Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My War with Plastic (and other stuff that makes me nervous)

I gotta tell you, for years I was that environmentalist who didn't give a crap about all that toxic buildup worry. Was Teflon giving you cancer? What about BPA in cans? Don't ask me, I didn't care.

Oh sure, I tried occasionally. I made the obvious changes. Studies say dryer sheets are carcinogenic. I feel like I derive very little utility from dryer sheets. So I tossed 'em.

But I kept my non-stick. I kept my plastic. And I sure as hell didn't worry about BPA.

But lately, I dunno, something's changed. Maybe it's all the attention being paid to this kinda stuff by bloggers I respect. Maybe it's that diseases like cancer are suddenly more real for me now that I personally know a number of people who have or have had cancer. Maybe it's just turning thirty and being struck by the weight of my own mortality. Or maybe it's all my pregnant friends who are uber careful with what they eat and what kind of chemicals they expose themselves to.

And suddenly, I've started to worry a lot more about plastic, BPA, and everything else.

I'm torn between my desire to throw out a ton of potentially toxic crap out and my belief in consuming less. Sure my cutting boards are plastic, but is that so bad? Do I really want to get rid of them? What about the energy waste in making wood cutting boards?

Similarly I'm torn between my (maybe somewhat justified?) paranoia and my rational feeling that I need to think critically about risk. Do I prefer to eat organic vegetables? Yes. Do I think conventional vegetables are better than no vegetables. Yes. Do I think my plastic cutting board might give me cancer? Maybe. Do I know that people die in car accidents all the time? Yes. Do I still drive a car? Yes. Do I even think twice about that? No. Do I understand the cognitive dissonance here?

Look, I'm not saying here don't worry about BPA. I worry about it. I worry about a lot of things. But I'm also learning that excessive worry is not good for me ... in fact it might be just as bad for me as BPA. Seriously. There are lots of interesting articles out there on the effect of worry and stress on the body.

So I think there has to be a balance. Between caring about potential toxins, and not letting them run your life. Between dealing with stuff like BPA in a cautious fashion without keeping yourself up at night.

I mean, I haven't yet found that balance. But I'm workin on it. And if you know what it is, give me a shout.


Crunchy Chicken said...

BPA is the least of your worries. Mwoohahaha.

No, really, I've spent the last 5 months focused on toxin exposure in my environment and being extremely anal about it and I haven't gone crazy just yet. After I get my follow-up toxin testing done at the end of the month, I can let up the reigns a little bit, but I've already made so many changes, there's not much to go back to.

In any case, don't worry about your plastic cutting boards. I'm not. And get yourself some house plants. And read my book :)

ruchi said...

Heh. Now that I reread my post, plastic cutting boards was a bad example. I'm really not worried about them. Mostly, I worry a little about non-stick, which I will probably phase out gradually, but don't feel the need to throw out all at once.

But maybe you'll change my mind when I read your book. ;)

Rosa said...

Your nonstick will probably wear out pretty fast, and give you the opportunity to replace it.

I don't know what the perfect balance is, I just try to reduce the amount of plastic coming into our house and replace plastic things as they wear out with glass (like switching from old yogurt containers to glass canning jars for the freezer.)

Aren't you registering for wedding gifts, though? That's an excellent opportunity to replace a lot of stuff!

knutty knitter said...

One thing to keep in mind - a decent pine chopping board won't harbour microbes.

There were some studies done on bacteria etc on chopping boards and not only did the wooden ones resist the bugs, they even killed the ones introduced onto their surface!

The plastic, on the other hand, retained bugs even after stringent washing.

So I didn't replace my old, worn boards after all :) (This was pre the bad plastic thing although even way back then I had my doubts.)

As for being anal - nope, not here. I just replace what needs replacing with the good stuff.

viv in nz

SustainaMom said...

Ah, yes, there is something about being surrounded by pregnant friends that makes these issues come to the forefront.

Even more so, having a child born with some issue that might have been caused by environmental toxins that you weren't even aware of...

I agree the cutting board wasn't the best example. But I would give the nonstick stuff to a person of non-childbearing age or gender!

I want to educate all of my friends of child-bearing age on all the "what ifs" and "maybes" I've read over the last 3 years, because what if something I read could impact the child they might have.

Crazy. And yet not.

Once I read Crunchy's book, I probably will be certifiable :)

Kelly S. said...

hey! So I've been trying to phase out our nonstick as well. I do have a few hard-anondized analon pans and i /think/ they are better since they don't have the teflon coating…is that true? You should do a follow up post on alternative products…