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Plastics

 

 

 

PLASTIC KILLS EVERYTHING. It kills the animals that ingest it. It kills the chance for future generations that die before reproducing. Plastic is a byproduct of fossil fuel so the entire process of extracting oil to make the plastic destroys OUR water supply, the land we grow food on and the air we breathe. The factory workers that manufacture the plastic become extremely sick from the toxins they inhale during the process. Plastic kills everything in its wake..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History

In this era of many astonishing industrial developments, probably no industry has under gone such rapid growth and development as the plastics industry. According to most authorities in this field, the plastics industry really began in 1868. A young American printer, named John Wesley Hyatt, was searching for a new material to be used as a substitute for ivory in the making of billiard balls. A $10,000 prize had been offered for such a discovery. He found that cellulose nitrate, formed by the action of nitric acid on cotton cellulose, mixed with camphor and treated with proper amounts of pressure and heat, produced a substance that could be molded into desired shapes. He called his new material celluloid. It was not until almost the beginning of the twentieth century that a second plastic was produced. Adolph Spitteler, a German, mixed sour milk and formaldehyde together to form a material, which was really a casein plastic. In 1909, Dr. Leo Baekeland, an American born in Belgium, was trying to produce a synthetic resin. He did this successfully by mixing phenol and formaldehyde together under certain conditions, thus producing the first synthetic resin.

 

This new plastic was called Bakelite. Many new plastics have been made since Bakelite. Production of plastics has increased over 2000% since Bakelite was first produced, and there are now more than twenty known types. Research along the lines of plastics has given a great impetus to research and invention in many other different fields of endeavor. Millions of dollars are spent yearly in plastics research, trying to find new plastics and to improve the existing ones. Much research will be done in the future to lower the cost of producing plastics so that their consumption will become greater. In spite of the varied and widespread application of plastics in practically every phase of everyday life, the possibilities of this wonderful new material have been by no means exhausted. It seems safe to say that if the application and use of plastics continue to increase at the present rate, we may be living in a "Plastics Age."

 

Terminology

A dictionary of technical terms defines the word plastic as "capable of being molded or modeled." It defines "plastics" as "nonmetallic moldable compounds and the articles made from them." Recent use has also given the adjective, "plastic," the additional meaning of "made of plastics." An apt definition of plastics has been given by the head of the Monsanto Plastics Research who says, "Plastics are materials that, while being processed, can be pushed into almost any desired shape and then retain that shape." The term "plastics" is a commercial rather than a scientific phraseology, because rubber and glass are easily formed into any desired shape during processing, and retain that shape after cooling. The word "plastics" now generally applies to the synthetic products of chemistry. These chemical products can be cast, molded, or pressed into an unlimited variety of shapes.

 

Classification

Plastics, depending on their physical properties, may be classified as thermoplastic or thermosetting materials. Thermoplastic materials are formed into desired shapes under heat and pressure and become solids on cooling. If they are subjected to the same conditions of heat and pressure, they can be remolded. Thermosetting materials acquire infallibility under heat and pressure and cannot be remolded. Plastics are classified also according to their chemical sources. The twenty or more known basic types fall into four general groups:

 

1. Cellulose plastics include the cellulose nitrates and cellulose acetates. The cellulose nitrate plastics are the oldest in this group, and "Celluloid" is the oldest example. These plastics are made from cotton or wood pulp.

2. Synthetic resin plastics include the phenol formaldehyde, phenolic furfural, urea formaldehyde, vinyl, styrene, and acrylic plastics. These plastics are made from phenol, formaldehyde, urea, acetylene, petroleum, glycerol, and phthalic anhydride.

3. Protein plastics--casein plastics are the most common type in the protein group. They are made from milk. Other protein plastics are made from soy beans, coffee beans, peanuts, and other agricultural products.

4. Natural resins include shellac, asphalt, rosin, amber, and pitch. These materials with fillers are usually cold-molded.

 

World plastic production uses 4% of the annual oil production while fuel for transport uses 31% of annual oil production. The average 1992 American car contains 300 pounds of plastic made from about 60 different resins. Overall car production uses 7.5% of plastics produced. The average car is made of 9% plastic. The Ford Focus uses shredded cotton from old denim jeans to deaden sound. Shredded plastic bottle caps are incorporated into the heater bodies. 10% of the average grocery bill pays for packaging (mostly paper and plastics)--that's more than goes to the farmers. Every year, we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.

 

 

Dangers of Plastic Production

Independent consultants Henry Cole and Ken Brown, in their recent report Advantage Glass, explained that "the major ingredients used in glass production are naturally occurring minerals including sand, limestone, soda ash and feldspar. These materials are solid, inert, non-flammable, and are largely non- toxic. ... The major chemicals used to make plastic resins pose serious risks to public health and safety. Many of the chemicals used in large volumes to produce plastics are highly toxic. Some chemicals, like benzene and vinyl chloride, are known to cause cancer in humans; many tend to be gases and liquid hydrocarbons, which readily vaporize and pollute the air. Many are flammable and explosive. Even the plastic resins themselves are flammable and have contributed to numerous chemical accidents. The production of plastic emits substantial amounts of toxic chemicals (eg. ethylene oxide, benzene and xylenes) to air and water. Many of the toxic chemicals released in plastic production can cause cancer and birth defects and damage the nervous system, blood, kidneys and immune systems. These chemicals can also cause serious damage to ecosystems.

 

Volatile Organics--Ethylene oxide is discussed here as an example of a volatile organic compound. Ethylene oxide is used as a sterilant in hospitals. It is also the principle metabolite of ethene, a precursor to polyethylene plastics and other synthetic chemicals. Ethylene oxide can be measured by gas chromatography in air or biological specimens. Ethylene oxide reacts in the body with hemoglobin.

 

The  List of Players

Polystyrene aka "Styrofoam"

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, and more are made of polystyrene. J. R. Withey in Environmental Health Perspectives 1976 Investigated styrene and vinyl chloride monomer as being similar: "Styrene monomer readily migrates from food contained in it. It makes no difference whether the food or drink is hot or cold, or contains fat or water. ...It is not inconceivable that the animal body behaves as a 'sink' for styrene monomer until the lipid portion of the animal body either becomes saturated (although death would probably occur prior to this event) or the tissues are equilibrated at the same concentration as the exposure atmosphere."

 

PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

PVC is used for many products including: flooring, toys, teethers, clothing, raincoats, shoes, building products like windows, siding and roofing, hospital blood bags, IV bags and other medical devices. One of it's major ingredients is chlorine. When chlorine-based chemicals are heated in the presence of hydrocarbons they create dioxin, a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.  All PVC production releases dioxin. Other sources of dioxin are: production and use of chemicals, such as herbicides and wood preservatives, oil refining, burning coal and oil for energy, all car and truck exhaust, cigarette smoke, and much more. PVC medical waste is regularly incinerated all around the country. Incinerators are the one largest major source of dioxin. Incinerator "experts" say that the latest super-heated incinerator technology detoxifies dioxin, but that's not the case. It condenses after it leaves the incinerator and is just as toxic as ever. Many incinerators are sited in the middle of heavily populated regions, next to schools and day care centers. But even if they were as far away from civilization as possible, they are no less a threat. Dioxin in the exhaust of incinerators travels many thousands of miles in the atmosphere--all the way to the arctic.

 

This has had an extremely bad effect on the Inuit (Eskimos), who depend upon fish as their main food source. Because of the accumulation of dioxin in the fish, the Inuit have extremely high body levels of dioxin. Plasticizers are used in PVC that migrate into a blood recipient via the blood bag, IV bag, IV tubing. Even though non-PVC bags are manufactured, many corporations won't switch, saying it's a health risk to switch. In reality, it's a case of putting the cost of change above the health of our health and that of our children. Children's toys are made with PVC. To soften them, a common plasticizer in them that is still used is DINP phthalate. In spite of being asked by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to stop using DINP in PVC toys and teethers, there are still manufacturers that insist on using it. Many have "voluntarily" stopped after years of knowing of its toxicity.

 

Plastic Recycling Regularly Means Incineration

PVC is no exception. Building products cause dioxin to be released when they are produced and when they are burned, either accidentally or incinerated as a part of waste reduction plans. Anyone who receives blood, is on kidney dialysis, or has tubes either inserted in them or has liquid or air transported to their body is at risk.  About 85% of medical waste is incinerated, accounting for ten percent of all incineration in the U.S. Approximately five to fifteen percent of medical waste needs to be incinerated to prevent infectious disease. The remaining waste, while not posing any danger from infectious pathogens, is very dangerous when burned. It contains high volumes of chlorinated plastics including PVC (also the toxic substances mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead.)

 

Polyethylene

Hexachloroethane is one chemical of note that is used as an initiator in the formation of polyethylenes. It is listed as a reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Hexachloroethane has had a variety of applications as a polymer additive. It has flame-proofing qualities, increases sensitivity to radiation cross linking, and it is used as a vulcanizing agent. Added to polymer fibers, hexachloroethane acts as a swelling agent and increases affinity for dyes. Hexachloroethane may emit tetrachloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, and chlorine when thermally decomposed. Occupational exposure of workers in industrial facilities manufacturing or using hexachloroethane may occur through inhalation or dermal absorption. Hexachloroethane has been detected in river water, drinking water, industrial effluent water, and effluent from sewage treatment plants that use chlorination. Hexachloroethane also was detected in waste streams and stack emissions of incinerators burning pesticide-related wastes.

