reduce plastic use, please share it with us! Thanks!