The Chemicals

Okay, here's the deal.

There are 2 groups of chemicals to learn about:

Group 1.  Chemicals that leach FROM plastic into the oceans and rivers (or into your water bottle,  plastic storage containers, bottles, can linings, etc) 


Group 2.  Chemicals that are absorbed INTO the plastic bits FROM the ocean - plastic bits that are then ingested by fish that we eat. 

At this time, scientists know for a fact these chemicals cause endocrine disruption that affects reproduction, increases genetic mutations, and causes cancer.  What they don't know FOR SURE, is if the ingestion of the microplastics contaminate the food chain though the small fish ingesting the plastic. They do know for sure now that plastic packaging causes cancer (see our tabs for related links).  They call for CAUTION and further research.  So we can be cautious, and at least help stop the pollution.

Group 1 - Compounds used in the manufacture of plastic (that leach out): 

BPA was originally synthesized in 1936 as an estrogen replacement therapy, but since the 1940s it has been used primarily as a hardening agent in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastic. BPA can be found in plastic baby bottles, children's "sippy" cups, in the epoxy resin coating in the interior of modern metal food and aluminum soda cans, and in many other products, including the large polycarbonate water bottles that water services deliver to homes and offices. There is indeed compelling scientific research linking plastic bottles to BPA exposure, and BPA exposure to breast cancer and many other diseases. Polycarbonate is made from BPA, and that small amounts of BPA can leach out of polycarbonate containers and plastic linings of cans into our food and drink. "Close to 100 percent of our exposure occurs this way," says Michael Selby of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

BPA has been under surveillance for years, but the charges against it grew in May 2009 when a U.S. study made a link between drinking water from polycarbonate bottles and BPA exposure. The report revealed that the average BPA level of those drinking from polycarbonate bottles was 69 percent higher than those drinking from stainless steel bottles.
Read the full article here: Global Call to End Plastic Pollution
Polystyrene, a type of plastic known most commonly by its Dow Chemical brand name of Styrofoam, is one of the most common forms of trash at beaches, right up there with plastic bags and plastic resin pellets, the raw material from which plastic items are formed. Polystyrene is particularly dangerous to birds and sea creatures because it breaks into round bits that resemble larvae and fish eggs that mimic food. Styrene a chemical found in polystyrene is a known animal carcinogen. It is not good for birds, fish, turtles or cetaceans, and it's terrible for people too. Styrene is a known human neurotoxin, possible human carcinogen, and it migrates easily into food or drink when foam containers are heated or come into contact with hot food, acids (like lemon or tomato juice) and fats or oils. A study by the United States Environmental Protection Agency conducted in 1982 found that 100 percent of Americans tested had Styrene in their fat tissue.
Read the full article here: Global Call to End Plastic Pollution

nonylphenol (from Wiki) 

Nonylphenols have been detected widely in waste water streams across the globe, which is a concern since it is toxic to many aquatic organisms. In the US, nonylphenols have been detected both in the Great Lakes and in the region of New York City.[6] In 1984, the formation of 4-nonylphenols from nonylphenol ethoxylates in wastewater treatment plants was first discovered.[7] Nonylphenol is persistent in the environment,[8] therefore lingers with the potential to negatively affect organisms it comes in contact with.

Nonylphenol and nonyphenol ethoxylates have been restricted in the European Union as a hazard to human and environmental safety.[9]

 Phthalates (pronounced /ˈθæˌlts/, tha-layts [1]), or phthalate esters, are esters of phthalic acid and are mainly used as plasticizers (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity). They are used primarily to soften polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Phthalates are being phased out of many products in the United States, Canada, and European Union over health concerns.
Phthalates are used in a large variety of products, from enteric coatings of pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements to viscosity control agents, gelling agents, film formers, stabilizersdispersantslubricants, binders,emulsifying agents, and suspending agents. End-applications include adhesives and glues, electronics, agricultural adjuvants, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents and surfactants, packaging, children's toys, modeling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks and coatings, pharmaceuticals, food products, and textiles.
Phthalates are easily released into the environment because there is no covalent bond between the phthalates and plastics in which they are mixed. As plastics age and break down, the release of phthalates accelerates. People are commonly exposed to phthalates, and most Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have metabolites of multiple phthalates in their urine. Because phthalate plasticizers are not chemically bound to PVC, they can easily leach and evaporate into food or the atmosphere. Phthalate exposure can be through direct use or by indirect means through leaching and general environmental contamination. Diet is believed to be the main source of di-2-ethyl hexyl phthalate (DEHP) and other phthalates in the general population. Fatty foods such as milk, butter, and meats are a major source.
In studies of rodents exposed to certain phthalates, high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects.

The UNEP year book 2011 states that "The degree to which these compounds persist in the marine environment and affect marine organisms is not well quantified by scientists, and further work is needed to assess the potential impact."  

