The Health Impact of Plastics and How We Can Reduce Our Exposures
Take a glance around the room you are in and see how many items are made from plastic. You may be surprised to learn that the clothing you are wearing and the surface you are sitting on likely contains plastic.
We are living in the “Plasticine” a new historical epoch used by scientists to describe the ubiquity of plastics in our environment (and our bodies!).
Microplastics are tiny plastics (some are 100 times smaller in diameter than a human hair), and they have been found in varying concentrations in marine and fresh water, soil, agroecosystems, air/atmosphere, food, drinking water, plants, animals, and even in polar regions! This is truly the definition of ubiquitous.
Microplastics and nanoplastics introduce toxic chemicals into our ecosystems and our bodies, and as of now we don’t fully understand the health impact that this has on our planet and all living creatures, including humans.
In general, there is lack of knowledge and regulation regarding many of substances used in the plastic industry. Many of the substances used to produce plastics are known to be harmful to humans especially the “additives” which give plastics their specific qualities. Types of additives include fillers, plasticizers, UV stabilizers, dyes, and flame-retardants, many of which are toxic and have high potential to contaminate our water, air and soil.
(Examples of fillers include talc and asbestos; examples of plasticizers include cadmium, barium, lead salts, BPAs and phthalates; Dyes are often made from heavy metals.)
One of the most concerning group of chemicals used in plastic production are called Endocrine Disruptor Compounds, or EDCs. EDCs are chemicals that are not naturally produced by the human body but effect human hormones, glands and organs involved in the hormonal system. EDCs can be ingested, inhaled and absorbed through the skin.
Exposure to EDCs is associated with many health conditions, including hormonal cancers (breast, prostate, testes), reproductive problems (genital malformations, infertility, PCOS), metabolic disorders (diabetes, obesity), asthma, and neurodevelopmental conditions (learning disorders, autism spectrum disorders).
Some commonly used plastic additives have gotten a lot of press for being endocrine disruptors, including Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, and brominated flame retardants. Many companies have advertised their plastic products as being “BPA free,” but we now know that the replacement chemicals (BPS, BPF, BPAF), are just as dangerous if not worse for human health.
BPAs (and other Bisphenol replacements) are uses as plasticizers in food storage containers, water bottles, lining for cans and jar lids, and sales receipts. Bisphenols leech into foods or liquids when the plastic is exposed to microwaves, heat, cold or just wear-and-tear. Exposure to BPAs is associated with cardiovascular disease, obesity, breast cancer, and reproductive disorders.
Phthalates, are another endocrine disrupting compound used as a plasticizer. Phalates have been shown to be carcinogenic and toxic to reproductive health, as well as prenatal and postnatal development of babies.
Heavy Metals are commonly used as plastic additives, including Antimony, Aluminum, Zinc, Bromine, Cadmium, Copper, Mercury, Arsenic, Tin, Lead, Titanium, Cobalt, Chrome, Barium and Manganese. Some heavy metals mimic estrogen and are associated with breast cancer. Heavy metal exposure is connected to the following health conditions:
- Congenital disabilities, anemia, infertility, miscarriage.
- Disease of the kidney, lung, liver, blood, GI tract, bone and cardiovascular system.
- Brain damage, neurological deficits, and neurodegenerative disorders.
- Cell toxicity and death, DNA toxicity and damage, carcinogenesis, and formation of radical oxidative species.
So now that we’ve reviewed some really scary facts about plastics, what can we do about it?
While real change must come from the industry level (and we can support policies that call for transparency and regulation of industrial chemicals), there are ways that you can reduce your exposure to plastics every day.
1. Avoid Plastic Food Containers, Cooking Tools, Food Vessels and Utensils
Take your food out of plastic packaging. Use storage containers made of glass, stainless steel or bamboo. Please do not microwave food in plastic! This is obviously challenging for babies and young children, however they are likely the most susceptible to harmful chemicals.
