Thursday, April 10, 2008

One Word Benjamin: Plastics

Is it Carl Jung's classic theory of synchronicity or did the programmers from AMC call up Matt Lauer from the Today Show this week? Either way, plastics seem to have shot up to top billing in my consciousness for the past few days.

Both Wednesday and Thursday, the Today Show featured segments on the questionable safety of plastics that come into contact with our food and beverages on a nearly constant basis. Not long ago, news began circulating that water bottles labeled with a number 7 in its recycling code could leach out incredibly toxic and carcinogenic chemicals into the liquids held within. Thinking you might not be susceptible? Well all those Nalgene bottles you've shlepped around for years are made of #7 plastic. Oh, and those other water bottles, the ones you buy in bulk at the grocery store - yeah, they're made from #1 plastic and if you use them more than once or leave them exposed to extreme heat (like in your trunk in Arizona in August), then you may also have exposed yourself to highly dangerous chemicals. In your water.

I generally try to process the fearmongering the popular media perpetuates with a healthy dose of skepticism. I believe in germs in respectable doses and I refuse to live my life in fear of terrorist attack. That said, it really makes me angry and scares me to think that I could get cancer or put my fertility at risk just by drinking water. Out of a reusable bottle that "they" told me to use because it was better for the environment.

During the 1950s, the popular wisdom erred on the side of "better living through chemistry," and overwhelmingly, industries adopted this theory and ran with it. And they continue to run, often failing to test, retest and evaluate the impact of these chemicals along the way. In a world where autism has become as common as chicken pox and where autoimmune diseases have ravaged (predominantly) women of my generation, I find it difficult to believe we are living better.

Without a degree in chemistry, molecular biology or materials science, I feel incredibly impotent to effect any change except to broadcast my concerns in this forum and to encourage all (five) of you to be informed and aware consumers. Check out sites like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy or the Organic Consumers Association for information not subsidized by big business or filtered by government interests. Be a little subversive, be a little smarter and hopefully be a lot healthier!

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