Most of us are aware that plastic in the environment is causing all kinds of problems for wildlife, however at another level plastic pollution is manifesting itself in far more sinister ways.
1. Plastics contain additives that are toxic and they also absorb toxins already present in the aquatic environment. When ingested these toxins pass into the tissues of the feeding organism, accumulating there and poisoning whatever has eaten the plastic.
2. Toxins in plastic additives such as phthalates can leach out of the plastic into the aquatic environment, poisoning filter feeding organisms that absorb the chemicals.
These toxins bio-accumulate in the tissues of organisms and increase in concentration as they move up the food chain. The result of this is that by the time we eat a fish we may be ingesting relatively high levels of toxins.
By our own hand we are poisoning ourselves!
Health Problems caused by toxins from plastics
Evidence is growing that chemicals leached from plastics used in cooking and food/drink storage and passing up the food chain to our dinner plate are harmful to human health. Some of the most disturbing of these are hormone-mimicking, endocrine disruptors, such as bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates in PVC.
The plastic polycarbonate
Used for water bottles and various other items requiring a hard, clear plastic – is composed primarily of BPA. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have linked BPA to health problems that include chromosomal and reproductive system abnormalities, impaired brain and neurological functions, cancer, cardiovascular system damage, adult-onset diabetes, early puberty, obesity and resistance to chemotherapy. Exposure to BPA at a young age can cause genetic damage, and BPA has been linked to recurrent miscarriage in women.
Of the thousands of chemical additives in plastics – and which manufacturers are not required to disclose – one type commonly added to plastics are ‘plasticizers’, which are softening agents making it easier for the polymer chains to move and flex. For example, the commonly used and extremely toxic plastic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can contain up to 55% plasticizing additives by weight. These are generally phthalate chemicals. Phthalates are known to disrupt the endocrine system as well, and have been linked to numerous health conditions including cancers. Certain phthalates have already been banned in Europe and the U.S. for use in certain products, such as toys.
The health risks of plastic are significantly amplified in children, whose immune and organ systems are developing and are more vulnerable. The evidence of health risks from certain plastics is increasingly appearing in established, peer-reviewed scientific journals.
If plastics are slowly poisoning us then we need to press our governments for drastic action. They responded to ban smoking in public places, but this is an altogether bigger problem. Plastics are poisoning us all, we need to see a big response to this rapidly and ever growing disaster.