2. Avoid Bottled Water
Water in plastic bottles contains twice as many microplastics compared to tap water. Use a reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle.
3. Avoid Takeaway Hot Cups and Food Containers
Takeaway containers are lined with plastic, another reason to cook your own meals. Use a stainless steel thermos for your hot beverages, some cafes will allow you to bring your own thermos when purchasing coffee or tea.
4. Avoid the Really Harmful Plastics ( # 3, 6, 7)
Those little numbers on the bottom of plastic containers refer to the type of plastic and let us know how safe they are. The most unsafe numbers are 3, 6 and 7, they are known to leech and have defined health effects. Numbers 2 and 4 are considered the safest as they are non-leeching , and number 1 and 5 are somewhere between the other groups, with known leeching.
5. Avoid Purchasing Synthetic Household Items, like rugs and furniture (Buy Second Hand!)
Choose natural materials when possible like wood, metal, glass, stone and wool. Buying second hand makes choosing natural materials more affordable and it keeps useable items out of landfills. Not to mention, used goods have time to “off-gas” lots of nasty chemicals (i.e Volatile Organic Compounds or “VOCs”) that are used in manufacturing.
6. Attach A Water Filter to your Sink
Many companies produce easy to attach water filters for above or below the sink that can filter microplastics and other water contaminants. Make sure the product lists out what it filters, you can even request studies from the company that show the filter does what it claims. I generally recommend against a reverse osmosis filter as this can strip away minerals from the water.
7. Use an Air Purifier At Home
Again, there are many air purifiers that can filter microplastics and other air contaminants. Make sure the products lists out what it filters. Keep your air purifier in the rooms you spend the most time in (usually the bedroom).
8. Avoid Eating excessive Fish and Seafood
Fish and other seafood is a healthy source of protein and fats, but they also contains heavy metals and microplastics from polluted water. Land animal meat and dairy has also shown to contain microplastics. Its best to eat these foods mindfully and in moderation, and increase plant foods in our diet.
9. Swap out Tea Bags for Loose leaf Tea
Many commercial tea bags contain plastic in the tea bag itself and in the glue used to seal it closed. A recent study show that steeping a plastic tea bag in boiling water released over 11 billion microplastics and 3 billion nanoplastics into the liquid. Use a reusable stainless tea infuser or buy from companies that are plastic free like Traditional Medicinals, Yogi, Pukka, and Choice.
10. Avoid synthetic material clothing (i.e- nylon, polyester, acrylic)
Synthetic materials are made of plastic and 100,000’s of microplastics are released into our water system (and the ocean) per wash when we do laundry. Although this is a less direct exposure of plastics, it increases the plastic load in our environment as a whole.
11. Use a vacuum with a HEPA Filter
Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter sucks up tiny particles, including microplastics, instead of recirculating them throughout the room where they can be inhaled.
For More information about chemical exposures in our every products, please visit the Environmental Working Group’s website: www.EWG.org.
In good health,
1. Campanale C, Massarelli C, Savino I, Locaputo V, Uricchio VF. A detailed review study on potential effects of microplastics and additives of concern on human health. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020. doi:10.3390/ijerph17041212
2. Thoene M, Dzika E, Gonkowski S, Wojtkiewicz J. Bisphenol S in food causes hormonal and obesogenic effects comparable to or worse than bisphenol a: A literature review. Nutrients. 2020. doi:10.3390/nu12020532
3. Kechagias KS, Semertzidou A, Athanasiou A, Paraskevaidi M, Kyrgiou M. Bisphenol – A and polycystic ovary syndrome: A review of the literature. Rev Environ Health. 2020. doi:10.1515/reveh-2020-0032
4. Hernandez LM, Xu EG, Larsson HCE, Tahara R, Maisuria VB, Tufenkji N. Plastic Teabags Release Billions of Microparticles and Nanoparticles into Tea. Environ Sci Technol. 2019. doi:10.1021/acs.est.9b02540
5. Zimmermann L, Bartosova Z, Braun K, Oehlmann J, Völker C, Wagner M. Plastic Products Leach Chemicals That Induce In Vitro Toxicity under Realistic Use Conditions. Environ Sci Technol. 2021 Sep 7;55(17):11814-11823. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.1c01103. Epub 2021 Aug 17. PMID: 34488348; PMCID: PMC8427741.
