Despite significant negative health effects, the FDA is unwilling to regulate the plastics industry — an industry that develops products from chemicals known to increase inflammation and interfere with the normal function of your body’s natural hormones, including sperm production and the function of the thyroid gland.
Plastic products are made of a number of different chemicals, some of which are known to act as endocrine disruptors. These chemicals are similar in structure to natural sex hormones and interfere with the normal functioning of those hormones. They may be found in fast foods, processed and boxed foods and even those marketed as organic.1
One class of chemicals, phthalates, are widely used to make plastic more flexible, such as your shower curtain, food packaging and vinyl gloves. They can also be found in household cleaners, cosmetics and personal care products. Although intended to make plastic more durable, they’re not strongly bound to the product. This means that with heat and use, the chemicals leach out.
Americans spend 87 percent of their time in enclosed buildings and 6 percent in enclosed vehicles,2 totaling 93 percent of your life spent inside, breathing indoor air where levels of many pollutants are often two to five times higher than typical outdoor concentrations.3
In your environment, the chemicals attach to dust particles increasing risk of exposure, especially to children due to their hand-to-mouth behavior.4 Exposure also occurs when eating and drinking foods that have been in contact with containers containing phthalates.
U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)5 scientists measured 13 different phthalate metabolites in urine, finding measurable levels in the general population indicating widespread exposure. Women have higher levels of urinary metabolites than men, as they use more soaps, body washes, shampoos and other personal care products.
Microplastics in Much of Your Food and Bottled Water
After researchers found more than 90 percent of bottled water from the world’s leading brands are contaminated with microplastics, the World Health Organization (WHO) initiated a review of bottled water.6
The researchers analyzed nearly 250 bottles from 19 locations in nine countries and found an average of 325 plastic particles for every liter of water sold.7,8 The scientists wrote they had found nearly twice the number of particles in bottled water as compared to their previous study of tap water.9
The irony is most buy bottled water to avoid contamination found in tap water. However, most food containers are made with polycarbonate plastics, including bioactive chemicals like phthalates and bisphenol-a (BPA).
The chemicals can leach into food and drinks, especially when they become hot. This risk may increase when bottled drinks are transported and stored in unrefrigerated areas. Microplastics are also found in the tissue and cells of some of the foods you’re eating, demonstrating the ability of certain microplastic particles to become incorporated into body tissue.
In one study,10 researchers proved microplastics were taken into cells and cause significant effects on the tissue of the blue muscle under laboratory conditions. Another11 investigated the tissue distribution, accumulation and tissue-specific health risks of microplastics in mice, finding they accumulated heavily in the liver, kidney and gut, with a distribution pattern dependent on particle size.
Yet another study12 found 73 percent of mesopelagic fish caught in the Northwest Atlantic had microplastics in their stomach — one of the highest levels measured globally. The findings are worrying as these fish inhabit a remote area of the world and should be isolated from human influence. What’s more, they are often prey for fish eaten by humans, leading to bioaccumulation up the food chain.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Warns Parents to Avoid Plastic
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has become concerned enough about chemical exposure it has issued a letter warning parents that chemicals in food colorings, preservatives and packaging may be dangerous to their children, and that these chemicals are not being appropriately regulated by the government.13
In a review of almost 4,000 additives found in food products, they determined 64 percent had no research demonstrating they were safe to eat or drink. This is especially concerning as the growth process in small children makes them more vulnerable to ill effects. They called for strong reforms from the Food and Drug administration’s (FDA) food additive regulatory process.
In their policy statement they warn parents to avoid these chemicals, as an increasing number of studies suggest they interfere with hormones, growth and development. Dr. Leonardo Trasande, an AAP Council on Environmental Health member and lead author of the policy statement, said:14
“There are critical weaknesses in the current food additives regulatory process, which doesn’t do enough to ensure all chemicals added to foods are safe enough to be part of a family’s diet. As pediatricians, we’re especially concerned about significant gaps in data about the health effects of many of these chemicals on infants and children.”
The Disturbing Health Effects of BPA and BPA-Like Chemicals
Ubiquitous exposure makes it difficult to measure the health impact from a specific chemical. However, there is compelling scientific evidence the endocrine disrupting capabilities of plastics exert a range of disturbing health effects on people and animals. Especially in the prenatal stage, children are at significant risk. Tom Nelter at the Environmental Defense Fund commented:15
“Whatever organ or system under development in the fetus or child during an exposure could be altered in subtle yet significant ways, even at low doses.”
The impact of chemicals and plastics have been studied in both humans and animals. Depending upon the specific polymer, the effects can vary. Researchers have determined many are harmful, however as the evidence mounts the industry produces its own aggressive and widespread campaign to attack scientists and journalist who report on the dangers of these chemicals.
Author: Dr. Joseph Mercola