 

Phthalates

Softened vinyl products manufactured with phthalates (and used in the U.S.) include an array of consumer and medical products: 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, ure monitoring tubing, IV containers and components, Cannulas, Surgical Gloves, Breathing tubes, General purpose labware, Inhalation masks, Inflatable splints, Bed pans, basins, and bed rails, Thermal blankets, Catheters, Thermoformed plastic trays, Device packages, Dialysis tubing, Drip chambers, Nasogastric tubing, Enema tips. Different phthalates are used to create the different products listed above. Besides DEHP and DINP, other phthalates include Butyl Benzyl Phthalate (BBP), Diisodecyl Phthalate (DIDP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), di-n-Hexyl Phthalate (DNHP), and di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP). The final content of phthalate in the finished plastic product varies depending on the product but ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent of the product mass on a weight basis. Phthalate exposure is both higher and more common than previously suspected. Exposure data for phthalates is critically important among potentially susceptible populations [child-bearing aged and pregnant women]. Although DEHP and DINP are produced in the largest quantities, these reference range data indicate a substantial internal human dose of DBP, DEP, and BzBP. MBP and MBzP are of particular concern because of their developmental and reproductive toxicity in animals. Therefore, assessments of health risk from exposures to phthalates should include exposures to DBP, DEP, and BzBP. The phthalates that have been identified have been classified as endocrine disruptors, suggesting a possible association between plasticizers with known estrogenic and antiandrogenic activity and the cause of premature breast development in human female population.

 

On March 21, 2001, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the first-ever assessment of chemicals in the bodies of average people, including information with potentially significant implications for the health of Americans. The study found surprisingly high levels of chemicals called phthalates in the blood of humans tested. Other studies of environmental chemicals have relied on measuring levels in the air, water or soil. The current report measured blood and urine levels of 27 chemicals in a sample of about 5,000 Americans during 1999. Regarding the CDC report, Dr. John Balbus, with the George Washington University School of Public Health, said, "Exposure to phthalates appears to be higher than previously believed. The CDC report suggests that the scientific models of exposure that we use generally underestimates the public's real-world exposure. This report should serve as a wake-up call--Americans are clearly being exposed to an array of toxic chemicals--many of which can and probably should be avoided. Every family in America should be taking note of this unprecedented information and should be asking for more of it." It is known that some phthalates are passed from the mother both across the placenta and via milk. Phthalates have been reported in water, sediment, air and biota sampled from the Gulf of Mexico, and river water and sewage effluent samples from the Greater Manchester area, United Kingdom. Food samples contaminated with phthalates have also been reported. Phthalates are regulated as a toxic substance under environmental laws that limit the discharge of chemicals to air, land and water. There are no limitations, however, on the amount of phthalates used in most consumer products.

 

DINP (diisononyl phthalate)

In a national press release the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission "requested industry to remove phthalates from soft rattles and teethers. ...also has asked the industry to find a substitute for phthalates in other products intended for children under 3 years old that are likely to be mouthed or chewed." CPSC Commissioner Ann Brown advised parents on national TV "if you have a child who teethes a lot, who is mouthing toys a lot...you may want to get rid of [mouthing toys containing phthalates] until the new products are on the market." The final CPSC report points out "there are a number of significant uncertainties in this assessment including the cancer risk" Before September 2000, a petition by the Washington Toxics Coalition to EPA contended that DINP causes cancer, systemic toxicity, developmental toxicity, and endocrine disruption.  EPA reviewed the petition and available data and preliminarily determined that DINP meets the listing criteria and that there is sufficient evidence that chemicals in the DINP category can reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer or other serious or irreversible chronic liver, kidney, or developmental toxicity in humans.

 

B.C. Blount et al in Environmental Health Perspectives Oct 2000, "...phthalate exposure is both higher and more common than previously suspected. Exposure data for phthalates is critically important for human risk assessment, especially among potentially susceptible populations." According to the National Environmental Trust, "based on the CPSC's own information on the range of uncertainty of their data, their conclusions can be interpreted to show that as many as 2% of U.S. children (or one child in 50) under 12 months could be exposed to amounts of DINP greater than the recommended daily intake level. This amounts to 64,000 U.S. children potentially being exposed to excessive amounts of DINP every year. If the CPSC were to use more realistic chewing and mouthing times, or if their studies showing the amount of leaching of DINP were closer to what some European studies found, the number of children potentially at risk would be substantially higher. When purchased for laboratory use, DINP is labeled with a number of hazard phrases, including "harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed," "possible risk of irreversible effects" and "may cause cancer." In contrast, toys containing up to 40% by weight DINP in a readily leachable form are frequently labelled "non toxic" (Estrogenic)

 

DNOP (Di n octyl phthalate)

DNOP is a colorless, odorless, oily liquid that doesn't evaporate easily. It is a man-made substance used to keep plastics soft or more flexible. This type of plastic can be used for medical tubing and blood storage bags, wire and cables, carpetback coating, floor tile, and adhesives. It is also used in cosmetics and pesticides. Known exposure to DNOP occurs mainly from eating food or drinking water that is stored in plastic containers. This substance has been found in at least 300 of the 1,416 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DNOP is often used in mixture with other phthalate compounds and can be difficult to track. DNOP is easily absorbed orally.  Methods of absorption include eating foods stored in containers made with DNOP that has leaked into the food; receiving blood transfusions, dialysis, or other medical treatments in which the equipment is made of plastics containing DNOP; breathing contaminated air, drinking contaminated water, or touching contaminated soil near hazardous waste sites or an industrial manufacturing facility that uses or makes DNOP. Little information is known about the health effects that might be caused by DNOP. It is not known what happens when you breathe or ingest the chemical. Some rats and mice that were given very high doses of DNOP by mouth died. Mildly harmful effects have been seen in the livers of some rats and mice given very high doses of DNOP by mouth for short (14 days or less) or intermediate periods (15 to 365 days) of time, but lower doses given for short periods of time generally caused no harmful effects. No information is available on the health effects of having DNOP in contact with human skin. It can be mildly irritating when applied to the skin of animals. It is not known whether or not DNOP could affect the ability to have children, or if it could cause birth defects.

 

 

 

 

BPA (bisphenol-A)

For 40 years we ate and drank from containers containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in producing polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Those substances are found in hundreds of products, from water bottles to compact discs and medical devices. Until recent years, the American public didn’t suspect that BPA could be harmful. BPA can leach from the materials in plastic tableware, baby cups, and the epoxy resin coatings inside cans, especially when those products are heated, releasing the harmful chemical into food and liquids we consume. BPA leaches because the ingredients used in producing polycarbonates and epoxy resins are just loosely bound enough that they break down under heat or when damaged.

 

Bisphenol-A is a monomer of polycarbonate plastics. While it very little like estradiol structurally, it is however, very similar to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic substance with potent estrogenic activity. Because of superior stability, toughness, and pliability, BPA-based epoxy resins [plastics] are used in many consumer products, including inner coating of food cans, dental composites, and drug delivery systems. BPA has been detected in liquid from canned vegetables and in saliva collected from subjects treated with composite dental sealants. It competes with tamoxifen, an anti-cancer drug, reducing its effectiveness. It is lipophilic or accumulates in fat, whether in the human body or cheese on the supermarket shelf. According to EPA this substance/agent has not undergone a complete evaluation and determinationunder US EPA's IRIS program for evidence of human carcinogenic potential. But most Americans are probably unaware that they are regularly exposed to the same endocrine-disrupting chemical in cash register receipts.

 

New studies reveal that levels of BPA are massively higher in humans than previously assumed, causing major concern for what has been downplayed by the packaging industry as a false alarm.

 

BPA, or Bisphenol-A, leaches into food from plastic packaging and from the linings of canned foods, causing cancerous tumors and developmental disorders, including learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and deformations of sexual organs, especially in newborns.

 

The CDC estimates that over 90% of people in the U.S. are chronically exposed to BPA at over 3000 times the daily level that the FDA reports. Maybe this monstrous difference comes from the fact that the FDA standards ignored more than 100 credible research experiments and studies other than their own. The new FDA regulatory language offers to seek “further public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA,” but industry lobbyists argue about “safe levels” and do their best to muddy those waters in order to keep the profits margins maximized.

 

Much of the latest research and testing of chemicals in foods is being conducted by the very companies that sell them, or by independent labs hired and well paid to conclude that there is “insufficient evidence of levels harmful to humans.” The FDA and the CDC use the rationale that what kills rats in labs may not have the same effect on humans, but this time, hundreds of tests done on humans reveal otherwise.

 

The BPA label is either on the side or bottom of bottles in black or clear numbers, usually inside of the recycling sign formed by circular arrows. The number 2 means your food is contaminated by aluminum and polyethylene plastic, and the number 7 means there is BPA in your polycarbonate container.

 

To make things worse, if the bottles or cans have been sitting on the shelf at the grocery for months, the toxic levels of BPA are higher, and since there’s no “born-on date,” like beer might have, there’s no telling the age of the container. Also, if the plastic gets heated up, like in a car, more toxins are released into the drink. Plus, canned goods are sterilized at up to 265% Fahrenheit, so the level of BPA released in those foods is horrendous, not to mention the fact that all of the nutrients at that temperature have been depleted from the source. Metal cans have no warning or indicator whatsoever about BPA.

 

The remedy is to simply buy glass only and not have to worry about BPA, but then don’t forget to check for sodium benzoate, BHA, BHT, EDTA, and the other “preservative” criminals.

