Plastics pose threat to human health

December 15, 2020

WASHINGTON, DC--Plastics contain and leach hazardous chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that threaten human health. An authoritative new report, Plastics, EDCs, & Health, from the Endocrine Society and the IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network), presents a summary of international research on the health impacts of EDCs and describes the alarming health effects of widespread contamination from EDCs in plastics.

EDCs are chemicals that disturb the body's hormone systems and can cause cancer, diabetes, reproductive disorders, and neurological impairments of developing fetuses and children. The report describes a wealth of evidence supporting direct cause-and-effect links between the toxic chemical additives in plastics and specific health impacts to the endocrine system.

Conservative estimates point to more than a thousand manufactured chemicals in use today that are EDCs. Known EDCs that leach from plastics and threaten health include bisphenol A and related chemicals, flame retardants, phthalates, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), dioxins, UV-stabilizers, and toxic metals such as lead and cadmium. Plastic containing EDCs is used extensively in packaging, construction, flooring, food production and packaging, cookware, health care, children's toys, leisure goods, furniture, home electronics, textiles, automobiles and cosmetics.

Key findings in the report include:"Many of the plastics we use every day at home and work are exposing us to a harmful cocktail of endocrine-disrupting chemicals," said the report's lead author, Jodi Flaws, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Ill. "Definitive action is needed on a global level to protect human health and our environment from these threats."

The Swiss Ambassador for the Environment, Franz Xavier Perrez, commented, "Plastics, EDCs, and Health, synthesizes the science on EDCs and plastics. It is our collective responsibility to enact public policies to address the clear evidence that EDC in plastics are hazards threatening public health and our future."

In May, the Swiss Government submitted a proposal to the Stockholm Convention to list the first ultra-violet (UV) stabilizer, plastic additive UV-328, for listing under the Stockholm Convention. UV stabilizers are a common additive to plastics and are a subset of EDCs described in this report. The Stockholm Convention is the definitive global instrument for assessing, identifying, and controlling the most hazardous chemical substances on the planet.

The need for effective public policy to protect public health from EDCs in plastics is all the more urgent given the industry's dramatic growth projections. Pamela Miller, IPEN Co-Chair, commented, "This report clarifies that the current acceleration of plastic production, projected to increase by 30-36% in the next six years, will greatly exacerbate EDC exposures and rising global rates of endocrine diseases. Global policies to reduce and eliminate EDCs from plastic and reduce exposures from plastic recycling, plastic waste, and incineration are imperative. EDCs in plastics are an international health issue that is felt acutely in the global south where toxic plastic waste shipments from wealthier countries inundate communities."

"Endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure is not only a global problem today, but it poses a serious threat to future generations," said co-author Pauliina Damdimopoulou, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. "When a pregnant woman is exposed, EDCs can affect the health of her child and eventual grandchildren. Animal studies show EDCs can cause DNA modifications that have repercussions across multiple generations."
The report by the Endocrine Society, the largest international group of scientists, physicians, and academicians working in the field of endocrinology, was produced in collaboration with chemical technical experts at the global environmental health network, IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network). The global group of authors includes top experts in the field: Jodi Flaws, Ph.D., (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US), Pauliina Damdimopoulou, Ph.D., (Karolinska Institutet, Sweden), Heather B. Patisaul, Ph.D., (North Carolina State University, US), Andrea Gore, Ph.D., (University of Texas at Austin, US), Lori Raetzman, Ph.D., (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, US), and Laura N. Vandenberg, Ph.D., (University of Massachusetts Amherst, US).

About the Endocrine Society

Endocrinologists are at the core of solving the most pressing health problems of our time, from diabetes and obesity to infertility, bone health, and hormone-related cancers. The Endocrine Society is the world's oldest and largest organization of scientists devoted to hormone research and physicians who care for people with hormone-related conditions.

The Society has more than 18,000 members, including scientists, physicians, educators, nurses and students in 122 countries. To learn more about the Society and the field of endocrinology, visit our site at Follow us on Twitter at @TheEndoSociety and @EndoMedia.

About IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network)

IPEN is a global network forging a healthier world where people and the environment are no longer harmed by the production, use, and disposal of toxic chemicals. Over 600 public interest NGOs in more than 124 countries, largely low-and middle-income nations, comprise IPEN and work to strengthen global and national chemicals and waste policies, contribute to ground-breaking research, and build a global movement for a toxics-free future. To learn more, visit us at, @ToxicsFree.

The Endocrine Society

Related Flame Retardants Articles from Brightsurf:

Blue whirl flame structure revealed with supercomputers
Main structure and flow structure of 'blue whirl' flame revealed through supercomputer simulations.

New research reveals mysterious blue whirl flame structure
A recently discovered soot-free flame called a blue whirl - which consumes all fuel it encounters -- actually consists of three different flame structures that swirl together into one otherworldly blue ring, according to the first study to identify how these unique flames form.

A shake-up in cell culturing: Flame sterilization may affect the culture
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba have found that flame-sterilizing shake-flasks, to avoid introducing microbial contaminants, considerably increases the carbon dioxide concentration in the flasks.

Study finds another reason to wash hands: Flame retardants
Harmful flame retardants may be lurking on your hands and cell phone, according to a peer-reviewed study published today in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Study reveals birth defects caused by flame retardant
A new study from the University of Georgia has shown that exposure to a now-banned flame retardant can alter the genetic code in sperm, leading to major health defects in children of exposed parents.

Flame retardants and pesticides overtake heavy metals as biggest contributors to IQ loss
Adverse outcomes from childhood exposures to lead and mercury are on the decline in the United States, likely due to decades of restrictions on the use of heavy metals, a new study finds.

Prenatal Exposure to Flame Retardants Linked to Reading Problems
A new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons suggests that prenatal exposure to flame retardants may increase the risk of reading problems.

New flame retardants, old problems
New flame retardants escaping from our TVs, other electrical and electronic products, and children's car seats are just as toxic as the flame retardants they're intended to replace, according to a peer-reviewed study published today in Environmental Science & Technology Letters.

Flame retardants -- from plants
Flame retardants are present in thousands of everyday items, from clothing to furniture to electronics.

New process discovered to completely degrade flame retardant in the environment
A team of environmental scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and China has for the first time used a dynamic, two-step process to completely degrade a common flame-retardant chemical, rendering the persistent global pollutant nontoxic.

Read More: Flame Retardants News and Flame Retardants Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to