Tag Archives | Plastics

Health Dangers of Plastics: BPA, Phthalate Exposure May Cause Fertility Problems

PlasticBottlesAnyone who saw the documentary Tapped knows that ingesting BPAs and phtalates is hazardous to your health. CNN reports on yet another study highlighting the risks, this one suggesting fertility problems:

If you’re having trouble getting pregnant or have suffered a miscarriage, some common household products may be partly to blame, new research suggests.

This week, scientists at the annual conference of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in Boston are presenting research linking chemical compounds in our environment to fertility issues. In several different studies, researchers met with healthy couples who were trying to have a baby and tested them for BPA and phthalates.

BPA stands for Bisphenol A, a chemical used to make certain plastics and resins that are used in containers. BPA is also used in the coating of metal products, such as food cans, bottle tops and water supply lines, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

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Chemicals From Common Plastics Linked With Diabetes In Women

Consider going light on makeup? Causation has not been shown, but a strong correlative link has been found between diabetes and level of exposure to the phthalates that seep from synthetic household items, Scientific American reports:

Phthalates make plastics such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC) more flexible, and they are added to some cosmetics, perfumes and other personal care products to stabilize colors and fragrances. A wide variety of household goods rely on phthalates, including vinyl flooring, adhesives and shower curtains. More than 75 percent of Americans have phthalates in their urine.

Until now, most phthalate research has focused on reproductive consequences because these compounds seem to disrupt male hormones. Boys exposed to phthalates in the womb had signs of feminized genitalia, which may lead to fertility problems. Researchers also have found neurological effects, including reduced IQs and attention problems in boys.

The new study examined diabetes and phthalate concentrations in 2,350 women who participated in a national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2001 through 2008.

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The Mushroom That Eats Plastic

Mushroom 001Is this the answer to the ever-growing plastic scourge on our planet? From co.exist:

The Amazon is home to more species than almost anywhere else on earth. One of them, carried home recently by a group from Yale University, appears to be quite happy eating plastic in airless landfills.

The group of students, part of Yale’s annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory with molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel, ventured to the jungles of Ecuador. The mission was to allow “students to experience the scientific inquiry process in a comprehensive and creative way.” The group searched for plants, and then cultured the microorganisms within the plant tissue. As it turns out, they brought back a fungus new to science with a voracious appetite for a global waste problem: polyurethane.

The common plastic is used for everything from garden hoses to shoes and truck seats. Once it gets into the trash stream, it persists for generations.

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Exposure to BPA Before Birth Linked to Behavioral, Emotional Difficulties in Girls

RecyclablesVia ScienceDaily:

Exposure in the womb to bisphenol A (BPA) — a chemical used to make plastic containers and other consumer goods — is associated with behavior and emotional problems in young girls, according to a study led by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center, and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.

BPA is found in many consumer products, including canned food linings, polycarbonate plastics, dental sealants, and some receipts made from thermal paper. Most people living in industrialized nations are exposed to BPA. BPA has been shown to interfere with normal development in animals and has been linked with cardiovascular disease and diabetes in people. In a 2009 study, HSPH researchers showed that drinking from polycarbonate bottles increased the level of urinary BPA.

In this study, published Oct. 24, 2011, in an advance online edition of Pediatrics, lead author Joe Braun, research fellow in environmental health at HSPH, and his colleagues found that gestational BPA exposure was associated with more behavioral problems at age 3, especially in girls.

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A Continent Made Of Plastics

Taken from a 1940 issue of Fortune, a rendering of a map of an imaginary future continent, ‘Synthetica’, composed of synthetic materials and plastic debris. This is our magical future. Via Strange Maps:

“On this broad but synthetic continent of plastics, the countries march right out of the natural world – that wild area of firs and rubber plantations, upper left – into the illimitable world of the molecule. It’s a world boxed only by the cardinal points of the chemical compass – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen. Rayon is a plastic island off the Cellulose coast, with a glittering night life.”

plastic

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Styrene Plates, Cups Found To Cause Cancer

Styrene 3D Balls

Styrene 3D Balls

The only surprise here is that after years of delaying tactics by the plastics and chemical industries, the U.S. Government finally decided to tell its citizens that two very common compounds – styrene and formaldehyde – are carginogens. Rob Stein reports for the Washington Post:

Styrene, which is used to make those ubiquitous white foam coffee cups, food containers and many other products, is probably a human carcinogen, the federal government declared Friday.

