We live in a world where plastic is the norm, not the exception. Everywhere you look, something is made of plastic. It stores our food, our plates and cups are made of it, it’s in our lotion and shampoo, and most homes have toys and electronics that are made with plastics.
In many ways, it has made our lives easier. Plastic is lighter and less expensive than other materials. But there is always a price to pay for convenience or cost cutting. In this case, the price you pay for that lighter, less expensive packaging or product is your health.
Before I talk about the ways to reduce your child’s plastic exposure, I want to help you understand why you should even care. Sometimes I want to put my fingers in my ears and yell “LA LA LA!” because once I learn these things, I can’t unlearn them. And the more I’ve learned about plastics and how they can affect my health and my kids’ health, the more I want them out of my life.
Note: Please see source list at the end of this post for all sources referenced.
There are many different kinds of plastics out there. We have been led to believe that there are “safe” plastics, but more and more I’m learning that there are no safe plastics. This study concluded that most plastics, not just those containing BPA, release estrogenic chemicals.
Why is that a big deal? In the most common of terms, these plastics mess with our hormones. Endocrine disruption can lead to a myriad of health issues, including cancer, birth defects, fertility problems, immune system suppression, and developmental problems in children.
BPA is suspected to be a carcinogen and Di(2‐ethylhexyl) Phthalate was listed in the 13th Report on Carcinogens labeled “Reasonably Anticipated to be a Human Carcinogen.” That is enough information for me.
The effects of plastics may not be immediate, but I’m not willing to risk my or my children’s long term health. While completely eliminating plastic from our lives is next to impossible, there are steps we can take to reduce our exposure. The less these plastics are in our life, the less the chance they are going to have a negative impact on our health. This is important. Every little step you can take to reduce plastic use can make a difference.
Here are 4 Ways You Can Reduce Your Child’s Plastic Exposure:
#1 Don’t Use Plastic Plates, Cups, or Utensils
When Meghan was a baby, I knew nothing about the dangers of plastics. Everything I bought for her was plastic, from plates to sippy cups to spoons. Knowledge is power. The more I learned, the more I got rid of that stuff. We still have a few plastic things, but they rarely get used. Most often, my children eat off of glass plates, drink from glass cups, and use stainless steel flatware. I’m not sure when our fear of breaking something became bigger than our fear of letting chemicals into our lives. The truth is, Luke has eaten off of glass plates and drank from glass cups from a very young age, and things don’t get broken. Even before he was one year old, I had him drinking out of these tiny glasses from Montessori Services. Our kids are more capable than we give them credit for. When it comes to water bottles, we use this glass kind or this stainless steel kind. I use stainless steel containers to send Meghan’s lunch to school.
#2 Don’t Store Your Food in Plastic Containers
Over the years, I have slowly gotten rid of my tupperware-style storage containers in favor of Pyrex glass storage containers. It took time as it is more of an investment to buy glass, but it is so worth it to know the food I’m storing is safe. I still have not completely ditched Zip Lock bags, although I am trying. I just don’t have enough glass storage containers yet to store all my frozen foods in glass. Most of my food, however, is stored in glass.
#3 Be Careful About the Food You Buy
Most canned goods are lined with BPA. Two brands that I most frequently use that have BPA-free linings are Eden Organics and Muir Glen. Here is a list of additional companies committed to using BPA-free packaging. So many processed foods and condiments come in plastic containers or bags. One way to avoid this is to limit the amount of processed foods you eat (a win-win!). Look for foods that are sold in non-plastic containers. The peanut butter and jelly that I buy come in glass containers along with many of the oils and condiments I buy. Whenever glass is a choice, I go for the glass. Sometimes you have to pay more for these products, but the good news is that you can reuse those glass containers for so many things in your home. If you don’t have room or a need for them, they can be recycled.
#4 Buy Natural Personal Care Products
Plastics are not only in our containers, but they are lurking in our personal care products, just waiting to be inhaled or absorbed into our skin. It can be difficult to distinguish which products contain phthalates because they don’t always have to be clearly labeled. Phthalates can hide in a number of different ingredients. Any skin-care product with the listing “fragrance” likely has phthalates. I rely heavily on the Environmental Working Group’s website, Skin Deep, to help me sort through which products are safe. I use their app to scan products when I’m in the store and love getting that information when I’m not prepared ahead of time.
I am far from perfect in this area, but I’m learning and striving to rid our lives of as much plastic as I can. I feel like it’s my duty as a mother to keep my kids as safe as I can, and if one way I can do that is to reduce their exposure to plastics, you better believe I’m going to do it. I hope this list has helped you on your journey to more natural living. Your health and your kids’ health is worth the effort! Please let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to answer them!
I’d also love to learn from you. What do you do to reduce your children’s exposure to plastic? Share your tips!