Plastics have received quite a bit of attention over the last couple of years. Even though originally plastics made our lives more convenient, their toxic properties have made us question whether it was ever worth it. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is yet another plastic that people need to be aware of; especially new parents.
Phthalates in PVC
Exposure to PVC often means exposure to phthalates which have been labeled as hazardous. Since babies are still developing and fragile, exposure to harmful materials can be exceptionally dangerous. Though phthalates are ubiquitous, higher blood levels can cause endocrine disruption. The endocrine system is a series of organs that are involved in releasing different hormones. Phthalates are actually thought to imitate the female hormone, estrogen. Increased levels of estrogen can result in negative effects for both male and female babies. Too much estrogen in males can cause femininity and infertility while too much estrogen in females can lead to an earlier onset of puberty. One may associate puberty as normal but an abnormally early onset of puberty can ultimately lead to several health problems such as increased cancer risk, thyroid problems, weight gain, etc.
Though phthalates have gotten a bad rap, ultimately they exist just about anywhere. Not only is this toxin found in plastic but also in certain foods, water, dirt, etc. Since phthalates have been classified by the CDC as probable human carcinogens, the amounts found in the air and water have been controlled however the amounts found in other products have not.
PVC, more than phthalates
There are other toxic chemicals lurking in the plastic, PVC, in addition to phthalates. Lead is a heavy metal that has been categorized as a neurotoxin and can often be found on the surface of PVC. This can be extremely dangerous since babies and small children are constantly putting things in their mouths. Cadmium is another heavy metal that can be found in the coating and paint of PVC plastics. Studies have shown cadmium to be carcinogenic and also capable of causing developmental defects.
The possible causes of the toxins and phthalates found in PVC plastics sound scary but the good news is that there are ways to limit yours and your child’s exposure.
Check your numbers: All recyclable products contain a number. PVC plastics are associated with the number “3” as well as the letter “V” found near the recyclable symbol. If you find either of these on the product, you may want to consider tossing them out.
Sniff it out: PVC plastics often have a very particular plastic smell to them. A common example is the smell of a new vinyl shower curtain or plastic toy. If you notice that smell, you may want to think again.
Consider plastic alternatives. Glass, stainless steel, or ceramic.. as long as it’s safe for the baby!
Read the labels: All plastics contain recyclable symbols. Safer numbers are “2,” “4,” or “5.” If you are unsure of chemicals or plastic types, never be afraid to contact the company!
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