The declaration came in the government’s latest update of its official list of known or possible carcinogens. It categorized for­mal­dehyde, a chemical widely used to make many products, and a family of substances found in some herbal remedies as known carcinogens.

Officials stressed that the listings do not mean that any exposure to the substances will cause cancer. Instead, it means that the latest scientific evidence indicates that the agents can cause cancer in some people exposed to enough of the compounds under the right circumstances.

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Pepsi Unveils Plastic Bottle Made Entirely From Plants

plasticPepsi is trumpeting its creation of a plastic bottle made entirely from plant matter. Great — now we’ll be filling our landfills with plastic forever, even after we run out of oil. Via Gizmodo:

Soda’s bad for you, but plastics—especially the petroleum-based PET plastics used widely for bottles—are bad for everyone. Thankfully, after millions of dollars and years of research, Pepsi thinks it’s cracked the code on a 100% plant-based PET bottle.

It looks…just like the old bottle. “It’s indistinguishable,” says Rocco Papalia, PepsiCo’s senior vice president of advanced research. But instead of drawing from our planet’s diminishing supply of petroleum, it’s made entirely from plant waste—currently switch grass, pine bark, corn husks and eventually incorporating orange peels, oat hulls, potato scraps and other materials leftover from its food business.

Pepsi’s going to test the bottle with a run of a few hundred thousand in 2012, and if all goes well they plan on converting all their products to the new bottles thereafter.

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Many More Plastics Found To Leach Chemicals

PlasticBottlesThe truth of the matter is, plastics are poisonous. Just giving up bottles of water and their BPAs is not nearly enough to avoid the health risks from plastic products, according to new research. Jon Hamilton has part of the story for NPR (and I say part, because estrogenic chemicals are only part of the problem):

Most plastic products, from sippy cups to food wraps, can release chemicals that act like the sex hormone estrogen, according to a study in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The study found these chemicals even in products that didn’t contain BPA, a compound in certain plastics that’s been widely criticized because it mimics estrogen.

But it’s still unclear whether people are being harmed by BPA or any other so-called estrogenic chemicals in plastics. Most studies of health effects have been done in mice and rats.

The new study doesn’t look at health risks. It simply asks whether common plastic products release estrogen-like chemicals other than BPA.

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Plastic Bottles Can Ruin Your Sperm

PlasticBottlesFor all you macho men who couldn’t give a crap about your carbon footprint, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and other problems associated with bottled water, maybe this will help you get off the bottle: BPAs, one of the toxins in plastic bottled water, can seriously lower your sperm count. Oh, and also BPAs can cause erectile dysfunction. Still want to drink from plastic bottles? From CNN:

Exposure to bisphenol-A (BPA), a controversial chemical found in hard, clear plastics, is thought to increase the risk of birth defects, early puberty, obesity, brain damage, and some forms of cancer.

Add another potential problem to the list: A new study of Chinese factory workers suggests that very high levels of BPA exposure may decrease sperm count and contribute to other sperm-related problems in men.

The findings aren’t surprising. BPA—which can be found in some baby bottles and water bottles, as well the linings of food and beverage cans—is known to be a so-called endocrine disruptor that functions “like a weak estrogen” and blocks male sex hormones (including testosterone), says the lead author of the study, De-Kun Li, M.D., a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente’s division of research, in Oakland, California.

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Canada Declares BPA Toxic. Is the U.S. Next?

3D chemical structure of bisphenol A. Author: Edgar181

3D chemical structure of bisphenol A. Author: Edgar181

Bryan Walsh writing for the Ecocentric Blog at Time Magazine:

It’s used almost everywhere. It’s in almost all of us. It does weird things to rodents and it may be doing weird things to us—but it’s tough to be certain. Bisphenol-A (BPA) has become a litmus test for how people view environmental health and the risks of common household chemicals—as I wrote in a long story for TIME earlier this year. The chemical has countless industrial uses, most often in the epoxy liner of cans and in plastic bottles. But BPA is also an endocrine disruptor, meaning that it has the capacity to mess with our hormones and potentially impact health—especially in developing fetuses—even at relatively low doses. (Because they can mimic hormones—which cause enormous changes in our bodies even at relatively low amounts—the dose-response relationship used to evaluate traditional toxins like lead may not work with BPA.)

Green advocates like the Environmental Working Group have pushed hard to restrict and even ban BPA, citing the potential risk to human health, while industry groups like American Chemistry Council have fought tooth and nail to keep the chemical in use, casting doubt on the animal studies that have shown harm from BPA.

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