Plastic may be one of the most damaging and harmful things to human health. Not only is plastic harmful to humans, it is also harmful to animals. Unfortunately, most of us have been using plastic from our childhood and are unaware of its harmful effects.
Plastic is made from chains of chemicals usually made from oil, gas and coal. It is also combined with various other chemicals that improve its physical characteristics and prevent degradation in the environment when exposed to light, humidity, temperature or microorganisms. The resulting durability of plastic is what makes it the ideal compound to manufacture products with.
Unfortunately the chemicals that are used in the manufacture of plastics can migrate out of an item even under normal use scenarios. Increasing the temperature, light or chemical exposure may speed up that process. Due to this, potentially harmful ingredients can evaporate into the air or if the plastic is in contact with food, chemicals can migrate into food.
There are numerous routes that plastic can enter the human body. Those include breathing in microplastics circulating in the air; inhalation of compounds from burning plastic trash; drinking from a plastic bottle or plastic lined cup; eating food microwaved in a plastic container; from food that has been stored in plastic; or even opening a new plastic item with a strong odor. Plastic particles of a small size can possibly also be absorbed directly through your skin. This latter route of exposure is important to understand given that plastic particles are added as an ingredient in some cosmetics and skin care products.
As noted it may be the plastic additives that pose the greatest human health risks. Three most common plastic additiveswhich have been studied extensively include Bisphnol A and various Phthalates.
BPA or Bisphenols in general are used in many of the food and beverage containers like water bottles, bowls, and plates. The EU has banned the use of BPA in baby products. There are other forms of bisphenol still in use however. A US study stated that over ninety percent of people aged six and older in the United States had Bisphenol A in their urine.
Phthalates are used in the plastics to make it more durable. Generally, these additives can be found in children’s toys, flooring, clothes, and other everyday items. Phthalates are also used in personal care products.
The major side effect of BPA is that it affects the functioning of the human endocrine system. For this reason, this chemical is considered an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC). Our endocrine system is essential to perform and manage many functions of the body including metabolism, heart rate, digestion, temperature regulation, general mood, the ability to sleep well, sexual function, fetal development and fertility.
BPA is implicated in causation of a wide range of diseases or conditions, including,
- Thyroid cancer
- Hypo-and hypertension
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing’s syndrome
- low testosterone
- Other cancers
Phthalates are also known to act as EDCs
Phthalates can affect the following:
- reproductive malformations
- developmental disorders
- pulmonary system effects including asthma and allergies
- direct toxicity