 

BPA was originally developed in the 1930's as a synthetic version of the female hormone estrogen. BPA is an endocrine disrupter, meaning it is a chemical that interferes with the hormone system in animals, including humans. Wondering why kids are more hyperactive these days and the doctors suggest prescribing ADHD pharmaceuticals? Bisphenol-A mimics estrogenic activity and enhances mesolimbic dopamine activity, which results in hyperactivity and attention deficits. Still have plastic liters or cans of soda on your grocery list?

 

Ordered up by the USA at 8 billion pounds per year, BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals produced by mankind, having adverse effects in mammals and invertebrates all over the world. Canned goods sell particularly well in times of recession and financial stress. In February of 2009, the United States saw an 11.5% rise in canned food sales alone. The highest concentrations recorded are in chicken soup, infant formula and ravioli. By the way, it’s also in your dental fillings.

 

The EPA has not even evaluated BPA for possible carcinogenic activity, and food packaging executives and lobbyists are still planning to use a pregnant woman in their advertising in order to reassure Americans that BPA is safe for children. Remember, an advertisement’s slogan is often a cover up for the product’s greatest weakness.

 

The jury is still out on just how much BPA exposure is safe for children and adults. The FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research continues to study BPA, and the Breast Cancer Fund is staging a “Cans Not Cancer” campaign to get BPA out of canned foods and replace it with a safer substance. Every plastic container displays a recycle code on the bottom. Those with code 3 or 7 may contain BPA; take special care to avoid putting hot liquid in these bottles and cups.

 

Two-fifths of the paper receipts tested by a major laboratory commissioned by Environmental Working Group were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. Wipe tests conducted with a damp laboratory paper easily picked up a portion of the receipts' BPA coating, indicating that the chemical would likely stick to the skin of anyone who handled them. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs).

 

Major retailers using BPA-containing receipts in at least some outlets included McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service. Receipts from some major chains, including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs, issued receipts that were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts.

 

Scientists have not determined how much of a receipt's BPA coating can transfer to the skin and from there into the body. Possibilities being explored include:

 

A study published July 11 by Swiss scientists found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off(Biedermann 2010). This raises the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin's lower layers to enter the bloodstream directly. BPA has also been shown to penetrate skin in laboratory studies (Kaddar 2008).

 

BBP or BzBP (butyl benzyl phthalate)

Used as in adhesives, PVC flooring, wood finishes, tampon ejectors. Dermal (skin) absorption also occurs at a significant rate for phthalates with short side chains such as BzBP, DEP, and DBP. It could contaminate indoor air through its use in flooring or wood finishes, causes reduction in mean testicular size and reductions of 10-21% in daily sperm production. It is used widely in industrial and some household detergents and cleaners, in certain plastics, and in many other ways, human exposure via routes other than drinking water are likely. There is more evidence for concern about the possible risk to human health because BBP and other phthalates are the most ubiquitous of all environmental contaminants, primarily because of their use as plasticizers, and human exposure is likely to be high. For example, a recent study reported levels of BBP alone as high as 47.8 mg/kg in some foil-wrapped butters, which would mean that ingestion of 50 g/day of such butter by a 60-kg woman would lead to an intake of approximately 40 µg/kg/day, which approaches the nominal intake values in the present study. As the levels of total phthalates in other dairy produce can exceed 50 mg/kg, and there are many other possible sources of human exposure to these compounds, the present findings suggest that further studies of the estrogenicity of phthalates should be a priority. Estrogenic exposure to BBP is measured by looking for its metabolite, mono-benzyl phthalate, in the urine. These metabolite measurement tests have only recently been perfected and put to use by the CDC.

 

DBP (dibutyl phthalate)

Dibutyl phthalate is used in many products including nail polishes, cosmetics, and insecticides.  Effects on the second generation were greater than first generation, causing male infertility in rat studies. It caused shortened length of gestation, reduced body weight,  increased relative liver weight and significantly reduce number of live pups per breeding female rat. Body weights remained low into adult life, along with anemia, liver abnormalities, testes degeneration, reduced fertility, lowered testis epididymal weights of males, an abnormal deficiency of cholesterol in the blood, lipofuscin accumulation (pigment left over from the breakdown and digestion of damaged blood cells) found in the liver. Toxic to fetus, and to male and female reproductive organs. Mutagenic. (Estrogenic.)

 

DEA (diethanolamine)

Diethanolamine is widely used in the preparation of diethanolamides and diethanolamine salts of long-chain fatty acids that are formulated into soaps and surfactants used in liquid laundry and dishwashing detergents, cosmetics, shampoos, and hair conditioners. Diethanolamine is also used in textile processing, in industrial gas purification to remove acid gases, as an anticorrosion agent in metalworking fluids, and in preparations of agricultural chemicals. Aqueous diethanolamine solutions are used as solvents for numerous drugs that are administered intravenously. DEA causes liver, kidney, thyroid and skin cancers in rats. The FDA is still undecided on this issue.

 

DEP (diethyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

 

DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program classifies diethylhexyl phthalate as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Some uses are as a solvent in erasable ink; as an acaricid for use in orchards; as an inert ingredient in pesticides; as a component of cosmetic products; as a vacuum pump oil; in detecting leaks in respirators; and in the testing of air filtration systems, toothbrushes, auto parts, tools, toys, food packaging, insecticides, mosquito repellents, aspirin and volatile components of cosmetics--perfumes, nail polishes and hair sprays.. There is particular concern about the susceptibility of children to toxic effects because the plasticizer is used in pacifiers and other plastic baby products. In the food industry, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate is no longer used to plasticize plastic wrap. Primary routes of potential human exposure are air inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact. A substantial fraction of the U.S. population is exposed to measurable levels of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate. Citric acid-based plasticizers are being evaluated to replace di(2- ethylhexyl)phthalate.

 

It is a phthalate ester widely used as a plasticizer to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) products soft and flexible. As early as 1970, studies identified and measured DEHP and its metabolites in human tissue and serum from exposure to DEHP in patients receiving dialysis, blood transfusions, artificial ventilation, and exchange transfusions. DEHP exposures occurring in the medical setting are of particular concern because the amount of exposure can be substantial and because those exposed, such as premature infants and other neonates or adults with life-threatening illnesses, may be particularly vulnerable to the effect of toxic chemicals. Because conversion of DEHP to mono-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP) occurs primarily in the intestinal tract, exposures to DEHP by ingestion may be more hazardous than by intravenous exposure, which largely bypasses the intestinal tract. DEHP is highly toxic and has a wide range of deleterious effects on the testis, ovaries, lungs, heart, kidneys, fetus/embryo, and liver. In spite of strong actions on the part of groups such as Health Care Without Harm, industry opposes the use of safer alternatives to PVC that exist and are being used presently. The Ministry of Environment Japan has added DEHP to its list of endocrine disruptors recently, along with three other substances. Estrogenic. Production in 1996 was 400-500 thousand tons per annum in Europe alone.

 

DIBP (diisobutyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

 

Di-n-butyl phthalate

Cellulose plastics, solvents for dyes, solvents for cosmetics (i.e., nail polish), food wrap, perfumes, skin emollients, hair spray, and insect repellents.

 

DTDP (ditridecyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

 

Alkylphenol polyethoxylates

Phthalates, several of which have been shown to be estrogenic.

 

Isohexylbenzyl Phthalate (IHBP)

Estrogenic

 

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)

Fishing net, ropes, tapes, tarpaulins, mono-filaments, fuel tanks, small/medium/large containers, containers for detergent, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products shopping bags, general purpose industrial packaging materials, agricultural mulching film, films for high-speed processing crates, containers, closures general purpose goods, housewares, toys, base cup for PET bottles, pressure pipes for water, sewage, and gas pipes.

 

MDPE (Medium Density Polyethylene)

Chemical Tank, Oil Tank, General Usage - Toy, Water Tank, Snow Tool, Ductile Pipe Coating, Steel Pipe Coating

 

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)

Heavy-duty wrapping film, Wide blown film, shrink wrapping, general purpose wrapping, thin films, shrink films, agricultural films for greenhouse application, protective films, gel free films for lamination, packaging materials for consumer electronics, automobile interiors, thermal insulation sheets, food containers and detergent bottle. Resin Bag, Sugar Bag, Corn Powder Bag, Bottle Box Wrapping, Greenhouse, Tunnel Film, Mulching Film, Shopping Bag, Food Packing Film, Auto Interior, PET Coating, Paper Coating, Toothpaste Tube, Mayonnaise Bottle, Ketchup Bottle, Primary Insulation for wire.

 

LLDPE (Linear Low Density Polyethylene)

Packaging, agricultural uses, heat sealing lamination, high clarity film, stretch wrapping, stretch wrap food wrapping, shopping bag, mulching film, fertilizer bag, refill bag, resin bag.

 

EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate)

Dry lamination, agricultural film (virgin resin), special agricultural film (long-life film, antifogging film),  sandals, mid-soles for sports shoes, packaging materials

 

ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene)

Pipes, many other uses

 

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) Resin Code 1

Soda and water bottles

 

HDPE (High-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 2

Milk and water jugs, laundry detergent bottles

 

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) Resin Code 3

 

LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 4

 

LLDPE (Linear Low-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 4

 

PP (Polypropylene) Resin Code 5

Garment packaging, food and cigarette packs, albums and tapes, containers, toys, kitchen utensils, medical supplies, housewares, and transparent containers, fishing nets, woven bags, ropes and bands, multi-filaments, BCF, carpets, straw, high-rigidity filaments, high-quality PP monofilament, spun-bond, non-woven fabric, Metallized Film, Housewares, Ice Box, Microwave Oven, Jar Pot, Coffee Maker, Paper Coating, Woven Bag Coating, Transparent Stationery File.