Supplements for Preventing Viral Respiratory Infections
It seems that cold and flu season has become more stressful for us all in recent years as we carry on in the shadow of a lingering pandemic. Contagious illness is difficult to avoid, especially in the colder months when we are spending more time indoors in close quarters with less fresh air and lower levels of vitamin D due to less sun exposure. A dry and cold environment challenges the immune system and helps some viruses to thrive. Also some viruses are seasonal and make their presence known in the winter, specifically Influenza virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).
So what can we do to prevent getting sick? We know that there are general precautions we can take to decrease viral transmission like regular hand-washing, covering your face when coughing or sneezing, staying home when sick and vaccinations. And of course, getting adequate sleep and nutrition is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system, which is our first-line defense against infectious disease.
There are many botanical medicines, vitamins and minerals that have been used historically for illness prevention. We have decided to take a look at a few supplements that have good evidence to back up their use: Echinacea, Green Tea, Ginseng, Vitamin D, Zinc, and Vitamin C.
A meta-analysis that studied the effect of the herb Echinacea on preventing the common cold, found that different preparations made from the 3 most commonly used species of Echinacea (E. Angustifolia, E. Purpurea, E. Pallida) decreased the odds of contracting the common cold by 58%.1 Of those people who caught a cold, cold symptoms resolved quicker among those taking echinacea preventively.
A recent study showed that taking 800 mg of Echinacea Purpurea extract three times a day significantly prevented corona-enveloped virus infections.2 In fact, this daily dose of echinacea reduced the risk of SARS-CoV-2 (“COVID-19”) infection by 63% when compared to placebo.2
Green Tea (Camellia sinesis)
Several studies have shown that daily consumption of a standardized green tea extract lowers the risk of viral respiratory infections, and decreases the duration and severity of the illness if a person should become sick.3 Green tea extract contains catechins and L-theanine, two highly researched therapeutic components of green tea.3
Drinking green tea may decrease the risk of influenza in children and may dramatically lower a woman’s risk of dying from influenza.3
Ginsengs: Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) & American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) has shown to decrease the risk of viral respiratory infections by almost half (at a dose of 1 gram three times a day).3 Supplementing with only 100 mg of Panax ginseng daily has shown to provide additional protection and increased antibodies against the flu in those who have received the influenza vaccine.3
Taking 400 mg daily of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) may lower the risk of viral respiratory infection (specifically influenza and RSV) and decrease the amount of infections per season.3
Vitamin-D plays a significant role in promoting healthy immune function.
Research shows that low vitamin-D levels are associated with an increased risk of respiratory tract infections, including influenza and COVID-19, and that supplementation with vitamin-D may reduce the risk of contracting these illnesses (especially in people who have frequent respiratory infections).4–6
Major studies have shown that individuals with low vitamin-D levels (<30 mg/mL) may be 80% more likely to contract COVID-19 than those with higher vitamin D levels. Additionally, people with low vitamin-D levels who do become infected with COVID-19 have an increased risk of hospitalization and/or mortality.4
Dosage recommendations can range (from 400 IU to 4000 IU daily), depending on current vitamin-D levels, age and other individual factors.5 One dosing strategy is to supplement high doses of vitamin-D (i.e 10,000 IU daily) to quickly raise serum concentrations, followed by 5,000 IU daily. The goal should be to raise serum vitamin-D concentrations above 40-60 ng/mL (100-150 nmol/L). It is best to start supplementation in early autumn in order to ensure an adequate vitamin-D level in winter.5
Many studies have agreed that supplementation of zinc is helpful in reducing the risk of pneumonia, the common cold and the incidence of respiratory tract infections, specifically in the elderly and in children.7 Recently some indirect evidence suggests that zinc may potentially reduce the risk, duration and severity of COVID-19 as well.8
Taking at least 75 mg of zinc acetate or gluconate may shorten the duration of colds by approximately 33%.9 It is important to begin taking zinc within 24 hours of symptom onset to experience the maximum benefit. 9 Taking zinc with a meal may reduce the potential side effect of gastrointestinal upset and nausea. Always consult with your physician before adding zinc to your supplement regimen, as long term use can cause a copper deficiency.
