People face critical health risks from plastics

October 3rd, 2008 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Oct 3 (IANS) Exposure to plastic is linked to adverse health effects on humans and lab animals, a slew of new studies has confirmed. Plastic products contain “endocrine disrupting chemicals” like phthalates used in PVC plastic, that can block the production of the male sex hormone testosterone, mimic the action of the sex hormone estrogen (bisphenol A or BPA used in polycarbonate plastic), and interfere with thyroid hormone (brominated flame retardants or PBDEs used in many types of plastic).

Two articles reported very similar changes in male reproductive organs in rats and humans related to foetal exposure to phthalates. They showed that foetal exposure to BPA or PBDEs disrupts normal development of the brain and behaviour in rats and mice. Two other articles provide data that these chemicals are massively contaminating the oceans and causing harm to aquatic wildlife.

The other studies integrate new lab research with a broader view reflecting exposures to a variety of chemicals in plastic. These ubiquitous chemicals found in many plastics act independently and together to adversely affect human, animal and environmental health, reports Eurekalert.

The articles show the massive contamination of the Pacific Ocean with plastic, which has increased dramatically in recent years; animal brain structure, brain chemistry and behavioural effects from exposure to BPA and “phthalate syndrome” in rats’ male offspring.

“For the first time a series of articles will appear together that identify that billions of kilos of a number of chemicals used in the manufacture of different types of plastic can leach out of plastic products and cause harm to the brain and reproductive system when exposure occurs during foetal life or prior to weaning,” emphasised Frederick vom Saal, guest editor Plastic World.

A special section in the October issue of Environmental Research provides critical new research on environmental contaminants and adverse reproductive and behavioural effects.

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