 

Antifungal PP (also PS and ABS)

Rice containers, water purifier filter housings, Dish Washer/Dryer, Kitchenware. Inhibits colon-germs and has antibiotic properties.

 

PS (Polystyrene) Resin Code 6

 

Recycling

What the industry calls recycling is not at all what most people think of when they hear that term. The hard, cold fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as recycling of plastic. Recycling means a closed loop. Plastic "recycling" is not a closed loop. In other words, it is not recycled. The number one reason is that it has an extremely limited lifespan. None of the plastic milk bottles or soda bottles that we put in our curbside recycling bins are made back into new milk bottles or soda bottles. Because plastic degenerates each time it is heated, all those plastic bottles are generally made into products such as park benches--products that don't require standards as high as those for milk bottles. Virtually all milk bottles are new plastic made mostly from the same natural gas that you cook your meals with. When the useful life of those park benches has ended, they are not qualified to be recycled. It's a quick dead end for plastic. In order to make a valid energy use comparison to glass, the short life of plastic must be accounted for. The energy used to recycle glass is considerably less than what is used to make new plastic, making glass the winner by far. Glass bottles used for milk are typically washed an average of seven times before being recycled into new bottles. In California alone, about 55 million single-use milk containers are put into landfills each month.

 

When vehicles reach the end of their life, parts from vehicles that can be sold as spare parts may be removed, cleaned and tested where appropriate; hazardous and recyclable fluids e.g. oil and auto coolants have to be drained and removed. This also includes CFCs that, in accordance with an EC Regulation on ozone depleting substances, have to be recovered and destroyed; the rest of the hulk is flattened and taken to a shredder where it is broken up into smaller manageable pieces, which are then separated by material types.

 

Ferrous material is sorted by magnetic separation. Non ferrous metal is sorted both mechanically and by hand and sold for use in new products; and remaining waste, made up mainly of plastics, rubber, glass, dirt, carpet fibres and seat foam is sent to landfills sites. Although the plastic industry has maintained an adequate supply of recycled-content plastics, it has experienced an unprecedented decline in value in comparison to virgin plastics. Innovative products, such as guardrail blockouts and plastic drainage and lumber products, may prove to be the savior of the plastic recycling industry.

 

What's really made from used plastic bottles?

Products made from recovered plastic bottles include drainage pipes, toys, carpet, filler for pillows and sleeping bags, and cassette casings.  But not more bottles.

 

Plastic in Microwave

Microwave ovens periodically ignite fears about unwanted chemicals emanating from plastic cookware or food packages. Are they safe or not? It's not such a simple question. The explosion in food-packaging technology--yielding a plethora of new plastics--makes microwave safety a moving target for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to monitor; likewise, for health-conscious consumers. Connoisseurs of microwave-ready popcorn and pizza got a scare several years ago when it was discovered that browning and crisping units in the packages leached low levels of benzene. The culprits were heat-concentrating elements in the packages called "susceptors," made of PET plastic bonded to aluminum with adhesive that emitted traces of the carcinogen. Manufacturers reformulated the packages, and FDA officials say it's now "a non-issue." But consumers should stay tuned. Other modern plastics are under scrutiny, including polyvinyl chloride, polycarbonate and plasticizers--chemicals that make plastics pliable and soft. In the microwave, some chemicals may migrate into food, especially fatty food cooked at high temperatures.

 

Some plasticizers emit hormone-mimicking substances called endocrine disrupters, which are now being examined for potential links to birth defects, cancer or fertility problems. Though animal and population studies haven't proved causation, "they're on the radar screen," says John Brock of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. And, he notes, "These compounds are ubiquitous." Plasticizers are used in everything from medical supplies and cosmetics, to toys and teething rings. Consumer Reports recently tested plastic cookware and food wraps for endocrine disrupters. The good news was that no plasticizers were found in the Rubbermaid and Tupperware microwavable bowls tested. Plastic wraps sold for home use released only tiny traces of a plasticizer that isn't known to be an endocrine disrupter. The study did find potentially hazardous plasticizers in deli cheeses in commercial cling wrap. That leakage occurred even at cold temperatures, not just in the microwave.

 

It isn't known how much risk resides in low-level exposure to plasticizers or chemicals in plastic ware. Still, FDA science policy analyst Catherine Bailey says "When you microwave, it's a good idea not to have the plastic touch the food." Alternatively, cook in microwaveable glass or ceramic dishes with lids, suggests Joel Tickner, a researcher and doctoral candidate studying environmental hazards at the University of Massachusetts. "I won't microwave plastic," he says. Plastic industry groups contend plastic is safe and consumers should use common sense. "Somebody that's going to cook a steak in plastic film, they're only going to do it once," says Jerome Heckman, a lawyer for the Society of the Plastics Industry. "Not because it's unhealthy--because it's going to be a mess." The FDA's Ms. Bailey says the agency does what it can to monitor new plastics, but if a product is marketed as microwavable, it's up to the manufacturer to demonstrate its safety. While declaring there's no cause for alarm, she says the FDA continues to monitor microwave cookware: "If we see a material that causes concern, we'll take action on it."

 

The bottom line for consumers is: Not all plastic is alike, and not all name-brand plastic products are microwave-safe. Tupperware Corp. of Orlando, Fla., says that its microwaveable products are identified on the label. Those that aren't so marked could warp or melt. Many consumers don't bother to read such labels, however. Indeed, takeout cartons, children's tableware with cartoon characters, butcher's wrap and Styrofoam meat trays are all finding their way into the microwave. "In addition to plastic migration, there's also the physical hazard of burning and scalding," says food science specialist Donald Schaffner at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "I know lots of people who microwave in pouches and bags that were never intended to microwave in," adds Clair Hicks, professor of food science and packaging at the University of Kentucky at Lexington.

 

While concerned about endocrine disrupters, Prof. Hicks says he believes consumers can be reasonably confident if they cook in containers marked microwave-safe. However, he cautions, "Trust your nose, and trust your taste." If a microwaved food picks up flavor from its container, "throw it out," he says. "If you get things tasting like plastic, you're getting breakdown products." A dash of forethought and label reading will make microwaving safer. At a minimum, consumers should: Cook only in containers labeled for use in the microwave. If you like plastic cookware, look for polyethylene, which doesn't contain plasticizers. Leave a gap between food and plastic wrap. Consider waxed paper safe. Choose the plain white paper towels, not colored or recycled fibers containing dyes or chemicals. Don't use recycled margarine tubs, dairy food containers or deli wraps in the microwave. They aren't heat-tested, and can allow chemicals to leach into food. Remove meat, poultry or fish from butcher trays and cling wraps before microwave defrosting. Don't reuse plastic trays containing microwaveable entrees. Intended only for a single use, they're not safe for repeated "waving."

 

 

 

History

In this era of many astonishing industrial developments, probably no industry has under gone such rapid growth and development as the plastics industry. According to most authorities in this field, the plastics industry really began in 1868. A young American printer, named John Wesley Hyatt, was searching for a new material to be used as a substitute for ivory in the making of billiard balls. A $10,000 prize had been offered for such a discovery. He found that cellulose nitrate, formed by the action of nitric acid on cotton cellulose, mixed with camphor and treated with proper amounts of pressure and heat, produced a substance that could be molded into desired shapes. He called his new material celluloid. It was not until almost the beginning of the twentieth century that a second plastic was produced. Adolph Spitteler, a German, mixed sour milk and formaldehyde together to form a material, which was really a casein plastic. In 1909, Dr. Leo Baekeland, an American born in Belgium, was trying to produce a synthetic resin. He did this successfully by mixing phenol and formaldehyde together under certain conditions, thus producing the first synthetic resin.

This new plastic was called Bakelite. Many new plastics have been made since Bakelite. Production of plastics has increased over 2000% since Bakelite was first produced, and there are now more than twenty known types. Research along the lines of plastics has given a great impetus to research and invention in many other different fields of endeavor. Millions of dollars are spent yearly in plastics research, trying to find new plastics and to improve the existing ones. Much research will be done in the future to lower the cost of producing plastics so that their consumption will become greater. In spite of the varied and widespread application of plastics in practically every phase of everyday life, the possibilities of this wonderful new material have been by no means exhausted. It seems safe to say that if the application and use of plastics continue to increase at the present rate, we may be living in a "Plastics Age."

Terminology

A dictionary of technical terms defines the word plastic as "capable of being molded or modeled." It defines "plastics" as "nonmetallic moldable compounds and the articles made from them." Recent use has also given the adjective, "plastic," the additional meaning of "made of plastics." An apt definition of plastics has been given by the head of the Monsanto Plastics Research who says, "Plastics are materials that, while being processed, can be pushed into almost any desired shape and then retain that shape." The term "plastics" is a commercial rather than a scientific phraseology, because rubber and glass are easily formed into any desired shape during processing, and retain that shape after cooling. The word "plastics" now generally applies to the synthetic products of chemistry. These chemical products can be cast, molded, or pressed into an unlimited variety of shapes.

