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Plastics and Human Health

What's in that Water Bottle Anyway?

People generally assume that bottled water is safer or healthier than tap water. Ounce-for-ounce bottled water generally costs at least 1,000 times more than tap water. But what are we really getting for our money? What experts like Consumer Reports and the National Resource Defense Council have to say about contaminants in bottled water may surprise you. More...
Toxic Plastics Additives
We're all aware that the chasing arrows symbol on many plastics products says something about the type of plastic resin that was used. Many people don't know that most plastics are made from petroleum (oil or natural gas) and that plastics can contain a whole host of other chemicals that are never labeled and that can be toxic to animals and humans. Studies show that some toxins in plastics are building up in humans and that some of us may be experiencing serious health effects as a result. More...
Phthalates (pronounced "thal - eights")
Phthalates are chemicals used in many plastics to make them soft or flexible, i.e. plasticizers. They are widely used in plastic products in the food and construction industries, plus they are used extensively in beauty products, pesticides, wood finishes, insect repellents, solvents and lubricants. There are a number of phthalates with differing though often overlapping health effects. Studies have linked various phthalates to abnormal male sexual development, male infertility, premature breast development, cancer, miscarriage, premature birth and asthma. Because phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastic polymer, they can easily migrate out.

Common Phthalates
Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)
Benzylbutyl phthalate (BzBP)
Di-isononyl phthalate (DINP)
Dicylohexyl phthalate (DCHP)
Diethyl phthalate (DEP)
Di-n-octyl phthalate (DOP)
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)

Animal Studies on Phthalates
Since you can control what laboratory animals are exposed to, some cause-and-effect health relationships in lab mammals are known. Many studies have shown that various phthalates, including DEHP, are hormone disruptors with estrogenic and/or anti-androgenic actions (and carcinogenic in some studies). The intrauterine, neonatal and pubertal periods are critical periods of sensitivity to the effects of hormone disruption. More...
Human Exposure to Phthalates
Scientists have been able to measure phthalate levels in human tissues for just a few years. Studies have shown that most Americans have phthalates in their urine and that all of us are exposed to phthalates from such ubiquitous sources as air, water and soil as well as from foods. People who undergo medical procedures are exposed to especially high levels since phthalates can leach out of plastic medical supplies. Infants have been found to have higher levels than adults. More...
Male Reproductive Abnormalities/Infertility
Studies on phthalates as reproductive toxins in humans are few in number, correlational (since you can't manipulate human exposure to a supposed toxin) and very recent. The large number of phthalate compounds & sources of human exposure make absolute conclusions difficult. Nevertheless, the U.S. National Toxicology Program's Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction Expert Panel concluded in 2000 that DEHP has the potential to produce adverse reproductive effects in humans and expressed special concern about exposure in pregnant and breast-feeding women.(11) Scientists are asking what role phthalates are playing in the decline in human sperm production over the last half century. More...
Premature Breast Development
Young girls in Puerto Rico have the highest known incidence of premature breast development in the world. Scientists think phthalates like DEHP that mimic estrogen could be a cause. More...
Rates of asthma have been rising over recent decades. Phthalates found in vapor form in indoor air and in house dust might be an important factor. More...
Decreased rates of pregnancy and higher rates of miscarriage have been found in a study of female factory workers exposed long-term to high levels of phthalates.(17) Another study in women living near a plastics manufacturer reported that pregnancy complications correlated with higher levels of phthalates in the women's urine.(18) Just everyday breathing seems to be an important route of exposure to phthalates in pregnant women living in cities. More...
New California Regulation
In October of 2003, California passed a law listing DEHP, the most ubiquitous of the phthalates, as a reproductive toxin. This means that PVC products containing DEHP must be labeled as containing a reproductive toxin within one year. The U.S. government has declined to regulate phthalates, so California's law is the only one in the nation. More....
Bisphenol-A is the chemical name for a building block of "polycarbonate" plastics. Common polycarbonate products include 5-gallon water bottles, baby bottles and the plastic lacquer that lines many food cans. Concerns about the possible health effects of Bisphenol-A stem from its estrogenic activity together with reports that it can migrate from the plastic into the liquids or foods stored inside. More...
Teflon Flu
Teflon (made by Dupont) has become the generic name for the non-stick coatings on cookware made from the plastic polymer polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Few people are aware that Teflon gives off toxic but odorless fumes when heated to a high temperature. The fumes cause the "Teflon Flu" in people and are even lethal to some birds because of their sensitive respiratory systems. More...
What Else is in Plastics?????
The chemistry of plastics goes way beyond the simple #1 - #7 chasing arrows system that only identifies the basic resin from which a product is made. In fact, plastics can contain a whole host of additives in addition to plasticizers that bestow each product with its particular characteristics. Some additives still used in the U.S. have been banned in Europe because of their toxicity in humans. It is nearly impossible to find out what chemicals were involved in the manufacturing process, what chemicals might still lurk in a given product and whether they could migrate out. More...
Toxic Toy Story
Soft children's toys, including those meant for teething, are usually made from PVC that is very hard and brittle in its native state. Plasticizers (usually phthalates), accounting for as much as 40% of the weight of the plastic material, are added to make toys pliable and soft. Since phthalates are not chemically bound to the plastic, they can migrate out during chewing or sucking. The toxicity of phthalates is discussed in detail under the heading "phthalates." PVC also commonly contains toxic "stabilizers" such as lead and cadmium. The U.S. Product Safety Commission handed down a decision in 2003 refusing to ban PVC plastics from young children's toys despite a consumer protection campaign led by Greenpeace urging an explicit ban. Most PVC toys are not labeled as such. Only about half of toy manufacturers have moved voluntarily to phase out PVC products. More...

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"In the end, we will conserve only what we love. We only love what we understand. We only understand what we are taught."
-Babia Dioum Senegalese Ecologist

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