Group 2 - Chemicals that accumulate into small plastic particles (like mini-sponges): 
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
Women who were exposed to relatively high levels of PCBs in the workplace or ate large amounts of fish contaminated with PCBs had babies that weighed slightly less than babies from women who did not have these exposures. Babies born to women who ate PCB-contaminated fish also showed abnormal responses in tests of infant behavior. Some of these behaviors, such as problems with motor skills and a decrease in short-term memory, lasted for several years. Other studies suggest that the immune system was affected in children born to and nursed by mothers exposed to increased levels of PCBs. The most likely way infants will be exposed to PCBs is from breast milk. Transplacental transfers of PCBs were also reported.

Since PCBs accumulate in adipose tissues, mothers exposed to PCBs can pass their exposure to newborn infants through the lipid-rich breast milk produced.[58]
Studies have shown PCBs alter estrogen levels in the body and contribute to reproduction problems. In the womb, males can be feminised or the baby may be intersex, neither a male nor a female. Also, both sets of reproductive organs may develop. More instances of this are being reported. Biological magnification of PCBs has also led to polar bears and whales that have both male and female sex organs and males that cannot reproduce. This effect is known as endocrine disruption. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) pose a serious threat to reproduction in top-level predators.

[edit]Cancer link

A few studies of workers indicate PCBs were associated with specific kinds of cancer in humans, such as cancer of the liver and biliary tract. PCBs also have been shown to mimic the action of estrogen in breast cancer cells and can enhance breast carcinogenesis.[59] Rats that ate food containing high levels of PCBs for two years developed liver cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has concluded PCBs may reasonably be anticipated to be carcinogens. The EPA and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have determined that PCBs are probably carcinogenic to humans. PCBs are also classified as probable human carcinogens by the National Cancer InstituteWorld Health Organization, and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Recent research by the National Toxicology Program has confirmed PCB126 (Technical Report 520) and a binary mixture of PCB126 and PCB153 (Technical Report 531) are carcinogens.

PCBs are very stable compounds and do not decompose readily. This is due to their chemical inability to oxidize and reduce in the natural environment. Furthermore, PCBs have a long half life (8 to 10 years) and are insoluble in water, which contributes to their stability. 

Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
PAHs occur in oil,coal, and tar deposits, and are produced as byproducts of fuel burning (whether fossil fuel or biomass). As a pollutant, they are of concern because some compounds have been identified as carcinogenicmutagenic, andteratogenic. PAHs are also found in cooked foods. Studies have shown that high levels of PAHs are found, for example, in meat cooked at high temperatures such as grilling or barbecuing, and in smoked fish
High prenatal exposure to PAH is associated with lower IQ and childhood asthma.[12] The Center for Children's Environmental Health reports studies that demonstrate that exposure to PAH pollution during pregnancy is related to adverse birth outcomes including low birth weight, premature delivery, and heart malformations. Cord blood of exposed babies shows DNA damage that has been linked to cancer. Follow-up studies show a higher level of developmental delays at age three, lower scores on IQ tests and increased behaviorial problems at ages six and eight.[13] 

hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) 

insecticide DDT 
DDT is a persistent organic pollutant that is readily adsorbed to soils and sediments, which can act both as sinks and as long-term sources of exposure contributing to terrestrial organisms [2]. Depending on conditions, its soil half life can range from 22 days to 30 years. Routes of loss and degradation include runoff, volatilization,photolysis and aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation. Due to hydrophobicproperties, in aquatic ecosystems DDT and its metabolites are absorbed by aquatic organisms and adsorbed on suspended particles, leaving little DDT dissolved in the water itself. Its breakdown products and metabolites, DDE and DDD, are also highly persistent and have similar chemical and physical properties.[1] DDT and its breakdown products are transported from warmer regions of the world to the Arctic by the phenomenon of global distillation, where they then accumulate in the region's food web.[34]
Because of its lipophilic properties, DDT has a high potential to bioaccumulate, especially in predatory birds.[35] DDT, DDE, and DDD magnifythrough the food chain, with apex predators such as raptor birds concentrating more chemicals than other animals in the same environment. They are very lipophilic and are stored mainly in body fat. DDT and DDE are very resistant to metabolism; in humans, their half-lives are 6 and up to 10 years, respectively. In the United States, these chemicals were detected in almost all human blood samples tested by the Centers for Disease Control in 2005, though their levels have sharply declined since most uses were banned in the US.[36] Estimated dietary intake has also declined,[36] although FDA food tests commonly detect it.[37]
DDT and DDE, like other organochlorines, have been shown to have xenoestrogenic activity, meaning they are chemically similar enough to estrogens to trigger hormonal responses in animals. This endocrine disrupting activity has been observed in mice and rat toxicological studies, and available epidemiological evidence indicates that these effects may be occurring in humans as a result of DDT exposure. The US Environmental Protection Agency states that DDT exposure damages the reproductive system and reduces reproductive success. These effects may cause developmental and reproductive toxicity:

Other Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation through chemicalbiological, and photolytic processes.[1] Because of this, they have been observed to persist in the environment, to be capable of long-range transport, bioaccumulate in human and animal tissuebiomagnify in food chains,[1] and to have potential significant impacts on human health and the environment.
Many POPs are currently or were in the past used as pesticides. Others are used in industrial processes and in the production of a range of goods such as solventspolyvinyl chloride, andpharmaceuticals.[1] There are a few natural sources of POPs[clarification needed], but most POPs are created by humans in industrial processes, either intentionally or as byproducts.[1

Another article: 

Plastic is pervasive and so are the carcinogenic chemicals that leach from them.
The rapid growth and urbanization of the United Arab Emirates is associated with increased uses of plastic in every aspect of modern life. In 2008, the World Health Organization voiced concerns that rapid urbanization may be negatively impacting people’s lives. Rapid growth is causing air quality to decline in large cities, due in part to industrial emissions and increased a number of vehicles.
This is evident in the increased incidence of respiratory diseases in the last 10 years. But another urgent yet unstated concern is the health impact of chemicals leaching out of the mountains of imported plastic items: plastic toys, canned food, consumer goods and so much more.  
Plastic is everywhere!
Since the turn of the 20th century, plastic has entered almost every aspect of our lives: medicine, transportation, construction and consumer products. There seems to be no end to cheap, lightweight, colorful plastic. In the past 10 years alone, we have consumed more plastic than in all decades of use before.
And while plastic offers great many price and feature advantages, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests some serious connections to human health. In the UAE, as in many other countries, breast cancer is the most frequent cause of cancer-related death. It makes sense to begin to explore possible environmental causes for this devastating disease.
What exactly is the problem? All plastic products start their life as “nurdles”, small pieces of resin product. In order to make a plastic bottle, a shower curtain, a toy or any other product, manufacturers add chemicals, which give the final products color, malleability, sturdiness, inflammability or other qualities. In other words, these chemicals make the final plastic products what they are.
Human carcinogens
This is where the problem emerges: most of these additive chemicals are well known and documented human carcinogens or synthetic hormones, acting as endocrine disruptors. They include PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, which leaches phthalates; polycarbonate, which leaches Bisphenol-A; polystyrene, which leaches styrene, a well-known carcinogen.
These chemicals leach out during the prolonged life of plastic products, especially in high temperatures, or during stress such as freezing and defrosting. A just released study by twelve leading world scientists confirms the danger of endocrine disruptors and hormones at low doses.
What do we know about these chemicals? Where do they come from?
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) – Found in #3 plastic. Also in cling wrap, some plastic squeeze bottles, vinyl shower curtains, wall and floor coverings PVC has been linked to increased mortality from breast cancer and has been designated as a known human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) – Found in #7 plastic and also in thousands of consumer products, including lining of baby formula and soup cans, dental fillings, food packaging, coating of grocery receipts, etc. BPA is an unstable polymer and tends to leach out of plastic. It is also lipophilic, which means it tends to seek fatty substances to attach to. The leaching process accelerates when BPA is heated. BPA has been linked to prostate cancer, lower sperm count, and reproductive abnormalities. New studies are linking BPA to obesity and diabetes, which is on the rise in the UAE as well as the rest of the world.
  • Phthalates – Found in #3 plastic, and also in children’s toys, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, baby care products, building materials, modeling clay, automobiles, cleaning materials and insecticides. Phthalates are added to plastic products to make them soft and malleable. Phthalates are a well-known endocrine disruptor and have been shown to disrupt the development and functioning of male and female reproductive systems by interfering with the production of testosterone and an estrogen known as estradiol.
  • Dioxin – Found in #3 plastic. Like PVC, dioxins have been designated as a known human carcinogen by the IARC. It is also a known endocrine disruptor.
  • Styrene – Found in #6 plastic and Styrofoam items such as Styrofoam food trays, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowls, carryout containers and opaque plastic cutlery It has been designated as a known human carcinogen by the IARC,
While attention is given to Breast Cancer Awareness Week and other vehicles to share information about this disease, it is really important to begin raising awareness on (1) environmental causes for cancer, and (2) ways to prevent it. By reducing our use of disposable plastic and cutting down on our reliance on this complex material, we can make healthier choices and educate others about the dangerous chemicals that leach out of our everyday products.
This post was contributed to Green Prophet by Daniella Dimitrova Russo, Co-founder and Executive Director, Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Thanks, Wikipedia, for the information!