Classification

Plastics, depending on their physical properties, may be classified as thermoplastic or thermosetting materials. Thermoplastic materials are formed into desired shapes under heat and pressure and become solids on cooling. If they are subjected to the same conditions of heat and pressure, they can be remolded. Thermosetting materials acquire infallibility under heat and pressure and cannot be remolded. Plastics are classified also according to their chemical sources. The twenty or more known basic types fall into four general groups:

1. Cellulose plastics include the cellulose nitrates and cellulose acetates. The cellulose nitrate plastics are the oldest in this group, and "Celluloid" is the oldest example. These plastics are made from cotton or wood pulp.

2. Synthetic resin plastics include the phenol formaldehyde, phenolic furfural, urea formaldehyde, vinyl, styrene, and acrylic plastics. These plastics are made from phenol, formaldehyde, urea, acetylene, petroleum, glycerol, and phthalic anhydride.

3. Protein plastics--casein plastics are the most common type in the protein group. They are made from milk. Other protein plastics are made from soy beans, coffee beans, peanuts, and other agricultural products.

4. Natural resins include shellac, asphalt, rosin, amber, and pitch. These materials with fillers are usually cold-molded.

World plastic production uses 4% of the annual oil production while fuel for transport uses 31% of annual oil production. The average 1992 American car contains 300 pounds of plastic made from about 60 different resins. Overall car production uses 7.5% of plastics produced. The average car is made of 9% plastic. The Ford Focus uses shredded cotton from old denim jeans to deaden sound. Shredded plastic bottle caps are incorporated into the heater bodies. 10% of the average grocery bill pays for packaging (mostly paper and plastics)--that's more than goes to the farmers. Every year, we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.

Dangers of Plastic Production

Independent consultants Henry Cole and Ken Brown, in their recent report Advantage Glass, explained that "the major ingredients used in glass production are naturally occurring minerals including sand, limestone, soda ash and feldspar. These materials are solid, inert, non-flammable, and are largely non- toxic. ... The major chemicals used to make plastic resins pose serious risks to public health and safety. Many of the chemicals used in large volumes to produce plastics are highly toxic. Some chemicals, like benzene and vinyl chloride, are known to cause cancer in humans; many tend to be gases and liquid hydrocarbons, which readily vaporize and pollute the air. Many are flammable and explosive. Even the plastic resins themselves are flammable and have contributed to numerous chemical accidents. The production of plastic emits substantial amounts of toxic chemicals (eg. ethylene oxide, benzene and xylenes) to air and water. Many of the toxic chemicals released in plastic production can cause cancer and birth defects and damage the nervous system, blood, kidneys and immune systems. These chemicals can also cause serious damage to ecosystems.

Volatile Organics--Ethylene oxide is discussed here as an example of a volatile organic compound. Ethylene oxide is used as a sterilant in hospitals. It is also the principle metabolite of ethene, a precursor to polyethylene plastics and other synthetic chemicals. Ethylene oxide can be measured by gas chromatography in air or biological specimens. Ethylene oxide reacts in the body with hemoglobin.

The  List of Players

Polystyrene aka "Styrofoam"

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, and more are made of polystyrene. J. R. Withey in Environmental Health Perspectives 1976 Investigated styrene and vinyl chloride monomer as being similar: "Styrene monomer readily migrates from food contained in it. It makes no difference whether the food or drink is hot or cold, or contains fat or water. ...It is not inconceivable that the animal body behaves as a 'sink' for styrene monomer until the lipid portion of the animal body either becomes saturated (although death would probably occur prior to this event) or the tissues are equilibrated at the same concentration as the exposure atmosphere."

PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

PVC is used for many products including: flooring, toys, teethers, clothing, raincoats, shoes, building products like windows, siding and roofing, hospital blood bags, IV bags and other medical devices. One of it's major ingredients is chlorine. When chlorine-based chemicals are heated in the presence of hydrocarbons they create dioxin, a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.  All PVC production releases dioxin. Other sources of dioxin are: production and use of chemicals, such as herbicides and wood preservatives, oil refining, burning coal and oil for energy, all car and truck exhaust, cigarette smoke, and much more. PVC medical waste is regularly incinerated all around the country. Incinerators are the one largest major source of dioxin. Incinerator "experts" say that the latest super-heated incinerator technology detoxifies dioxin, but that's not the case. It condenses after it leaves the incinerator and is just as toxic as ever. Many incinerators are sited in the middle of heavily populated regions, next to schools and day care centers. But even if they were as far away from civilization as possible, they are no less a threat. Dioxin in the exhaust of incinerators travels many thousands of miles in the atmosphere--all the way to the arctic.

This has had an extremely bad effect on the Inuit (Eskimos), who depend upon fish as their main food source. Because of the accumulation of dioxin in the fish, the Inuit have extremely high body levels of dioxin. Plasticizers are used in PVC that migrate into a blood recipient via the blood bag, IV bag, IV tubing. Even though non-PVC bags are manufactured, many corporations won't switch, saying it's a health risk to switch. In reality, it's a case of putting the cost of change above the health of our health and that of our children. Children's toys are made with PVC. To soften them, a common plasticizer in them that is still used is DINP phthalate. In spite of being asked by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to stop using DINP in PVC toys and teethers, there are still manufacturers that insist on using it. Many have "voluntarily" stopped after years of knowing of its toxicity.

Plastic Recycling Regularly Means Incineration

PVC is no exception. Building products cause dioxin to be released when they are produced and when they are burned, either accidentally or incinerated as a part of waste reduction plans. Anyone who receives blood, is on kidney dialysis, or has tubes either inserted in them or has liquid or air transported to their body is at risk.  About 85% of medical waste is incinerated, accounting for ten percent of all incineration in the U.S. Approximately five to fifteen percent of medical waste needs to be incinerated to prevent infectious disease. The remaining waste, while not posing any danger from infectious pathogens, is very dangerous when burned. It contains high volumes of chlorinated plastics including PVC (also the toxic substances mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead.)

Polyethylene

Hexachloroethane is one chemical of note that is used as an initiator in the formation of polyethylenes. It is listed as a reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Hexachloroethane has had a variety of applications as a polymer additive. It has flame-proofing qualities, increases sensitivity to radiation cross linking, and it is used as a vulcanizing agent. Added to polymer fibers, hexachloroethane acts as a swelling agent and increases affinity for dyes. Hexachloroethane may emit tetrachloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, and chlorine when thermally decomposed. Occupational exposure of workers in industrial facilities manufacturing or using hexachloroethane may occur through inhalation or dermal absorption. Hexachloroethane has been detected in river water, drinking water, industrial effluent water, and effluent from sewage treatment plants that use chlorination. Hexachloroethane also was detected in waste streams and stack emissions of incinerators burning pesticide-related wastes.

Phthalates

Softened vinyl products manufactured with phthalates (and used in the U.S.) include an array of consumer and medical products: 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, ure monitoring tubing, IV containers and components, Cannulas, Surgical Gloves, Breathing tubes, General purpose labware, Inhalation masks, Inflatable splints, Bed pans, basins, and bed rails, Thermal blankets, Catheters, Thermoformed plastic trays, Device packages, Dialysis tubing, Drip chambers, Nasogastric tubing, Enema tips. Different phthalates are used to create the different products listed above. Besides DEHP and DINP, other phthalates include Butyl Benzyl Phthalate (BBP), Diisodecyl Phthalate (DIDP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), di-n-Hexyl Phthalate (DNHP), and di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP). The final content of phthalate in the finished plastic product varies depending on the product but ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent of the product mass on a weight basis. Phthalate exposure is both higher and more common than previously suspected. Exposure data for phthalates is critically important among potentially susceptible populations [child-bearing aged and pregnant women]. Although DEHP and DINP are produced in the largest quantities, these reference range data indicate a substantial internal human dose of DBP, DEP, and BzBP. MBP and MBzP are of particular concern because of their developmental and reproductive toxicity in animals. Therefore, assessments of health risk from exposures to phthalates should include exposures to DBP, DEP, and BzBP. The phthalates that have been identified have been classified as endocrine disruptors, suggesting a possible association between plasticizers with known estrogenic and antiandrogenic activity and the cause of premature breast development in human female population.

On March 21, 2001, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the first-ever assessment of chemicals in the bodies of average people, including information with potentially significant implications for the health of Americans. The study found surprisingly high levels of chemicals called phthalates in the blood of humans tested. Other studies of environmental chemicals have relied on measuring levels in the air, water or soil. The current report measured blood and urine levels of 27 chemicals in a sample of about 5,000 Americans during 1999. Regarding the CDC report, Dr. John Balbus, with the George Washington University School of Public Health, said, "Exposure to phthalates appears to be higher than previously believed. The CDC report suggests that the scientific models of exposure that we use generally underestimates the public's real-world exposure. This report should serve as a wake-up call--Americans are clearly being exposed to an array of toxic chemicals--many of which can and probably should be avoided. Every family in America should be taking note of this unprecedented information and should be asking for more of it." It is known that some phthalates are passed from the mother both across the placenta and via milk. Phthalates have been reported in water, sediment, air and biota sampled from the Gulf of Mexico, and river water and sewage effluent samples from the Greater Manchester area, United Kingdom. Food samples contaminated with phthalates have also been reported. Phthalates are regulated as a toxic substance under environmental laws that limit the discharge of chemicals to air, land and water. There are no limitations, however, on the amount of phthalates used in most consumer products.

