By Kristen Chandler
Previously, we published an article on plastic allergies, specifically an allergy to plastic water bottles. The response from our readers was unbelievable. Who knew that there were so many people affected by this allergy? And most of these people had not heard of anyone else suffering from this allergy besides themselves prior to reading our article. In response to the numerous comments we decided to publish a follow-up article to provide our readers with some updated information.
Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA)
In most cases, when someone has an allergic reaction to something made of plastic, it is a chemical or chemicals in the plastic causing the reaction. The two main culprits are phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA). While it is still unclear how and why these chemicals affect the immune system, research does show that there is a link not only between phthalates and BPA and allergies, but also a link between phthalates and BPA and asthma. In addition to being found in plastic water bottles, phthalates can be found in many hygiene and personal items including: nail polish, deodorant, perfumes, shampoo, hair spray, eye shadow and lotions. It is also used in PVC, which can be found in some vinyl or linoleum flooring. Phthalates can also be found in plastic bags, vinyl siding, air fresheners, detergent, paint and insulation. BPA can be found in many plastics, and it is also used as a protective coating inside of cans.
Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction
Every reaction is different. Some people have mild reactions, while some people have react severely. You may have a mild reaction to something and then have a severe reaction to it the next time you are exposed. The following are all symptoms that an allergic reaction is occurring:
- Hives and itching
- Nasal congestion
- Scratchy throat
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Abdominal pain, cramping or diarrhea
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dizziness or weakness
- Anxiety or fear
- Flushing of the face
- Nausea or vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
- Difficulty breathing
Here are some of the symptoms that our readers experienced regarding the plastic allergy, according to their comments:
- Dry, red and cracked lips
- Chaffing of the mouth, lips
- Tingling of the lips, mouth and/or tongue
- Swelling of lips and/or tongue
- Sore throat
- Stomach pain
- Dry mouth
One reader did experience severe symptoms (facial swelling, throat closing and difficulty breathing), and thankfully they sought medical help and were treated and prescribed EpiPens. However, most reactions to plastic are contact reactions, usually limited to the part of the body that touches the plastic.
Managing a Plastic Allergy
What can you do if you suspect an allergy to plastic? First and foremost, if you suspect you are allergic to ANYTHING and have not specifically determined the trigger, you should consult your doctor. If you suspect that plastic is triggering your reactions, or you have been tested and know you are allergic to plastic, there are steps you can take to avoid and manage reactions.
First, try to eliminate as much plastic use as you can. I know, easier said than done especially when plastic is in so many things. Ditch the plastic water bottles and opt for reusable glass or stainless-steel bottles instead. Carry glass or aluminum straws and stainless-steel utensils with you if you are planning to eat away from home. Do not buy food in plastic containers or eat food out of plastic containers at home. DO NOT heat food up in plastic containers. Use reusable grocery bags instead of the plastic ones when you go grocery shopping. Read labels on all products, just as you would do with a food allergy. Look for phthalate in the ingredient list or look for labels that state the product is phthalate-free and/or BPA-free. Be familiar with the recycling codes on plastic items. They specify which plastics are high hazard and which are low hazard. The low hazard ones would typically be those that would be ok to use.
If you do encounter plastic and have a reaction or are still recovering from one, again consult with your doctor first. They may need to prescribe something for your reaction. For chaffing around the mouth and dry, cracked lips, some readers suggested that lanolin helped them. I know from experience with my children’s eczema that Aquaphor is good for soothing irritated areas on the face and cracked, peeling lips.
We hope that this information helps. Have you had any experience with a plastic allergy? What worked for you? What products have you tried and used to replace plastic? We would love to hear from you.