Why I’m throwing away every plastic thing in my kitchen ASAP

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: There’s been a lot of buzz about dubious chemicals in the environment that might contribute to some pretty frightening stuff like obesity, breast cancer, thyroid issues. And they seem to lurk everywhere: in pesticides, cosmetics, and especially plastic packaging. In light of this, it’s understandable to start panicking. But before you do, let’s hear what molecular biologist Bruce Blumberg has to say on the subject. He’s been studying the link between synthetic chemicals and obesity for around 15 years. So he might be able to give us a better idea of what’s really going on and what to do about it.

Bad news is, Blumberg confirmed that, yep, we’re surrounded by these chemicals. One of the most well known is BPA, or Bisphenol A, which shows up in water bottles, cans, milk cartons, and more.

Bruce Blumberg: You get them from thermal paper receipts. Like I have, I have these receipts from a recent trip. All of these things are coated with Bisphenol A. It goes right into your skin.

Narrator: BPA has been making headlines for years about whether or not it’s harming us. And while FDA-funded and independent studies have conflicting conclusions, the bigger heart of the issue is this: BPA is hard to get away from because it’s a key building block in the tough, clear, flexible plastic called polycarbonate. And that proximity to food is what concerns scientists like Blumberg.

Bruce Blumberg: You don’t want to store food in plastics because some fraction of those plastics will leach into your food.

Narrator: The BPA molecules that make up plastic are bound together by what’s called an ester bond, which is extremely sensitive to heat. So when you heat up your food in plastic, that heat breaks some of the bonds, releasing the chemicals into your food. A survey by the CDC of 2,517 people estimated that over 90% of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their urine. And BPA isn’t alone. Phthalates, which make plastic flexible, can also leach into food when heated.

And reviews of hundreds of studies have linked BPA and phthalates to heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. Not to mention a 2015 review linked phthalates with impaired neurological development in children, which in 2018 prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics to announce that families should avoid plastic food containers entirely. And other studies on animals, like mice and monkeys, have shown that these chemicals can lead to problems in the lungs, brains, and reproductive organs.

This is about the time someone like me would probably panic. But there are ways you can avoid these chemicals. Blumberg suggests it’s best to just stick to heating your food in anything but plastic. Now, quick aside, BPA-free plastic containers aren’t the answer because research suggests that BPS and BPF, the most common replacements for BPA, might have similar effects on your body. Instead, opt for replacements like ceramic or glass containers.

Bruce Blumberg: You have to do the best you can, and it makes sense to me to do the things that give you the most return for the least effort.

Narrator: And here’s the best part. Once you reduce exposure, those chemicals slowly leave your body. As Blumberg says, they’re stored in fat cells, which eventually die and ultimately leave your system.

Bruce Blumberg: Don’t stress about it, right? Do your best and make conscious choices to improve things.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in March 2019.

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Your morning coffee is about to get more expensive

coffee shortage
There’s a coffee shortage.

When it rains, it pours, and when there’s a drought, prices go up.

In this case, the drought is in Brazil and it has the US running low on coffee. That means your morning cup of joe is about to get more expensive.

The drought has decreased crop production just as congested shipping ports have caused US coffee stockpiles to hit the lowest they’ve been in six years, Bloomberg reported. So far, roasters have been relying on their inventories instead of hiking prices, but that will only last so long and wholesale prices have climbed.

Potential losses from the drought could affect half of Brazil’s coffee crops next year, soft commodities expert Judith Ganes told Reuters in December. She said it was hard to determine how badly Brazil’s Arabica beans were hit, but “there will be major failure,” she said. “I saw areas with 100% losses, 50% losses, 30% losses.”

Arabica-coffee futures in New York have increased by nearly a quarter since the end of October, per Bloomberg. And Marex Spectron recently upgraded its global coffee deficit forecast from 8 million bags to 10.7 million bags, citing the drought.

Logistic problems have only compounded the shortage brought on by declining crops. Some facilities in Dinamo, Brazil, told Bloomberg don’t have enough containers to ship out coffee. Some containers and charter vessels aren’t currently available, causing back ups and delays at shipping ports.

David Rennie, head of Nestle’s coffee brands, told Bloomberg it could take two to three years for take-away coffee to return to pre-Covid levels.

But coffee isn’t the only goods shortage hitting the global economy as it reopens this year.

US shipping ports have become unusually congested as imports pick up speed due to surging and unpredictable consumer demand, delaying shipments of all types, from sneakers to meat. Companies struggled to estimate demand correctly, partly explaining the pileup, while factory production was halted off and on during the work-from-home economy of 2020.

The shortage is particularly acute in certain spaces, such as in the semiconductor chips needed to make personal electronics and products with electronic components such as cars. Finally, February’s Texas Freeze suspended much of the US oil sector and the manufacturers who rely on it, making gas harder to come by and things refineries produce, like plastics, more expensive.

That’s not to mention the shortage of things like bikes, fitness equipment, and even lumber, the latter of which has added to already high housing prices. As supply dwindles, all of these things become things Americans could end up paying more for.

But you know what they say, when it rains, it pours.

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