If plastic bags being harmful to the oceans, the land, and the environment in general weren’t convincing enough for you to switch to more environmentally friendly alternatives, you should know that plastic bags are also extremely hazardous for you and your family. Here are a few reasons why plastic bags are bad for your health.
Made from fossil fuels
Plastic bags are bad for your health before they even come to existence! Plastic bags are made from fossil fuels, specifically oil. The oil is extracted from huge rigs across the world, and when these rigs extract the fossil fuel, they also release a number of gases, such as Nitrogen Oxides, Sulfur Dioxide and methane.
Methane is a greenhouse gas responsible for depletion of the ozone layer, meaning you are more prone to radiation exposure and at an increased risk of skin cancer. Sulfur dioxide and Nitrogen oxides by themselves are already extremely dangerous to breathe, and when mixed with the water vapor in the clouds and the air, they cause a number of respiratory problems for people not just living nearby, but also wherever these toxic clouds go.
Infused with toxic chemicals
A few important ingredients which makes plastic bags (and plastic in general) what they are, are heaps of chemicals and dyes, which bring us to another reason why plastic bags are bad for your health. Although one would naively believe that these chemicals are infused so there is no way they would harm a human unless incinerated or consumed, the reality is horrifyingly different.
Plastics are known to actively photodegrade, and the softer the plastic, the more easily it degenerates into smaller pieces of plastic. Plastic bags are one of the softest types of plastics around, therefore are also one of the biggest contributors towards photodegradation. The process breaks down plastic bags into smaller pieces of plastics, consequently releasing a chunk of the harmful chemicals infused in the plastic.
The two most dangerous types of chemicals added during the creation of plastic are Phthalates and Bisphenol-A (Also commonly known as BPA). Both of these are directly linked to a dramatic damage to male reproductivity, and in some cases have also known to cause impotency among rodent test subjects. Apart from these, many other compounds released are known to cause serious respiratory and reproductivity problems among both genders.
Photodegradation can even happen at lower temperature, as according to the NCBI, it only requires exposure to photons from a radiation source such as the sun. So if you’re sunbathing in your backyard and you have a plastic bag near you, chances are you’re inhaling the chemicals as it photodegrades without even noticing!
Perhaps the most obvious and dangerous reason why plastic bags are bad for your health is that they are a choking hazard around the house. This may not be true for you per se, but it is for someone who is much more important than anyone else, your child. Plastic bags are easily displaced even by a gentle breeze, and if any of these end up near your toddler, one can’t imagine the horrifying scene if the baby chews and swallows a piece of the plastic bag or gets it over his/her head while you’re not looking.
This is exactly why alternatives to shopping bags are necessary for every home. You simply cannot risk taking your grocery home in a plastic bag that can potentially be life threatening to your child, and although something like a mesh bag may not be completely accident proof, it is miles safer than any plastic bag on the market.
How do you stop this?
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, the only way to ensure a safe and healthy future for yourself and your children is to start making more environmentally friendly choices. Whenever you’re ready to go to the grocery store, think about how you’re going to carry those items back home. If you’re casually thinking “I’ll just carry them in single-use plastic bags”, ask yourself these three questions:
Do you want to potentially bring something at home that may cause impotency to you or your husband/wife?
Do you want to carry your items in a bag that can get misplaced and end up in your toddler’s hands, who might choke on it?
Do you want to potentially lower the lifespan of yourself and the loved ones around you by supporting the use of plastic bags?
Remember, even if you buy and make sure that plastic bags are properly disposed of, you still managed to pay and support the plastic bag manufacturer who using that money to purchase toxic chemicals for manufacturing more plastic bags, and paying the oil company for supplying petroleum that they extract along with several other toxins such as Sulfur dioxide and Nitrogen oxides. By simply buying a single plastic bag, you’re in turn supporting the cycle to potentially harm millions of humans including you and your family.
What are my alternatives?
Although the eco friendly industry still has a long way to go, companies have started to rapidly move towards more sustainable alternatives as the cost for producing them goes down while customer awareness goes up. Millions of people are now actively preferring products that are sustainable or are packaged using sustainable material and sustainable practices, and plastic bags are no exception. In fact, many DIY gurus have also joined hands to teach how to create sustainable bags from the things you have lying around your house.
One of the most common use of plastic bags around the house is in the form of trash bags, and companies such as Hippo Sak have taken the opportunity to create an entire array of multipurpose shopping bags for the eco conscious (Check out the customer reviews on Hippo Sak bags). Although they may be still a choking hazard for your baby, having trash bags lying around is highly unlikely, compared to single use shopping bags made from plastic and are free of harmful chemicals used in plastic bags.
Yes, I will not lie, it is difficult to completely cut off plastic from your life, primarily because we’ve become so used to so much plastic in our life that it is impractical to switch right away. But then again, we need to start from somewhere, and cutting off plastic bags from our lives is one of the most effective and easiest ways to do so.