Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Six New Studies Confirm Health Dangers of Plastic

Six New Studies Confirm Health Dangers of Plastic

The most up-to-date research shows that exposure to chemicals released from various plastic products and flame-retardant materials cause "adverse health effects in humans and laboratory animals." An entire section of the October 2008 issue of Environmental Research, "A Plastic World," was devoted to the results of a series of six environmental research studies.

Chemicals in plastic products

Chemicals in plastic products you likely use everyday have been definitively linked to serious health problems including brain and reproductive damage and cancer.

These research studies investigated the health effects of chemicals such as bisphenol A (BPA), polyvinyl chlorate (PVC), phthalates, and polybrominated diphenylether (PBDE). Results showed that plastics contain "endocrine disrupting chemicals" that can interfere with the thyroid hormone, block the production of testosterone, and mimic the action of estrogen in your body.

These studies specified that fetal exposure to phthalates caused changes in male reproductive organs of humans and rats. Fetal exposure of rats and mice to BPAs and PBDEs showed a disruption in normal brain development and behavior. Research also provided evidence to show that great harm is being done to aquatic wildlife because our oceans are being polluted by enormous amounts of these plastic-related chemicals.

"For the first time a series of articles will appear together that identify that billions of kilograms 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 fetal life or prior to weaning," according to Dr. Frederick vom Saal, guest editor of the "Plastic World."

PVC, a highly toxic chemical found in shower curtains

PVC, a highly toxic chemical found in shower curtains, plastic piping, toys and building supplies, is not something you want in your home, particularly if you have small children or are pregnant.

This most recent research reported that prenatal exposure to rats, and exposure around the time of gestation to even small amounts of BPA led to abnormalities in the development of mammary tissue, which led to an increase in pre-cancerous lesions and mammary tumors. Adult exposure to BPA led to an increase in mammary tumors as well.

BPA mimics estrogen in the body. As a result of this, research involving cultures of human breast cancer cells showed that BPA causes changes in cell growth and proliferation as well as damage to cellular DNA -- potential precursors to cancer.

Some Facts About These Toxic Chemicals

o Highly toxic
o Used to make many plastic consumer products
o Toxins released over time and when heating liquids in plastic containers

Found in plastic water bottles, drinking glasses, food containers, baby bottles, lacquer lining of metal food cans, microwave ovenware, plastic utensils, etc.
* PVC (polyvinyl chlorate)
o Highly toxic
o Found in many toys, building supplies, plastic piping, shower curtains, various soft plastic products, etc

* Phthalates
o Mimics the effects of estrogen in the body
o Causes skin irritations
o Found in many cosmetics and shampoos, PVC products (i.e. toys), etc.

* PBDEs (polybrominated diphenylether)
o Highly toxic
o Found in flame-retardant materials, furniture foam, back coatings for draperies and upholsteries, electronics, small appliances, etc.

Protecting Yourself From Plastic

The safest way to prevent adverse health effects from these chemicals is to avoid exposure to the plastics and products that contain them.

* Use glass and paper products instead of plastic.
* Avoid drinking bottled water.
* Replace toxic plastic products with safer plastics, such as bio-based materials.
* Be aware that a "3" or a "V" stamped underneath the recycling symbol of your plastic product indicates that the product contains PVC.
* Smell your plastic! PVC products give off a distinct odor from toxic gases being released, such as the smell from a vinyl shower curtain.
* During the construction process -- when building a house, for instance -- make sure to avoid installing PVC plastic piping.