Vitamin-C has important anti-inflammatory, immunomodulating, antioxidant, antithrombotic (anti-blood clot) and antiviral properties.10 It is well understood that a person’s vitamin-C requirement increases if they are critically or acutely ill compared to when they are healthy.
While there is some evidence that supplementing with vitamin-C may decrease your risk of catching a cold or pneumonia, the evidence more strongly supports the benefits of prophylactic vitamin-C on supporting cold symptoms rather than preventing the incidence of a cold. Cold symptoms have been shown to be less severe, resolve more quickly, and occur less frequently with 500 mg BID of oral vitamin-C.10 Research suggests that prophylactic vitamin-c supplementation prevents respiratory illness during brief periods of severe physical exertion as seen in high-performance athletes.
Vitamin-C supplementation has been shown to shorten hospital stays for pneumonia patients and reduce the duration of mechanical ventilation in critically ill patients.10 Additionally, those with the highest baseline levels of vitamin-C may have a 30% decreased risk of pneumonia.10
Most of the research demonstrating improvement of COVID-19 outcomes by using vitamin-C has studied intravenous administration of vitamin-C, not oral supplementation. However, there are dozens of ongoing trials currently investigating the impact of vitamin-c on COVID-19.
Most people can tolerate up to 3 grams a day of oral vitamin-C before experiencing side effects like diarrhea. Always consult with your physician before starting high dose vitamin C as it may be harmful to people with certain health conditions (glucose-6-phosphate deficiency (G6PD), haemochromatosis, thalassemia or history of kidney stones/dysfunction).
I invite you to schedule an appointment to help determine your specific needs, doses and prevention strategies.
In good health,
1. Shah SA, Sander S, White CM, Rinaldi M, Coleman CI. Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2007. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(07)70160-3
2. Kolev E et al. Echinacea Purpurea For the Long-Term Prevention of Viral Respiratory Tract Infections During Covid-19 Pandemic: A Randomized, Open, Controlled, Exploratory Clinical Study. Front Pharmacol. 2022;(Apr 26;13:856410.). doi:10.3389/fphar.2022.856410
3. Yarnell E. Herbs for Viral Respiratory Infections. Altern Complement Ther. 2018. doi:10.1089/act.2017.29150.eya
4. Teshome A, Adane A, Girma B, Mekonnen ZA. The Impact of Vitamin D Level on COVID-19 Infection: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Public Heal. 2021. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2021.624559
5. Zhu Z, Zhu X, Gu L, Zhan Y, Chen L, Li X. Association Between Vitamin D and Influenza: Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Front Nutr. 2022. doi:10.3389/fnut.2021.799709
6. Grant WB, Lahore H, McDonnell SL, et al. Evidence that vitamin d supplementation could reduce risk of influenza and covid-19 infections and deaths. Nutrients. 2020. doi:10.3390/nu12040988
7. Rondanelli M, Miccono A, Lamburghini S, et al. Self-Care for Common Colds: The Pivotal Role of Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea in Three Main Immune Interactive Clusters (Physical Barriers, Innate and Adaptive Immunity) Involved during an Episode of Common Colds – Practical Advice on Dosages . Evidence-based Complement Altern Med. 2018. doi:10.1155/2018/5813095
8. Arentz S, Hunter J, Yang G, et al. Zinc for the prevention and treatment of SARS-CoV-2 and other acute viral respiratory infections: a rapid review. Adv Integr Med. 2020. doi:10.1016/j.aimed.2020.07.009
9. Hemilä H. Zinc lozenges and the common cold: a meta-analysis comparing zinc acetate and zinc gluconate, and the role of zinc dosage. JRSM Open. 2017. doi:10.1177/2054270417694291
