By Bill Tiedje
Ridgway student Willow Krois has started a campaign to create awareness and reduce the use of single use disposable plastics in Ridgway, including showings of the 2010 documentary film "Bag It" which exposes the pitfalls of too much plastic.
A free showing of "Bag It" will be held at the Sherbino Theater on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:00 p.m.
Reusable canvas bags will also be sold at the event to support Bag It! Ridgway's future plans for plastic reduction awareness.
Krois learned of the environmental and health impacts of single use disposable plastics highlighted in the film while researching a sixth grade science project on human impacts.
On Oct. 29, Ridgway Secondary School students had the opportunity to view the film as well as discuss the topics presented with the film's director, Suzan Beraza.
Beraza, a Telluride resident, explained the idea for the film originated from a plastic bag reduction competition between the cities of Telluride and Aspen. Beraza said the competition piqued her curiosity into plastic bags, leading to more research.
The film chronicles one man's quest to reduce the use of plastics in his life for various reasons, from simple waste reduction to health concerns.
Health impacts mentioned in the film include the effects of plastic solvents on reproductive health and fertility, including bisphenol-a (known commonly as BPA) and phthalates, another solvent added to give plastics flexible properties.
After the film, Beraza urged adolescent female audience members to limit the use of personal care products such as perfumes and nail polish that may contain high concentrations of phthalates.
Environmental problems due to excessive plastic use are most notably demonstrated by a large, circulating portion of the Pacific Ocean, known as the North Pacific gyre, which has been mockingly referred to as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," because of the swirling mass of plastic refuse it contains.
"It's not evil to use plastic," Beraza commented. "If we can use less in our lives, it stops it from being in the system to begin with."
Dr. Theo Colborn, an environmental health analyst who resides in Paonia, is featured in the film and has researched the effects of plastic solvent chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, including phthalates and bisophenal - a, since 1990.
"It really tells the whole story," Colborn said regarding "Bag It."
Colborn also was involved in avian studies which first determined the presence of the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch."
Colborn along with her colleagues was studying albatross and other birds, including terns and gulls, on Midway Island under an Environmental Protection Agency Rural Wildlife Fund grant when they first discovered high levels of endocrine disruptors in birds returning from the Great Lakes.
Later studies found dead birds with stomachs full of small, colorful bits of plastic such as cigarette lighters, according to Colborn. The findings of plastic in the birds eventually led to the discovery of high concentrations of plastic circulating in the North Pacific gyre.
Colborn said endocrine disruptors are found "in any plastic that is rubbery, soft and flexible."
Besides being present in single use disposable plastics, such as plastic bags, water bottles or containers, Colborn confirmed that phthalates are also used to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC) commonly used in household plumbing.
Colborn explained that scientific studies have found that high levels of these chemicals can lead to shortened ano-genital distance in male infants and exist in concentrations high enough to affect roughly 70 percent of the median population of the U.S.
Detailed information about the effects of endocrine disruptors is on Colborn's website, http://endocrinedisruption.org/, under the Critical Windows of Development page, including effects of bisophenol-a and phthalates during gestation as well as links to accompanying scientific studies.
"Don't panic," Colborn reassured. "Start thinking about how you can reduce your exposure."
Colborn suggested the place to start was with reduction of unnecessary plastics in the home.