Plastics pose risk to hormones and reproductive health

6 environmental research studies reveal critical health risks from plastic ‘Plastic world’ findings on bisphenol A, phthalates and flame retardants urge regulatory action

Amsterdam, 2 October 2008 ­- Exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates and flame retardants (PBDEs) are strongly associated with adverse health effects on humans and laboratory animals. A special section in the October 2008 issue of Environmental Research, “A Plastic World” provides critical new research on environmental contaminants and adverse reproductive and behavioral effects.

Plastic products contain “endocrine disrupting chemicals” that can block
the production of the male sex hormone testosterone (phthalates used in
PVC plastic), mimic the action of the sex hormone estrogen (bisphenol A
or BPA used in polycarbonate plastic), and interfere with thyroid
hormone (brominated flame retardants or PBDEs used in many types of

Two articles report very similar changes in male reproductive organs in
rats and humans related to fetal exposure to phthalates. Two articles
show that fetal exposure to BPA or PBDEs disrupts normal development of
the brain and behavior in rats and mice. Two other articles provide data
that these chemicals are massively contaminating the oceans and causing
harm to aquatic wildlife.

The other studies integrate new laboratory research with a broader view
reflecting exposures to a variety of chemicals in plastic. These
ubiquitous chemicals found in many plastics act independently and
together to adversely affect human, animal and environmental health.

The articles show amongst others the massive contamination of the
Pacific Ocean with plastic, and the amount of contamination has
increased dramatically in recent years; animal brain structure, brain
chemistry and behavioral effects from exposure to BPA and “phthalate
syndrome” in rats’ male offspring.

“For the first time a series of articles will appear together that
identify that billions of kilograms of a number of chemicals used in the
manufacture of different types of plastic can leach out of plastic
products and cause harm to the brain and reproductive system when
exposure occurs during fetal life or prior to weaning,” emphasized Dr.
Frederick vom Saal, Guest Editor of the “Plastic World”.

“Not only are these studies of scientific importance, they also
contribute to the ongoing US congressional hearings involving the Food
and Drug Administration,” remarked Gert-Jan Geraeds, Publisher of
Environmental Research, “As such, “The Plastic World” has a broader
societal impact and raises awareness of increasingly important
environmental issues”.

Frederick S. vom Saal, Stefano Parmigiani, Paola L. Palanza, Lorne G.
Everett, Richard Ragaini, The plastic world: Sources, amounts,
ecological impacts and effects on development, reproduction, brain and
behavior in aquatic and terrestrial animals and humans, Environmental
Research, 108 (2008), pp. 127 – 130

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