DANIELLA CHACE

20 Plastics

Plastics have become a primary source of pollution in the environment and inside our modern homes. We come in contact with plastic through our food packaging, synthetic fabrics  (microfiber clothes like fleece), plastic water pipes (PVC), and plastic particles attached to dust. Plastic items in our homes are constantly shedding plastic particles from items such as toys, mattresses, synthetic flooring, and synthetic fabrics. 

Not only have we surrounded ourselves with plastics in our homes, but plastic never goes away, so all plastic that has ever been made is still in existence today and overflowing in our environment (landfills and our oceans).

Plastic degrades into smaller particles called microplastics and even smaller bits called nanoplastics. These little particles are toxic and mimic estrogen, acting as endocrine disruptors. They also absorb toxic chemicals like sponges and act as vectors, carrying toxic chemicals into our food supply, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. Micro-and nano-plastics are ubiquitous, meaning that they’re everywhere in our environment now. Since these little clumps of plastic are being consumed at the bottom of the food chain, they have bioaccumulated in animal foods, such as dairy and meat products, adding another compelling reason to avoid animal foods altogether.

Phthalates in Plastic

Bisphenol A (BPA), which is pronounced BIS-fee-nall, is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It is found in food packaging, particularly plastic containers, such as baby bottles and reusable water bottles, and is also in the epoxy resin linings of cans. It leaches from the packaging into the food. BPA affects breast cancer by interfering with the action of genes that protect against breast cancer, acting as an endocrine disruptor and stimulating the growth of breast cancer cells.

Phthalates are likely to cause cancer. On top of their carcinogenic potential, they are also molecules that are structurally similar to hormones and mimic hormones and can disrupt endocrine communication. So they can cause breast cancer and also stimulate its growth.

Tufts University researchers discovered that when they exposed rats to doses of BPA comparable to those seen in humans, BPA acted as a mammary gland carcinogen.

Epigenetic Trigger

BPA has a hypomethylating effect that turns on genes that lead to breast cancer. BPA has now been identified as a direct epigenetic trigger of breast cancer. Short-term exposure triggers a reversible epigenetic effect whereas, chronic exposure to BPA could potentially cause a permanent change (Patterson, 2015). However, deep detoxification and removal of BPA from body tissues show promise in reversing its effects.

BPA has been found to affect signaling pathways that influence cell proliferation and migration in breast cancer cells and cancer-associated fibroblasts.

Endocrine Disruptor

BPA is one of the phthalates found in plastics that acts as an endocrine disrupter. It is a synthetic estrogen mimicker. Hormonal disruption or imbalance leads to infertility, sexual and gender identity problems, diabetes, and even cancer.

Exposure

Plastic is everywhere it seems, so we have all had exposure. Even the CDC reported in 2004 that BPA has appeared in the urine of over 90 percent of those tested.

Risk Group ER+

Those with ER+ cancer are more affected by phthalates and other estrogenic mimickers as these compounds can turn on breast cancer genes that have estrogen receptors. BPA has been found to exert its estrogen-like activity on ER+ tissue which leads to proliferation in both normal and tumor cells.

Risk Group BRCA1 and BRCA2

Xenoestrogens are endocrine disruptors that may contribute to the development of hormone-dependent breast cancers. BPA exposure causes alternations in human breast epithelial cells. This suggests that the breast tissue of women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations could be more susceptible to the effects of BPA.

Risk Group IBC

HER2 is the human epidermal growth factor receptor and is found in inflammatory breast cancer, or IBC. BPA not only accelerates cell growth in breast cancer, but can also reduce the effectiveness of some treatments.

Epigenetic Effect

BPA and phthalates are epigenetically toxic and interfere with signaling pathways, histone modification, and expression of non-coding RNAs (including microRNAs) by making DNA methylation changes in human breast epithelial cells. BPA can trigger benign tumors to become cancerous and stimulate the growth and spread of existing breast cancer cells and tissues. 

Determining Risk

Current research is focused on biomonitoring data in an effort to determine who is most at risk either due to exposure or genetic susceptibility. Until we know more, it is safest to take the cautionary approach and reduce exposure to phthalates as much as possible.

Reduce Your Exposure

Replace plastic cups and bowls in your kitchen with glass or ceramics. 

Store food in glass containers rather than plastic.

Never microwave food in plastic containers

Do not let liquids heat up in plastic containers. Even water bottles left in a car on a warm day can leach BPA into the water.

We are exposed to BPA through our food because it is used in much of our food packaging. Restaurants often store food in plastic and then heat food in plastics.

Heat-resistant glass containers and stainless-steel pans are BPA-free. Many of the glass food storage containers have plastic lids but the lids rarely come in contact with the food, so they are not a concern.

Sources of Contamination

BPA is used in most plastic bottles, the inner linings of beverage and food cans, inks for store receipts, printers, paper money, and some cosmetics and clothing apparel. 

Some foods leach more plastic from foods than others, for example, acidic foods and liquids break down plastic containers allowing more of the plastic material to migrate into the foods we eat. Also, foods that have had extended contact with plastic have higher levels of BPA contamination.

Other sources of phthalates include polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes that carry drinking water into our homes and styrene which is used to make Styrofoam.

Replace plastic items in your home with natural materials such as bamboo kitchen utensils and organic cotton clothes rather than fleece. Use cloth bags for grocery shopping to avoid the use of plastic bags. Learn more about this in Home Detox (Storey, 2023)

Phthalate Detoxification

To boost our ability to clear phthalates and their metabolites from our bodies, we can support detoxification with nutrients and microbes. These increase clearance in several ways, by inhibiting binding sites so that these toxic compounds can’t adhere to our cells as easily, by increasing the production of enzymes that break down toxins, helping them to be flushed out through our digestive and urinary tracts, and through methylation which helps us flush them from our bodies.

Protective Foods

Nutrients found in foods and supplements offer protection from phthalates by interfering with their toxic effects on our endocrine systems. Foods contain compounds that reduce the negative epigenetic effects caused by phthalates. For example, dietary supplementation of a methyl donors like methylfolate can compensate for the hypomethylating effect of phthalates. Also, microbes from fermented foods increase methylation, which reduces the chances of negative epigenetic stimulation.

Certain nutrients help reduce the amount of BPA in our bodies, including:

· Naringenin-containing foods such as citrus fruits 

·      Microbe-rich foods such as kefir, kimchi, and cultured coconut milk

·      Catechins found in black, green, and white tea

·      Melatonin foods (bananas and cherries)

·      Quercetin from apples and onions

To determine whether you have had significant exposure to phthalates consider the sources. If you have been microwaving in plastics, drinking out of plastic water bottles, or eating in restaurants frequently, your risk is higher than someone who eats meals at home made from whole, unprocessed foods cooked in stainless steel. Unfortunately, a modern lifestyle is one that inherently involves exposure to phthalates. 

Supplement Support

A few specific nutrients have been found to enhance the excretion of phthalates and reduce their impact on the breast tissue. These are recommendations that you might discuss with your practitioner to determine the best program for you.

·      Fractionated Pectin Powder 

·      Quercetin 

·      Melatonin 

·      Lysine

·      Vitamin C 

·      Citrus Bioflavonoid Complex

Plastics Summary Checklist

O Remove excess plastics from your home

O Avoid exposure to plastics

O Take detoxifying supplements, when exposed to plastics

O Add detoxifying foods to your daily diet.