DINP (diisononyl phthalate)

In a national press release the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission "requested industry to remove phthalates from soft rattles and teethers. ...also has asked the industry to find a substitute for phthalates in other products intended for children under 3 years old that are likely to be mouthed or chewed." CPSC Commissioner Ann Brown advised parents on national TV "if you have a child who teethes a lot, who is mouthing toys a lot...you may want to get rid of [mouthing toys containing phthalates] until the new products are on the market." The final CPSC report points out "there are a number of significant uncertainties in this assessment including the cancer risk" Before September 2000, a petition by the Washington Toxics Coalition to EPA contended that DINP causes cancer, systemic toxicity, developmental toxicity, and endocrine disruption.  EPA reviewed the petition and available data and preliminarily determined that DINP meets the listing criteria and that there is sufficient evidence that chemicals in the DINP category can reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer or other serious or irreversible chronic liver, kidney, or developmental toxicity in humans.

B.C. Blount et al in Environmental Health Perspectives Oct 2000, "...phthalate exposure is both higher and more common than previously suspected. Exposure data for phthalates is critically important for human risk assessment, especially among potentially susceptible populations." According to the National Environmental Trust, "based on the CPSC's own information on the range of uncertainty of their data, their conclusions can be interpreted to show that as many as 2% of U.S. children (or one child in 50) under 12 months could be exposed to amounts of DINP greater than the recommended daily intake level. This amounts to 64,000 U.S. children potentially being exposed to excessive amounts of DINP every year. If the CPSC were to use more realistic chewing and mouthing times, or if their studies showing the amount of leaching of DINP were closer to what some European studies found, the number of children potentially at risk would be substantially higher. When purchased for laboratory use, DINP is labeled with a number of hazard phrases, including "harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed," "possible risk of irreversible effects" and "may cause cancer." In contrast, toys containing up to 40% by weight DINP in a readily leachable form are frequently labelled "non toxic" (Estrogenic)

DNOP (Di n octyl phthalate)

DNOP is a colorless, odorless, oily liquid that doesn't evaporate easily. It is a man-made substance used to keep plastics soft or more flexible. This type of plastic can be used for medical tubing and blood storage bags, wire and cables, carpetback coating, floor tile, and adhesives. It is also used in cosmetics and pesticides. Known exposure to DNOP occurs mainly from eating food or drinking water that is stored in plastic containers. This substance has been found in at least 300 of the 1,416 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DNOP is often used in mixture with other phthalate compounds and can be difficult to track. DNOP is easily absorbed orally.  Methods of absorption include eating foods stored in containers made with DNOP that has leaked into the food; receiving blood transfusions, dialysis, or other medical treatments in which the equipment is made of plastics containing DNOP; breathing contaminated air, drinking contaminated water, or touching contaminated soil near hazardous waste sites or an industrial manufacturing facility that uses or makes DNOP. Little information is known about the health effects that might be caused by DNOP. It is not known what happens when you breathe or ingest the chemical. Some rats and mice that were given very high doses of DNOP by mouth died. Mildly harmful effects have been seen in the livers of some rats and mice given very high doses of DNOP by mouth for short (14 days or less) or intermediate periods (15 to 365 days) of time, but lower doses given for short periods of time generally caused no harmful effects. No information is available on the health effects of having DNOP in contact with human skin. It can be mildly irritating when applied to the skin of animals. It is not known whether or not DNOP could affect the ability to have children, or if it could cause birth defects.

 

 

 

BPA (bisphenol-A)

For 40 years we ate and drank from containers containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in producing polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Those substances are found in hundreds of products, from water bottles to compact discs and medical devices. Until recent years, the American public didn’t suspect that BPA could be harmful. BPA can leach from the materials in plastic tableware, baby cups, and the epoxy resin coatings inside cans, especially when those products are heated, releasing the harmful chemical into food and liquids we consume. BPA leaches because the ingredients used in producing polycarbonates and epoxy resins are just loosely bound enough that they break down under heat or when damaged.

 

Bisphenol-A is a monomer of polycarbonate plastics. While it very little like estradiol structurally, it is however, very similar to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic substance with potent estrogenic activity. Because of superior stability, toughness, and pliability, BPA-based epoxy resins [plastics] are used in many consumer products, including inner coating of food cans, dental composites, and drug delivery systems. BPA has been detected in liquid from canned vegetables and in saliva collected from subjects treated with composite dental sealants. It competes with tamoxifen, an anti-cancer drug, reducing its effectiveness. It is lipophilic or accumulates in fat, whether in the human body or cheese on the supermarket shelf. According to EPA this substance/agent has not undergone a complete evaluation and determination under US EPA's IRIS program for evidence of human carcinogenic potential. But most Americans are probably unaware that they are regularly exposed to the same endocrine-disrupting chemical in cash register receipts.

 

New studies reveal that levels of BPA are massively higher in humans than previously assumed, causing major concern for what has been downplayed by the packaging industry as a false alarm.

 

BPA, or Bisphenol-A, leaches into food from plastic packaging and from the linings of canned foods, causing cancerous tumors and developmental disorders, including learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and deformations of sexual organs, especially in newborns.

 

The CDC estimates that over 90% of people in the U.S. are chronically exposed to BPA at over 3000 times the daily level that the FDA reports. Maybe this monstrous difference comes from the fact that the FDA standards ignored more than 100 credible research experiments and studies other than their own. The new FDA regulatory language offers to seek “further public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA,” but industry lobbyists argue about “safe levels” and do their best to muddy those waters in order to keep the profits margins maximized.

 

Much of the latest research and testing of chemicals in foods is being conducted by the very companies that sell them, or by independent labs hired and well paid to conclude that there is “insufficient evidence of levels harmful to humans.” The FDA and the CDC use the rationale that what kills rats in labs may not have the same effect on humans, but this time, hundreds of tests done on humans reveal otherwise.

 

The BPA label is either on the side or bottom of bottles in black or clear numbers, usually inside of the recycling sign formed by circular arrows. The number 2 means your food is contaminated by aluminum and polyethylene plastic, and the number 7 means there is BPA in your polycarbonate container.

 

To make things worse, if the bottles or cans have been sitting on the shelf at the grocery for months, the toxic levels of BPA are higher, and since there’s no “born-on date,” like beer might have, there’s no telling the age of the container. Also, if the plastic gets heated up, like in a car, more toxins are released into the drink. Plus, canned goods are sterilized at up to 265% Fahrenheit, so the level of BPA released in those foods is horrendous, not to mention the fact that all of the nutrients at that temperature have been depleted from the source. Metal cans have no warning or indicator whatsoever about BPA.

 

The remedy is to simply buy glass only and not have to worry about BPA, but then don’t forget to check for sodium benzoate, BHA, BHT, EDTA, and the other “preservative” criminals.

BPA was originally developed in the 1930's as a synthetic version of the female hormone estrogen. BPA is an endocrine disrupter, meaning it is a chemical that interferes with the hormone system in animals, including humans. Wondering why kids are more hyperactive these days and the doctors suggest prescribing ADHD pharmaceuticals? Bisphenol-A mimics estrogenic activity and enhances mesolimbic dopamine activity, which results in hyperactivity and attention deficits. Still have plastic liters or cans of soda on your grocery list?

 

Ordered up by the USA at 8 billion pounds per year, BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals produced by mankind, having adverse effects in mammals and invertebrates all over the world. Canned goods sell particularly well in times of recession and financial stress. In February of 2009, the United States saw an 11.5% rise in canned food sales alone. The highest concentrations recorded are in chicken soup, infant formula and ravioli. By the way, it’s also in your dental fillings.

 

The EPA has not even evaluated BPA for possible carcinogenic activity, and food packaging executives and lobbyists are still planning to use a pregnant woman in their advertising in order to reassure Americans that BPA is safe for children. Remember, an advertisement’s slogan is often a cover up for the product’s greatest weakness.

 

The jury is still out on just how much BPA exposure is safe for children and adults. The FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research continues to study BPA, and the Breast Cancer Fund is staging a “Cans Not Cancer” campaign to get BPA out of canned foods and replace it with a safer substance. Every plastic container displays a recycle code on the bottom. Those with code 3 or 7 may contain BPA; take special care to avoid putting hot liquid in these bottles and cups.

 

Two-fifths of the paper receipts tested by a major laboratory commissioned by Environmental Working Group were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. Wipe tests conducted with a damp laboratory paper easily picked up a portion of the receipts' BPA coating, indicating that the chemical would likely stick to the skin of anyone who handled them. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs).

 

Major retailers using BPA-containing receipts in at least some outlets included McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service. Receipts from some major chains, including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs, issued receipts that were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts.

 

Scientists have not determined how much of a receipt's BPA coating can transfer to the skin and from there into the body. Possibilities being explored include:

 

A study published July 11 by Swiss scientists found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off (Biedermann 2010). This raises the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin's lower layers to enter the bloodstream directly. BPA has also been shown to penetrate skin in laboratory studies (Kaddar 2008).

BBP or BzBP (butyl benzyl phthalate)

Used as in adhesives, PVC flooring, wood finishes, tampon ejectors. Dermal (skin) absorption also occurs at a significant rate for phthalates with short side chains such as BzBP, DEP, and DBP. It could contaminate indoor air through its use in flooring or wood finishes, causes reduction in mean testicular size and reductions of 10-21% in daily sperm production. It is used widely in industrial and some household detergents and cleaners, in certain plastics, and in many other ways, human exposure via routes other than drinking water are likely. There is more evidence for concern about the possible risk to human health because BBP and other phthalates are the most ubiquitous of all environmental contaminants, primarily because of their use as plasticizers, and human exposure is likely to be high. For example, a recent study reported levels of BBP alone as high as 47.8 mg/kg in some foil-wrapped butters, which would mean that ingestion of 50 g/day of such butter by a 60-kg woman would lead to an intake of approximately 40 µg/kg/day, which approaches the nominal intake values in the present study. As the levels of total phthalates in other dairy produce can exceed 50 mg/kg, and there are many other possible sources of human exposure to these compounds, the present findings suggest that further studies of the estrogenicity of phthalates should be a priority. Estrogenic exposure to BBP is measured by looking for its metabolite, mono-benzyl phthalate, in the urine. These metabolite measurement tests have only recently been perfected and put to use by the CDC.

