10 December 2007

Choose your poison

Canadian Retailer Bans Some Plastic Bottles

The retailer said that it would not restock the bottles, which are made by Nalge Nunc International in Rochester, a unit of Thermo Fisher Scientific, until Health Canada completed a review of bisphenol-a, or B.P.A., a chemical used to make hard, transparent plastics as well as liners for food cans.

This is bisphenol-a.

The rings with the -OH on the end are the phenol groups.

The chemical in question is an endocrine disruptor. Specifically, its an estrogen receptor antagonist. The biochemistry of receptors and antagonists has become more complicated in recent years and I would need to read up on this to explain it fully, but the end effect is similar to increased levels of estrogen. The physiological effect this has is complicated by age and gender. The effect of any chemical on the young is more pronounced not only because of their smaller size, but also because their bodies are actively growing and chemistry we don't see in adults is going on. In adults it is possibly carcinogenic.

While there is little dispute about that, the plastics industry, supported by several studies from government agencies in Japan, North America and Europe, contends that polycarbonate bottles contain very little of the chemical and release only insignificant amounts of B.P.A. into the bodies of users.

At the same time that BPA is not terribly good for you, it seems that it only leaches from the bottle at high temperatures, or when acidic chemicals are used. So what does this all mean, together?

What it really means is that we are slowly poisoning ourselves. But thats not new and its not just from plastic bottles. There are all sorts of anthropogenic (man made) chemicals in our lives, that we humans put there, that are killing us slowly. To pick out one source over another is an exercise in futility. Sure, you can limit your exposure to certain chemicals, but you can't let that be all consuming. I feel bad for the people who eat organic food just because they're afraid of pesticides.

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in one pretty and well preserved piece, but to skid across the line broadside, thoroughly used up, worn out, leaking oil, shouting GERONIMO!” ~Bill McKenna, professional motorcycle racer, Cycle magazine Feb. 1982

I'll keep using my nalgene for water and I'll wash it by hand in the sink from time to time, but I'm not going get freaked out.

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