May Cause Cancer in California

by Elli Caldwell

A co-worker pointed me to this article yesterday in Best Life Magazine and I’ve been shaking my head in horror ever since. It talks about plastic and the ways it, to put it lightly, destroys our oceans, our sea life, our environment, our health and our planet.

This sounds like an alarmist’s litany, but the article reads more like a well-researched report on the current state of the world. In simple terms, it runs through the list of chemicals that interact and react in various ways to interfere with our reproductive processes and the healthy genetic development. It states the easily forgotten fact that plastic lasts forever—that less than 5% of all plastic created in the world is ever recycled, and the remainder is tossed into landfills, leeched into bodies of water and bled en masse into the oceans. It shows photos of sea life, tangled in plastic netting and decomposing on beaches, packed to the gills (literally) with bits of plastic packaging and bottle caps.

It’s always unsettling to read an article like this one. I go through life relatively aware that nearly everything poses an environmental or health threat, and to counteract all this bad stuff in the world I really have to work at it. This awareness, though, gets dulled every day because it’s hardly immediate enough to warrant any constant, conscientious action on my part (and I’m not proud of this. I’m working on getting better, at sustaining my own efforts and not getting complacent and comfortable simply because I can. Because what are the consequences—5 years from now, 50, 500?) But articles like this remind me that these threats and problems are immediate, if not for me personally then for the earth, or the ocean ecosystems, or the sea turtle. It reminds me that though I can’t see the chemical toxins seasoning my main dish at dinner, those toxins will stick with me for the rest of my life, clinging to the fatty tissue around my organs, just lying in wait.

The positive result of all these reminders is that I am motivated to act. I am thinking again about how to change my patterns and buy fewer things at the store in plastic containers. I am thinking about Tupperware, and how I store and heat my food and what that might mean for the interaction of chemicals in my immediate environment. I’m thinking that eating fish while claiming to be a vegetarian motivated by avoiding the chemicals and hormones in meat might be entirely self-defeating.

Whatever your take on it, I recommend the article. If nothing else, it’s food for thought.