DBP (dibutyl phthalate)

Dibutyl phthalate is used in many products including nail polishes, cosmetics, and insecticides.  Effects on the second generation were greater than first generation, causing male infertility in rat studies. It caused shortened length of gestation, reduced body weight,  increased relative liver weight and significantly reduce number of live pups per breeding female rat. Body weights remained low into adult life, along with anemia, liver abnormalities, testes degeneration, reduced fertility, lowered testis epididymal weights of males, an abnormal deficiency of cholesterol in the blood, lipofuscin accumulation (pigment left over from the breakdown and digestion of damaged blood cells) found in the liver. Toxic to fetus, and to male and female reproductive organs. Mutagenic. (Estrogenic.)

DEA (diethanolamine)

Diethanolamine is widely used in the preparation of diethanolamides and diethanolamine salts of long-chain fatty acids that are formulated into soaps and surfactants used in liquid laundry and dishwashing detergents, cosmetics, shampoos, and hair conditioners. Diethanolamine is also used in textile processing, in industrial gas purification to remove acid gases, as an anticorrosion agent in metalworking fluids, and in preparations of agricultural chemicals. Aqueous diethanolamine solutions are used as solvents for numerous drugs that are administered intravenously. DEA causes liver, kidney, thyroid and skin cancers in rats. The FDA is still undecided on this issue.

DEP (diethyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program classifies diethylhexyl phthalate as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Some uses are as a solvent in erasable ink; as an acaricid for use in orchards; as an inert ingredient in pesticides; as a component of cosmetic products; as a vacuum pump oil; in detecting leaks in respirators; and in the testing of air filtration systems, toothbrushes, auto parts, tools, toys, food packaging, insecticides, mosquito repellents, aspirin and volatile components of cosmetics--perfumes, nail polishes and hair sprays.. There is particular concern about the susceptibility of children to toxic effects because the plasticizer is used in pacifiers and other plastic baby products. In the food industry, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate is no longer used to plasticize plastic wrap. Primary routes of potential human exposure are air inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact. A substantial fraction of the U.S. population is exposed to measurable levels of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate. Citric acid-based plasticizers are being evaluated to replace di(2- ethylhexyl)phthalate.

It is a phthalate ester widely used as a plasticizer to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) products soft and flexible. As early as 1970, studies identified and measured DEHP and its metabolites in human tissue and serum from exposure to DEHP in patients receiving dialysis, blood transfusions, artificial ventilation, and exchange transfusions. DEHP exposures occurring in the medical setting are of particular concern because the amount of exposure can be substantial and because those exposed, such as premature infants and other neonates or adults with life-threatening illnesses, may be particularly vulnerable to the effect of toxic chemicals. Because conversion of DEHP to mono-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP) occurs primarily in the intestinal tract, exposures to DEHP by ingestion may be more hazardous than by intravenous exposure, which largely bypasses the intestinal tract. DEHP is highly toxic and has a wide range of deleterious effects on the testis, ovaries, lungs, heart, kidneys, fetus/embryo, and liver. In spite of strong actions on the part of groups such as Health Care Without Harm, industry opposes the use of safer alternatives to PVC that exist and are being used presently. The Ministry of Environment Japan has added DEHP to its list of endocrine disruptors recently, along with three other substances. Estrogenic. Production in 1996 was 400-500 thousand tons per annum in Europe alone.

DIBP (diisobutyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

Di-n-butyl phthalate

Cellulose plastics, solvents for dyes, solvents for cosmetics (i.e., nail polish), food wrap, perfumes, skin emollients, hair spray, and insect repellents.

DTDP (ditridecyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

Alkylphenol polyethoxylates

Phthalates, several of which have been shown to be estrogenic.

Isohexylbenzyl Phthalate (IHBP)

Estrogenic

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)

Fishing net, ropes, tapes, tarpaulins, mono-filaments, fuel tanks, small/medium/large containers, containers for detergent, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products shopping bags, general purpose industrial packaging materials, agricultural mulching film, films for high-speed processing crates, containers, closures general purpose goods, housewares, toys, base cup for PET bottles, pressure pipes for water, sewage, and gas pipes.

MDPE (Medium Density Polyethylene)

Chemical Tank, Oil Tank, General Usage - Toy, Water Tank, Snow Tool, Ductile Pipe Coating, Steel Pipe Coating

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)

Heavy-duty wrapping film, Wide blown film, shrink wrapping, general purpose wrapping, thin films, shrink films, agricultural films for greenhouse application, protective films, gel free films for lamination, packaging materials for consumer electronics, automobile interiors, thermal insulation sheets, food containers and detergent bottle. Resin Bag, Sugar Bag, Corn Powder Bag, Bottle Box Wrapping, Greenhouse, Tunnel Film, Mulching Film, Shopping Bag, Food Packing Film, Auto Interior, PET Coating, Paper Coating, Toothpaste Tube, Mayonnaise Bottle, Ketchup Bottle, Primary Insulation for wire.

LLDPE (Linear Low Density Polyethylene)

Packaging, agricultural uses, heat sealing lamination, high clarity film, stretch wrapping, stretch wrap food wrapping, shopping bag, mulching film, fertilizer bag, refill bag, resin bag.

EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate)

Dry lamination, agricultural film (virgin resin), special agricultural film (long-life film, antifogging film),  sandals, mid-soles for sports shoes, packaging materials

ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene)

Pipes, many other uses

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) Resin Code 1

Soda and water bottles

HDPE (High-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 2

Milk and water jugs, laundry detergent bottles

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) Resin Code 3

LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 4

LLDPE (Linear Low-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 4

PP (Polypropylene) Resin Code 5

Garment packaging, food and cigarette packs, albums and tapes, containers, toys, kitchen utensils, medical supplies, housewares, and transparent containers, fishing nets, woven bags, ropes and bands, multi-filaments, BCF, carpets, straw, high-rigidity filaments, high-quality PP monofilament, spun-bond, non-woven fabric, Metallized Film, Housewares, Ice Box, Microwave Oven, Jar Pot, Coffee Maker, Paper Coating, Woven Bag Coating, Transparent Stationery File.

Antifungal PP (also PS and ABS)

Rice containers, water purifier filter housings, Dish Washer/Dryer, Kitchenware. Inhibits colon-germs and has antibiotic properties.

PS (Polystyrene) Resin Code 6

Recycling

What the industry calls recycling is not at all what most people think of when they hear that term. The hard, cold fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as recycling of plastic. Recycling means a closed loop. Plastic "recycling" is not a closed loop. In other words, it is not recycled. The number one reason is that it has an extremely limited lifespan. None of the plastic milk bottles or soda bottles that we put in our curbside recycling bins are made back into new milk bottles or soda bottles. Because plastic degenerates each time it is heated, all those plastic bottles are generally made into products such as park benches--products that don't require standards as high as those for milk bottles. Virtually all milk bottles are new plastic made mostly from the same natural gas that you cook your meals with. When the useful life of those park benches has ended, they are not qualified to be recycled. It's a quick dead end for plastic. In order to make a valid energy use comparison to glass, the short life of plastic must be accounted for. The energy used to recycle glass is considerably less than what is used to make new plastic, making glass the winner by far. Glass bottles used for milk are typically washed an average of seven times before being recycled into new bottles. In California alone, about 55 million single-use milk containers are put into landfills each month.

When vehicles reach the end of their life, parts from vehicles that can be sold as spare parts may be removed, cleaned and tested where appropriate; hazardous and recyclable fluids e.g. oil and auto coolants have to be drained and removed. This also includes CFCs that, in accordance with an EC Regulation on ozone depleting substances, have to be recovered and destroyed; the rest of the hulk is flattened and taken to a shredder where it is broken up into smaller manageable pieces, which are then separated by material types.

Ferrous material is sorted by magnetic separation. Non ferrous metal is sorted both mechanically and by hand and sold for use in new products; and remaining waste, made up mainly of plastics, rubber, glass, dirt, carpet fibres and seat foam is sent to landfills sites. Although the plastic industry has maintained an adequate supply of recycled-content plastics, it has experienced an unprecedented decline in value in comparison to virgin plastics. Innovative products, such as guardrail blockouts and plastic drainage and lumber products, may prove to be the savior of the plastic recycling industry.

What's really made from used plastic bottles?

Products made from recovered plastic bottles include drainage pipes, toys, carpet, filler for pillows and sleeping bags, and cassette casings.  But not more bottles.

Plastic in Microwave

Microwave ovens periodically ignite fears about unwanted chemicals emanating from plastic cookware or food packages. Are they safe or not? It's not such a simple question. The explosion in food-packaging technology--yielding a plethora of new plastics--makes microwave safety a moving target for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to monitor; likewise, for health-conscious consumers. Connoisseurs of microwave-ready popcorn and pizza got a scare several years ago when it was discovered that browning and crisping units in the packages leached low levels of benzene. The culprits were heat-concentrating elements in the packages called "susceptors," made of PET plastic bonded to aluminum with adhesive that emitted traces of the carcinogen. Manufacturers reformulated the packages, and FDA officials say it's now "a non-issue." But consumers should stay tuned. Other modern plastics are under scrutiny, including polyvinyl chloride, polycarbonate and plasticizers--chemicals that make plastics pliable and soft. In the microwave, some chemicals may migrate into food, especially fatty food cooked at high temperatures.

