Our children are exposed to plastics just about everywhere they turn—toys, food and drink packaging, storage containers, even furniture. It’s no secret that plastics emit and leach some pretty harmful, cancer-causing, endocrine-disrupting chemicals including BPA (bisphenol-A), phlalates, vinyl chloride, dioxin, and more. Hormone- and endocrine-disrupting chemicals can have negative long-term health effects on kids who are exposed, including those listed above as well as infertility and heart disease.
Since there are SO many places we’ve allowed plastics into our lifestyle, the most helpful areas to start are where plastics come into direct contact with your food or go directly into your mouth. Ingesting plastic is the easiest way for its harmful chemicals to get into your system and negatively affect your body.
Begin phasing out the younger family members’ plastic items because the developing systems of babies, children, and teens are more susceptible to harm from the harmful chemicals found in plastics. Since babies put everything in their mouths, start with those items your baby chews or suckles most: replace plastic baby bottles and sippy cups with glass or stainless steel versions, and make sure nipples and sippers are made from silicone or rubber—not plastic! Next, overhaul the baby toys! If your baby is particularly attached to her plastic toys, phase them more slowly and replace them with rubber, cloth, wood, or cornstarch alternatives. As tough as it can be to set boundaries with family members, gently request that no one purchases cheap plastic baby toys with questionable ingredients, or simply state that you’re working on phasing out plastics so that any plastic gifts won’t last long in the house.
Kids and teens who use a water bottle throughout the day should switch to a stainless steel option, and plastic lunch and snack containers should be tossed and replaced with stainless steel boxes and containers with silicone lids, stainless steel bentos. You can even find bamboo cutlery and artisan cloth napkins and lunch bags.
If your budget is small, replacing your overflowing cabinet full of ancient, stained Tupperware containers may be a process! Several companies make glass and stainless steel food storage containers in several sizes, though you might have to hunt a bit to find a brand whose lids aren’t plastic. Mason jars are a great, safe food storage alternative to plastic, and silicone can also be safely used where possible. You can also trade in your plastic coffee maker for a glass French press—the chemicals in plastic leach more easily when exposed to heat. When you shop for food, seek out dips, sauces, and beverages in glass jars, and skip the styrofoam egg cartons in favor of paper ones. Some prepared food aisles and buffets now offer paper or biodegradable to-go cups and boxes.
If your life is literally littered with plastic, don’t beat yourself up! Take baby steps by following the tips above and before you know it you’ll be a model of plastic-free living.