In addition to creating safety problems during production, many chemical additives that give plastic products desirable performance properties also have negative environmental and human health effects. These effects include:
Direct toxicity, as in the cases of lead, cadmium, and mercury
Carcinogens, as in the case of diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP)
Endocrine disruption, which can lead to cancers, birth defects, immune system supression and developmental problems in children.
Chemical Migration from Plastic Packaging into Contents
People are exposed to these chemicals not only during manufacturing, but also by using plastic packages, because some chemicals migrate from the plastic packaging to the foods they contain. Examples of plastics contaminating food have been reported with most plastic types, including Styrene from polystyrene, plasticizers from PVC, antioxidants from polyethylene, and Acetaldehyde from PET.
Among the factors controlling migration are the chemical structure of the migrants and the nature of the packaged food. In studies cited in Food Additives and Contaminants, LDPE, HDPE, and polypropylene bottles released measurable levels of BHT, Chimassorb 81, Irganox PS 800, Irganix 1076, and Irganox 1010 into their contents of vegetable oil and ethanol. Evidence was also found that acetaldehyde migrated out of PET and into water.
Find alternatives to plastic products whenever possible. Some specific suggestions:
Buy food in glass or metal containers
Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap
Do not give young children plastic teethers or toys
Use natural fiber clothing, bedding and furniture
Avoid all PVC and Styrene products
Adverse Health Effects
Water and soda bottles, carpet fiber, chewing gum, coffee stirrers, drinking glasses, food containers and wrappers, heat-sealed plastic packaging, kitchenware, plastic bags, squeeze bottles, toys
Suspected human carcinogen
Food packaging, plastic wrap, containers for toiletries, cosmetics, crib bumpers, floor tiles, pacifiers, shower curtains, toys, water pipes, garden hoses, auto upholstery, inflatable swimming pools
Can cause cancer, birth defects, genetic changes, chronic bronchitis, ulcers, skin diseases, deafness, vision failure, indigestion, and liver dysfunction
Many food containers for meats, fish, cheeses, yogurt, foam and clear clamshell containers, foam and rigid plates, clear bakery containers, packaging "peanuts", foam packaging, audio cassette housings, CD cases, disposable cutlery, building insulation, flotation devices, ice buckets, wall tile, paints, serving trays, throw-away hot drink cups, toys
Can irritate eyes, nose and throat and can cause dizziness and unconsciousness. Migrates into food and stores in body fat. Elevated rates of lymphatic and hematopoietic cancers for workers.
Polycarbonate, with Bisphenol A (#7)
Scientists have linked very low doses of bisphenol A exposure to cancers, impaired immune function, early onset of puberty, obesity, diabetes, and hyperactivity, among other problems (Environment California)
Softened vinyl products manufactured with phthalates include vinyl clothing, emulsion paint, footwear, printing inks, non-mouthing toys and children's products, product packaging and food wrap, vinyl flooring, blood bags and tubing, IV containers and components, surgical gloves, breathing tubes, general purpose labware, inhalation masks, many other medical devices
Endocrine disruption, linked to asthma, developmental and reporoductive effects. Medical waste with PVC and pthalates is regularly incinerated causing public health effects from the relese of dioxins and mercury, including cancer, birth defects, hormonal changes, declining sperm counts, infertility, endometriosis, and immune system impairment.
Can cause eye and respiratory-tract irritation and acute skin rashes
Particle board, plywood, building insulation, fabric finishes
Formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen and has been shown to cause birth defects and genetic changes. Inhaling formaldehyde can cause cough, swelling of the throat, watery eyes, breathing problems, headaches, rashes, tiredness
Cushions, mattresses, pillows
Bronchitis, coughing, skin and eye problems. Can release toluene diisocyanate which can produce severe lung problems
In 2006 I started building the PlanetThoughts.org Web site to raise awareness of environmental issues, but I have been in the software field since 1978, working primarily on healthcare-related and not-for-profit organizations, but also for some general commercial companies. I have also long been a supporter of environmental causes.
I am an enthusiastic Tai Chi Chuan practitioner and teacher. This helps balance my brain after sitting at a screen for hours at a time, and lends some balance to life.
In early 2006 global warming and other environmental and energy challenges, as well as escalating wars in numerous locations, became central to my understanding of issues that our whole planet faces, and I wanted to do something with my skills to spread awareness and understanding of environment and energy issues, as well as discuss better philosophies of living, for greater satisfaction beyond consumerism.