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The Impact Plastics Have on Our Body and Health

What Are Plastics or Synthetics?

For many years, plastics have already been established in daily life and can be found quite everywhere: plastics are inexpensive, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and durable. They can be strong materials with high thermal and electrical insulation properties. You can find them in a vast range of products and in several industries e.g. transportation, telecommunication, packaging materials especially for food, drinks, and other goods, footwear, clothing, toys, cosmetics, and many more.

Plastics are made of polymers. Polymers are several molecules put together. Depending on which molecules and additives you make use of, you get strong, soft, elastic, durable or heat-resistant plastics.
Then, these plastics can be used as packaging materials, textile fibers, floor covers, pipes, or thermal insulation. You can find them even in paint, tires, or glue!

The additives used in the production of plastics can be inorganic fillers such as silica and carbon to strengthen the material, plasticizers to make plastics flexible, as well as thermal and ultraviolet stabilizers, colorings and flame retardants.
A well-known combination of carbon and hydrogen are polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Famous additives are bisphenol A (BPA), plasticizers, for example, phthalates (DEHP, DBP, and BBP), and lead and tributyltin in polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

As You Can See: Plastics Are a Real Chemical Hammer!

Phthalates are known for easily leaching out of products. Both phthalates and BPA are trackable in water and dust because of their volatility.
Have you ever unwrapped a common yoga mat, some toys, or stuff from China, packed in plastics and it smelled quite awkward? Probably, this was the exhalation of the containing plasticizers!

Plastic containers
Plastic containers used for to-go-fruits

What is the Impact Plastics and All these Additives Have on Our Body?

Scientific surveys show:

– There is evidence of correlations between urinary BPA-concentration and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and abnormalities in liver enzymes.

– Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and phthalates seem to be carcinogenic, lead to abnormal genital development, developmental disorders, and may lower the fertility. Plus, there is some serious evidence of a negative relationship between phthalate metabolites and semen quality as well as free testosterone levels. In addition, surveys show that plasticizers may cause asthma and allergies.

– PVC is used in a wide range of products (including water pipes) itself is a chemical hammer: It may contain phthalates, BPA, cadmium, lead and organotins, as well as flame retardants. Each one has already been shown in animal studies to lead to obesity. Vinyl chloride, as used in PVC, is a famous carcinogen and may result in liver cancer.

– Plasticizers, e.g. BPA and DEHP, have several negative impacts such as insulin secretion resulting in insulin resistance, a significant reduction of sperm production, and a decline in maternal behavior shown in many animal experiments. Besides, there is evidence of adverse effects on hormonal balance.

What Can I Do to Avoid Plastics?

You’ll find some tips on how to reduce your plastic usage easily on my blog: Here we go! Or do you have any tips on how to get rid of single-use plastics? Tell me!

Here are the sources and studies for this blogpost

Gennaro, V./Ceppi, M./Crosignani, P./Montanaro, F. 2008: Reanalysis of updated mortality among vinyl and polyvinyl chloride workers: Confirmation of historical evidence and new findings, in: BMC Public Health, Vol. 8, 2008, No. 21.

Harth, R. 2013: Health and the environment: a closer look at plastics.

Heindel, J. J./vom Saal, F. S. 2009: Overview of obesity and the role of developmental nutrition and environmental chemical exposures, in: Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, Vol. 304, 2009, No. 1-2, pp. 90-96.

Lang, I. A./Galloway, T. S./Scarlett, A./Henley, W. E./Depledge, M./Wallace, R. B./Melzer, D. 2008: Association of urinary bisphenol A concentration with medical disorders and laboratory abnormalities in adults, in: The Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 300, 2008, No. 11, pp. 1303–1310.

Meeker, J. D./Sathyanarayana, S./Swan, S. H. 2009: Phthalates and other additives in plastics: human exposure and associated health outcomes, in: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Vol. 364, 2009, No. 1526, pp. 2097–2113.

North, E./Halden, R. 2014: Plastics and Environmental Health: The Road Ahead, in: Reviews on Environmental Health, Vol. 28, 2014, No. 1, pp. 1-8.

Rudel, R. A./Camann, D. E./Spengler, J. D./Korn, L. R./Brody, J. G. 2003: Phthalates, alkylphenols, pesticides, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, and other endocrine-disrupting compounds in indoor air and dust, in: Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 37, 2003, pp. 4543–4553.

Thompson, R. C./Moore, C. J./vom Saal, F. S./Swan, S. H. 2009: Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends, in: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Vol. 364, 2009, No. 1526, pp. 2153-2166.

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