10. Holford P, Carr AC, Jovic TH, et al. Vitamin C—An adjunctive therapy for respiratory infection, sepsis and COVID-19. Nutrients. 2020. doi:10.3390/nu12123760
Reduce Reuse Recycle (and Replace with More Sustainable Options)
Reduce Reuse Recycle (and Replace with More Sustainable Options)
Dr. Sarah Tindall
The whole concept of reduce, reuse, recycle is something that most people have heard of, but many do not actively engage in. And although it is a good model with a catchy phrase, there’s a fundamental problem: it doesn’t address the issue at its source: if the “stuff” we have like packaging, products, toys, clothes, etc. were made in a more sustainable way of materials that didn’t damage our health and pollute the planet, then it wouldn’t matter so much if it were everywhere.
Although a wide range of materials and finished products represent a threat to human, animal and environmental health, one of the main offenders is plastic. It has been widely established that plastic has detrimental impacts on the environment as well as health. We’ve all seen devastating images of animals who have ingested tons of plastic, but did you know there are human health impacts as well?
Plastics and their additives have been associated with disrupting hormones, fertility issues, hormone related cancers, neurodevelopmental disorders and more.
More ominous yet are when plastics become miniscule and then are referred to as microplastics.
Although it was widely known that the ocean is overflowing with plastics, it has now become abundantly clear that so are other waterways, our air, soil – basically everything. Studies have found that even in areas of the world that appear pristine microplastics are present.
While all of that may seem rather dire (and it is) there is good news. There are so many companies and individuals who are striving to come up with easy ways to swap out plastic items or items with plastic packaging with a sustainable choice. If you desire to make some changes in the sustainability department of your life, here are some ways you can reduce your plastic:
1. Always pack a reusable bag (or several). Consider having some in your car so that you can always bring them to the store with you. There are even some that fold up tiny and can attach to your keychain so that you have one. If you forget a bag, opt for paper instead of plastic.
2. Consider swapping out your shampoo and conditioner for shampoo and conditioner bars. Yes,
you did read that correctly – rather than buying bottles upon bottles of plastic shampoo and
conditioner, you could opt for a plastic-free bar. HiBAR is one option, but there are many more.
Another option might be to explore your local food co-ops or bulk stores – many of them have a
body care section where you can bring your own bottles and fill them up with their bulk
shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, etc.
3. Have a bamboo cutlery (many times these also contain a metal straw) set or other reusable
cutlery in your tote or handbag so that you don’t need single use plastic items for take out.
4. Instead of plastic wrap for leftovers and such, swap out plastic wrap for a reusable cloth coated
in beeswax or a silicone wrap.
5. Buy in bulk when possible and avoid things that are individually packaged.
If you need more tips on how to live a healthier lifestyle, consider scheduling an appointment with Dr. Sarah Tindall 503-222-2322
COVID-19 vs Other Upper Respiratory Viruses
COVID-19 vs Other Upper Respiratory Viruses
Dr. Sarah Tindall
These days pandemic associated ennui seems to be rampant, which is understandable but unfortunate given the current omicron variant surge. Even though everyone is tired of it, now it is more important than ever to wear an adequate mask (N 95 or KN 95), physically distance, continue good hand hygiene, and take steps to ensure overall health is robust.
