Plastic is impossible to avoid in life and seems impossible to avoid when gardening also. I am sure it can be done, but is it worth worrying about? I know I don’t want to live without my water delivery mechanisms (drip line, hose, and watering cans) or my plastic plant flats. On occasion I even find a plastic remnant in the organic compost I purchased from a local company that composts municipal waste.
Most people are likely somewhat familiar that bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are chemicals in plastic. At low levels these are considered toxic in animal studies. They are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that affect many hormones including estrogen and testosterone. The Journal of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies reports:
“There is also now abundant research that links BPA and phthalate exposure to such human health concerns as deformities of the male and female genitals; premature puberty in females; decreased sperm quality; and increases in breast and prostate cancers, infertility, miscarriages, obesity, type 2 diabetes, allergies and neurological problems, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals produced worldwide. While the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims BPA is safe at the current levels found in foods, many other countries have banned it. The problem is, BPA and phthalates are the most studied chemicals in plastic and many of the other chemicals currently used in plastic are “safe” because they haven’t been deemed “unsafe”. An additional study by Environmental Health Perspectives states:
“Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled—independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source—leached chemicals having reliably detectable [estrogenic activity] EA, including those advertised as BPA free.”
It is important to consider plastic when gardening because plastic leaches or migrates into our bodies mainly by our food. Tests have revealed estrogenic activity can be higher under different conditions and combinations of conditions including under UV light, with heat, and with sodium (a necessary nutrient in soil for plants); all conditions especially important for growing plants.
Although it is difficult to know the actual long-term health effects from the chemicals in plastics, I personally will try to keep my exposure low. If I have a choice between plastic and a potentially safer material, I will highly consider the later. It can’t hurt to avoid it where possible.
Does using plastic when gardening concern you?
[Image Credit: ©2017 Garden4Dinner]
The Problem with Plastics – The Journal of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (Updated 2017) – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Most Plastic Products Release Estrogenic Chemicals: A Potential Health Problem That Can Be Solved – Environmental Health Perspectives (National Institutes of Health)
HPV (High Production Volume) Chemical Hazard Characterizations – United States Environmental Protection Agency
Human exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) – US National Institutes of Health