4 posts in this topic

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Plastic materials pervade every area of modern life. It is estimated that during the first ten years of this century, almost as much plastic was manufactured as during the whole of the last century. A substantial amount of the world’s crude oil is used in the production of plastics.[1] Furthermore, plastic waste is a huge environmental issue due to the harmful chemicals and greenhouse gases that are emitted when it is incinerated.[2] Alternatively, if buried deep in landfill sites, harmful chemicals can leach into the soil, contaminating groundwater;[3] floating plastic waste can survive for thousands of years in water, potentially serving as a transportation device for invasive species, thus disrupting habitats.[4] 

Plastic debris in water can also be laced with chemicals which, when ingested, can injure or poison. In addition to the effects on habitats and wildlife, the chemicals that are added to plastics (often to provide desirable performance characteristics such as hardness or flexibility) are also absorbed by the human body. They can therefore pose serious health risks, not just for those exposed to them during the manufacturing process, but for the population in general.[5]

Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), a plasticising chemical, is a recognised endocrine disruptor (i.e., a chemical that may interfere with the body’s hormone system),[6] and it can increase the risk of birth defects and other developmental disorders.[7][8] Children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals and their capacity to interfere with hormonal systems.[8] By altering feedback loops in the brain, thyroid, gonads, pituitary and other parts of the endocrine system, endocrine disruptors can affect overall development and increase the risk of cancer later in life.[9] [10] 

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are widely used in many plastic products and have also been associated with numerous health conditions. One study measuring the levels of PBDEs in children’s blood found that the higher the levels, the significantly poorer the child's cardiovascular responses to stress, and the worse the parental and self-reported anger in the child, indicating both cardiovascular and psychological effects of PBDE exposure.[11] There is also increasing evidence that PBDE exposure in childhood can increase a child’s susceptibility to autism,[12] as well as long-lasting behavioural abnormalities – particularly deficits in motor activity and cognition.[13]

Some chemicals used in plastic were, at least for a period of time, considered safe to use. For example, the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics was considered safe for many years; however, it is currently under intense scrutiny, as it has been demonstrated that it is also an endocrine-disrupting compound. [14] [15] In France, as of 2015, BPA was completely banned from use in any form of food contact material; however, it is still freely marketed in other parts of the world or has simply been replaced with other substances, such as bisphenols S or F, which have also been shown to have endocrine-disrupting effects.[16]

Plastics play a role in almost every aspect of food production and preparation. Our food is often in direct contact with plastic, from being processed with plastic-covered equipment to being packaged in plastic containers or plastic-lined tins. In our house, food is stored and often reheated in plastic containers. It has long been known that leaching (or migration) of chemicals takes place from plastic containers into the food we eat. However small the quantities of these toxins, the plastic additives’ potential to cause enormous risks to our health means that consumers should be aware of the dangers that plastics pose.


[1] Gervet B (2007). The use of crude oil in plastic making contributes to global warming. Retrieved April 2016 from http://www.ltu.se/cms_fs/1.5035!/plastics%20-%20final.pdf.

[2] Webb HK et al. (2013). Plastic Degradation and Its Environmental Implications with Special Reference to Poly(ethylene terephthalate). Polymers. 5(1). 1-18.

[3] USGS (2015). Contaminants found in groundwater. Retrieved April 2016 from http://water.usgs.gov/edu/groundwater-contaminants.html.

[4] European Commission (2011). Plastic Waste: Ecological and Human Health Impacts. Retrieved April 2016 from http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/IR1_en.pdf.

[5] Lithner D, Larsson A, Dave G (2011). Environmental and health hazard ranking and assessment of plastic polymers based on chemical composition. Sci Total Environ. 409(18). 3309-24.

[6] Howdeshell KL et al. (2007). Cumulative effects of dibutyl phthalate and diethylhexyl phthalate on male rat reproductive tract development: altered fetal steroid hormones and genes. Toxicol Sci. 99(1). 190-202.

[7] Parks LG et al. (2000). The plasticizer diethylhexyl phthalate induces malformations by decreasing fetal testosterone synthesis during sexual differentiation in the male rat. Toxicol Sci. 58(2). 339-49.

[8] Shea KM; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health (2003). Pediatric exposure and potential toxicity of phthalate plasticizers. Pediatrics. 111(6 Pt 1). 1467-74.

[9] Crane DI et al. (1988). Changes to the integral membrane protein composition of mouse liver peroxisomes in response to the peroxisome proliferators clofibrate, Wy-14,643 and di(2-ethyl-hexyl)phthalate. Mol Cell Biochem. 81(1). 29-36.

[10] Landrigan P et al. (2003). Assessing the effects of endocrine disruptors in the National Children's Study. Environ Health Perspect. 111(13). 1678-82.

[11] Gump BB et al. (2014). Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) exposure in children: possible associations with cardiovascular and psychological functions. Environ Res. 132. 244-50.

[12] Wong S. and Giulivi C (2016). Autism, mitochondria and polybrominated diphenyl ether exposure CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. [epub ahead of print]

[13] Linares V et al. (2015). Human exposure to PBDE and critical evaluation of health hazards. Arch Toxicol. 89(3). 335-56.

[14] Vandenberg LN et al. (2013). Regulatory decisions on endocrine disrupting chemicals should be based on the principles of endocrinology. Reprod Toxicol. 38. 1-15.

[15] Lahimer MC et al. (2013). Characterization of plastic packaging additives: Food contact, stability and toxicity. Arab J Chem. In press. doi:10.1016/j.arabjc.2013.07.022.

[16] Eladak S. et al. (2015). A new chapter in the bisphenol A story: bisphenol S and bisphenol F are not safe alternatives to this compound. Fertil Steril. 103(1). 11-21.

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Plastic is literally everywhere, that's really a problem. But I think people are now helpless against it, the whole world use it and trying to avoid using it you just create yourself a headache. It is manufacturers who should care about people health and consider safety of materials they produce.

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Hm... BPA was considered safe and then, as I understand, suddenly scientists discovered toxic health effect of BPA and the long story had started. I wonder how many more substances in plastic potentially can be found dangerous? Why people always do everything not timely? It would be much wiser to check all substances before mixing them into materials for food containers. 

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When it comes to plastic food containers, it is worthy to pay more, buy containers of higher quality, which are safer and have less level of toxins, if proven so 

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