I find these days many patients are asking about flu and colds in addition to COVID-19 and feel confused about how to distinguish these since there are many overlapping symptoms. Although not universal, here are some important distinguishing features:
Cold: This is considered to be a mild viral illness. Symptoms like runny nose, congestion, cough,
sneezing, sore throat are common but other symptoms such as shortness of breath, fever, generalized aches, and loss of taste/smell are rare.
Flu: It can be more difficult to distinguish flu symptoms from COVID-19 since the flu is typically more severe than colds. Common flu symptoms include things like fever, headache, generalized aches, cough, but it is rare to experience loss of smell or taste with the flu. Sometimes severe exhaustion can occur, but not always.
COVID-19: Most of us have become highly acquainted with common COVID-19 symptoms, especially some of the more frightening ones such as difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, chest discomfort, and cough (a dry cough as opposed to a productive one). However, the Omicron variant, which we are dealing with now, has symptoms that can easily be mistaken for a cold or flu.
The current advice, is to suspect COVID-10, get tested and act as if you do have COVID until you know you do not. It is important to know if you are symptomatic the recommendation would be to stay home for 5 days and get a COVID-19 test to make sure symptoms are not due to COVID-19. Wearing a mask and avoiding others can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Please check the CDC website for clarity of actions and guidelines if you are symptomatic and test positive, if you are vaccinated or not, if you are asymptomatic but test positive.
There is scientific evidence showing that certain lifestyle factors and select supplementation can help boost immune function. If you are looking to make health and wellness changes in 2022, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our naturopathic physicians to help ensure optimal health.
We also now have a post covid recovery program for general health restoration and for those suffering from post covid-syndrome/long haul syndrome. Check our website for more information.
For More Information you can call 503-222-2322 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) – a pain with simple explanations…sometimes.
I find my practice lately is full of women with recurrent UTIs. Although each woman is different and the
underlying reason for their recurrent infections does vary slightly, there are common threads to always
consider when treating UTIs. Often there are patterns relating to sexual activity, hormonal changes that
Supporting yourself during cold and flu season
It’s that time of year again! Cold and flu season lasts from October to May, although we all know you can get sick with influenza or another flu-like illness pretty much anytime. Upper respiratory infections are well-named: they lead to symptoms in the upper respiratory tract, the throat, nose, and sinuses. Most of the bugs that cause these upper respiratory infections (URIs) are viruses. (more…)
Is it the flu, a cold, or COVID-19?
October officially marks the start of influenza season, which lasts until May. During these months, doctors’ offices across the world start to see increasing number of runny noses, coughs, sore throats, and fevers.
This year, your scratchy throat and congested nose might bring up some more confusion than previous years. You might think (more…)
Air quality health effects in pregnancy and what you can do about it
Wildfires continue to affect much of the West Coast, as we are all aware. But what exactly is the health impact of these fires? The biggest culprit – and the one on everyone’s mind – is the smoke and what it does to our air quality. Portland, Oregon has had the worst air quality in the world this past week, clocking in at an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 516 on September 13, 2020. The number looks huge, especially considering Oregon is usually home to some of the best air quality in the world with AQI (more…)
Breathe Carefully; The impact of wildfire smoke exposure and strategies for maintaining health.
I’m writing today from Portland, Oregon, my home and the home of our clinic of course, A Woman’s Time. As you all know, our forests and several towns and areas are burning dramatically. The worst in our history. Governor Brown had stated several days ago that 900,000 acres had burned in 3 days vs the previous maximum of 300,000 acres a year. Those of us who are not (more…)
Infertility – Part 1
Important to know the Underlying Cause
What is infertility?
The definition of infertility differs based on the age of the female trying to conceive because age is the single most influential factor when it comes to fertility. It is generally regarded that female fertility begins to decline after about age 30. This is because females have all of their eggs at birth and over time the reserve of eggs dwindles resulting in a lower number and quality of eggs available. Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after trying for a year. However, this definition is amended to a (more…)