Thursday, July 19, 2007

Plastic Blues: How Your Water Bottle Can Make You Infertile

When I am at the yoga studio, the gym, teaching at a local massage school or just visiting with people around town, I almost always stop in mid-sentence when I notice someone drinking out of a hard plastic water bottle, often a Nalgene or Nalgene-like bottle. Please check your favorite bottle right now. Does it say #7 inside the recycle triangle? If so, it is very likely that it is made from Polycarbonate Plastic. This type of plastic is made with a chemical called Bisphenol A, a plastic and resin ingredient that has harmful effects.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. This is a hard plastic, right? The kind which will not leach. Yes, that is what you were told. However, it is not true. The unfortunate truth of polycarbonate is that the bonds are broken through hydrolysis. Hydro-lysis. Water breaks the bonds. The more that you use your bottle, the more you leach the plastic into the water. This is also true because the polycarbonate plastic begins to degrade over time, so it is easier for more plastic to make its way into the water you are drinking and then into your body.

What happens when this plastic does get into your body? After all, wax coatings on apples simply wash out of the body, why not the plastic? This type of plastic stays in the body. It is quite active. It disrupts hormones by fooling the body to recognize it as the hormone estrogen. This form of estrogen does not have the same effect as a biological form. It is more likely to result in harmful effects. This means that for women, it may increase their risk of breast cancer. In men, it can lower sperm count and contribute to infertility. An exogenous estrogen, as this is called, does not break down after time, as the natural estrogens to. Also, the body tightly regulates estrogen to minimize harmful effects. It does this by increasing sex hormone binding globulin which binds up the estrogens until they are needed. Exogenous estrogens are not reduced, unfortunately, by sex hormone binding globulin. So, low amounts of exposure to the plastic may have larger effects.

I will be discussing where else you might find this harmful plastic, why it is absolutely imperative that children are not exposed, and what alternatives might be useful.

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