The Effects of Plastic on Your Health 

The 5th of June is world environment day, so I’ve decided to prepare an article for you on plastic, the benefits, and problems associated with its usage and what actions we can take to reduce its harm.

Plastic takes anywhere between 10 and 1000 years to decompose. This can be seen in both a positive and negative light. 

Plastic is a significant part of modern day living. It is cheap, durable, flexible and versatile.  Due to these factors, we can use plastic over and over for many years, and it will still be available for recycling again and again, but due to irresponsible usage by people plastic is polluting our environment. In fact, it is considered to be one of the most severe challenges of environmental protection, and this is mainly due to our behaviors. 

We throw plastic away without caring where it ends up and not caring enough to ensure it reaches recycling facilities.

Furthermore, as more research is conducted, and more studies emerge, we realize that plastic isn’t just harming nature due to irresponsible behavior by the people, but it is also slowly attacking our bodies on a day to day basis.

We come into contact with plastic every day as most of our food is packaged and stored in it. We drink beverages from plastic bottles, cups, and straws and eat food from plastic plates, spoons, forks. 

Unfortunately, plastic food containers don’t just hold our food or drink; they’re made from chemicals that may be practical for everyday use but ultimately cause significant health risk over time. 

Furthermore, there’s more at play than just the ingredients used to make plastic material; manufacturing by-products and chemicals absorbed from the environment also contribute to why plastic is harmful. 

One of those toxic chemicals used in the production of plastic is BPA (Bisphenol-A.) Polycarbonate plastics are used in consumer goods and food container polystyrene production. The concern is that these chemicals seep into our food and beverages. We consume these chemicals (BPA, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, xylene, etc.) without even knowing it, potentially affecting our health and well-being. 

Let’s look at how plastic affects men and women.

How Plastic Affects Women 

According to a study led by E. Philips, Department of Epidemiology, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, exposure to bisphenols and phthalates (the chemicals in plastic that make them more flexible and hardy) have adverse health effects on pregnant women and their babies. [1] Some of the adverse health problems include reproductive system abnormalities. BPA exposure has also been studied to cause hormonal imbalance, linking it to the cause of recurrent miscarriage, breast cancer, and infertility.   

Plastics also lead to weight gain. Plastic food packaging interferes with metabolism and triggers weight gain. The phthalates affect hormones and metabolism, leading to weight gain, especially for women.

In a study published in the journal Nature, levels of BPA in the urine of almost 1,000 U.S. women were compared to self-reported weight gain over a period of 10-years. The women with the highest levels of BPA reported gaining about half a pound more weight per year than women with the lowest levels of BPA. All women had some levels of BPA. 

More studies show that BPA from plastics accelerate fat-cell differentiation, disrupt pancreatic functioning, and cause insulin resistance, all of which may lead to weight gain. [2, 3]

However, BPA in plastic is not the only concern; Di-2-Ethylhexyl phthalates (DEHP), also found in everyday plastic products, are known endocrine disruptors. DEHP exposure in women has been associated with endometriosis and ovarian toxicity. 

How Plastic Affects Men  

Because BPA interferes with the production and normal function of natural hormones, men are also affected. Exposure to BPA may have adverse effects on male reproductive function and increase the risk of prostate cancer. According to a study by Sai Sandeep Singh Rowdhwal from the Department of Physiology, Medical College of Nanchang University, DEHP causes endocrine toxicity which leads to a decrease in testosterone production. Plastic exposure has also been linked to testicular toxicity. [4]


Ultimately, exposure to the chemicals found in plastic affects everyone – men, women, and children. Scientific studies have linked BPA and phthalates to cardiovascular system damage due to increased levels of unsaturated fatty acids in the blood, obesity due to disruption of glucose metabolism, chemotherapy resistance, impaired neurological function, and thyroid issues. 

To protect yourself and your family, limit the use of plastic in your home and when you take out food. Limit your use of plastic disposables and use disposable food containers made from sugar cane, bamboo or glass containers and drinking bottles. If you must use plastic containers and bottles, check for labels that say “BPA-free,” and please remember to recycle the plastic in recycling facilities after use.

Reducing your use of plastic not only saves the environment from chemical pollution, suffocating water bodies and producing disease in fish and other sea animals but it could ultimately enhance the quality of your health and well-being.  

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you liked best about this article.

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[1] Elise M. Philips, Vincent W.V. Jaddoe, Alexandros G. Asimakopoulos, Kurunthachalam Kannan, Eric A.P. Steegers, Susana Santos, and Leonardo Trasande. Bisphenol and phthalate concentrations and its determinants among pregnant women in a population-based cohort in the Netherlands, 2004–5. 2018 Feb; 161: 562–572. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2017.11.051.

[2] Song Y, Hauser R, Hu FB, Franke AA, Liu S, Sun Q. Urinary concentrations of bisphenol A and phthalate metabolites and weight change: a prospective investigation in US women. Int J Obes (Lond). 2014 Dec; 38(12):1532-7. Epub 2014 Apr 11.

[3] Do MT, Chang VC, Mendez MA, de Groh M. Urinary bisphenol A and obesity in adults: results from the Canadian Health Measures Survey. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2017 Dec; 37(12):403-412.

[4] Sai Sandeep Singh Rowdhwal and Jiaxiang Chen. Toxic Effects of Di-2-Ethylhexyl Phthalate: An Overview. 2018 Feb 22. doi:  10.1155/2018/1750368.


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