Some plasticizers emit hormone-mimicking substances called endocrine disrupters, which are now being examined for potential links to birth defects, cancer or fertility problems. Though animal and population studies haven't proved causation, "they're on the radar screen," says John Brock of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. And, he notes, "These compounds are ubiquitous." Plasticizers are used in everything from medical supplies and cosmetics, to toys and teething rings. Consumer Reports recently tested plastic cookware and food wraps for endocrine disrupters. The good news was that no plasticizers were found in the Rubbermaid and Tupperware microwavable bowls tested. Plastic wraps sold for home use released only tiny traces of a plasticizer that isn't known to be an endocrine disrupter. The study did find potentially hazardous plasticizers in deli cheeses in commercial cling wrap. That leakage occurred even at cold temperatures, not just in the microwave.

It isn't known how much risk resides in low-level exposure to plasticizers or chemicals in plastic ware. Still, FDA science policy analyst Catherine Bailey says "When you microwave, it's a good idea not to have the plastic touch the food." Alternatively, cook in microwaveable glass or ceramic dishes with lids, suggests Joel Tickner, a researcher and doctoral candidate studying environmental hazards at the University of Massachusetts. "I won't microwave plastic," he says. Plastic industry groups contend plastic is safe and consumers should use common sense. "Somebody that's going to cook a steak in plastic film, they're only going to do it once," says Jerome Heckman, a lawyer for the Society of the Plastics Industry. "Not because it's unhealthy--because it's going to be a mess." The FDA's Ms. Bailey says the agency does what it can to monitor new plastics, but if a product is marketed as microwavable, it's up to the manufacturer to demonstrate its safety. While declaring there's no cause for alarm, she says the FDA continues to monitor microwave cookware: "If we see a material that causes concern, we'll take action on it."

The bottom line for consumers is: Not all plastic is alike, and not all name-brand plastic products are microwave-safe. Tupperware Corp. of Orlando, Fla., says that its microwaveable products are identified on the label. Those that aren't so marked could warp or melt. Many consumers don't bother to read such labels, however. Indeed, takeout cartons, children's tableware with cartoon characters, butcher's wrap and Styrofoam meat trays are all finding their way into the microwave. "In addition to plastic migration, there's also the physical hazard of burning and scalding," says food science specialist Donald Schaffner at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "I know lots of people who microwave in pouches and bags that were never intended to microwave in," adds Clair Hicks, professor of food science and packaging at the University of Kentucky at Lexington.

While concerned about endocrine disrupters, Prof. Hicks says he believes consumers can be reasonably confident if they cook in containers marked microwave-safe. However, he cautions, "Trust your nose, and trust your taste." If a microwaved food picks up flavor from its container, "throw it out," he says. "If you get things tasting like plastic, you're getting breakdown products." A dash of forethought and label reading will make microwaving safer. At a minimum, consumers should: Cook only in containers labeled for use in the microwave. If you like plastic cookware, look for polyethylene, which doesn't contain plasticizers. Leave a gap between food and plastic wrap. Consider waxed paper safe. Choose the plain white paper towels, not colored or recycled fibers containing dyes or chemicals. Don't use recycled margarine tubs, dairy food containers or deli wraps in the microwave. They aren't heat-tested, and can allow chemicals to leach into food. Remove meat, poultry or fish from butcher trays and cling wraps before microwave defrosting. Don't reuse plastic trays containing microwaveable entrees. Intended only for a single use, they're not safe for repeated "waving."

 

 

History

In this era of many astonishing industrial developments, probably no industry has under gone such rapid growth and development as the plastics industry. According to most authorities in this field, the plastics industry really began in 1868. A young American printer, named John Wesley Hyatt, was searching for a new material to be used as a substitute for ivory in the making of billiard balls. A $10,000 prize had been offered for such a discovery. He found that cellulose nitrate, formed by the action of nitric acid on cotton cellulose, mixed with camphor and treated with proper amounts of pressure and heat, produced a substance that could be molded into desired shapes. He called his new material celluloid. It was not until almost the beginning of the twentieth century that a second plastic was produced. Adolph Spitteler, a German, mixed sour milk and formaldehyde together to form a material, which was really a casein plastic. In 1909, Dr. Leo Baekeland, an American born in Belgium, was trying to produce a synthetic resin. He did this successfully by mixing phenol and formaldehyde together under certain conditions, thus producing the first synthetic resin.

This new plastic was called Bakelite. Many new plastics have been made since Bakelite. Production of plastics has increased over 2000% since Bakelite was first produced, and there are now more than twenty known types. Research along the lines of plastics has given a great impetus to research and invention in many other different fields of endeavor. Millions of dollars are spent yearly in plastics research, trying to find new plastics and to improve the existing ones. Much research will be done in the future to lower the cost of producing plastics so that their consumption will become greater. In spite of the varied and widespread application of plastics in practically every phase of everyday life, the possibilities of this wonderful new material have been by no means exhausted. It seems safe to say that if the application and use of plastics continue to increase at the present rate, we may be living in a "Plastics Age."

Terminology

A dictionary of technical terms defines the word plastic as "capable of being molded or modeled." It defines "plastics" as "nonmetallic moldable compounds and the articles made from them." Recent use has also given the adjective, "plastic," the additional meaning of "made of plastics." An apt definition of plastics has been given by the head of the Monsanto Plastics Research who says, "Plastics are materials that, while being processed, can be pushed into almost any desired shape and then retain that shape." The term "plastics" is a commercial rather than a scientific phraseology, because rubber and glass are easily formed into any desired shape during processing, and retain that shape after cooling. The word "plastics" now generally applies to the synthetic products of chemistry. These chemical products can be cast, molded, or pressed into an unlimited variety of shapes.

Classification

Plastics, depending on their physical properties, may be classified as thermoplastic or thermosetting materials. Thermoplastic materials are formed into desired shapes under heat and pressure and become solids on cooling. If they are subjected to the same conditions of heat and pressure, they can be remolded. Thermosetting materials acquire infallibility under heat and pressure and cannot be remolded. Plastics are classified also according to their chemical sources. The twenty or more known basic types fall into four general groups:

1. Cellulose plastics include the cellulose nitrates and cellulose acetates. The cellulose nitrate plastics are the oldest in this group, and "Celluloid" is the oldest example. These plastics are made from cotton or wood pulp.

2. Synthetic resin plastics include the phenol formaldehyde, phenolic furfural, urea formaldehyde, vinyl, styrene, and acrylic plastics. These plastics are made from phenol, formaldehyde, urea, acetylene, petroleum, glycerol, and phthalic anhydride.

3. Protein plastics--casein plastics are the most common type in the protein group. They are made from milk. Other protein plastics are made from soy beans, coffee beans, peanuts, and other agricultural products.

4. Natural resins include shellac, asphalt, rosin, amber, and pitch. These materials with fillers are usually cold-molded.

World plastic production uses 4% of the annual oil production while fuel for transport uses 31% of annual oil production. The average 1992 American car contains 300 pounds of plastic made from about 60 different resins. Overall car production uses 7.5% of plastics produced. The average car is made of 9% plastic. The Ford Focus uses shredded cotton from old denim jeans to deaden sound. Shredded plastic bottle caps are incorporated into the heater bodies. 10% of the average grocery bill pays for packaging (mostly paper and plastics)--that's more than goes to the farmers. Every year, we make enough plastic film to shrink-wrap the state of Texas.

Dangers of Plastic Production

Independent consultants Henry Cole and Ken Brown, in their recent report Advantage Glass, explained that "the major ingredients used in glass production are naturally occurring minerals including sand, limestone, soda ash and feldspar. These materials are solid, inert, non-flammable, and are largely non- toxic. ... The major chemicals used to make plastic resins pose serious risks to public health and safety. Many of the chemicals used in large volumes to produce plastics are highly toxic. Some chemicals, like benzene and vinyl chloride, are known to cause cancer in humans; many tend to be gases and liquid hydrocarbons, which readily vaporize and pollute the air. Many are flammable and explosive. Even the plastic resins themselves are flammable and have contributed to numerous chemical accidents. The production of plastic emits substantial amounts of toxic chemicals (eg. ethylene oxide, benzene and xylenes) to air and water. Many of the toxic chemicals released in plastic production can cause cancer and birth defects and damage the nervous system, blood, kidneys and immune systems. These chemicals can also cause serious damage to ecosystems.

Volatile Organics--Ethylene oxide is discussed here as an example of a volatile organic compound. Ethylene oxide is used as a sterilant in hospitals. It is also the principle metabolite of ethene, a precursor to polyethylene plastics and other synthetic chemicals. Ethylene oxide can be measured by gas chromatography in air or biological specimens. Ethylene oxide reacts in the body with hemoglobin.

The  List of Players

Polystyrene aka "Styrofoam"

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, and more are made of polystyrene. J. R. Withey in Environmental Health Perspectives 1976 Investigated styrene and vinyl chloride monomer as being similar: "Styrene monomer readily migrates from food contained in it. It makes no difference whether the food or drink is hot or cold, or contains fat or water. ...It is not inconceivable that the animal body behaves as a 'sink' for styrene monomer until the lipid portion of the animal body either becomes saturated (although death would probably occur prior to this event) or the tissues are equilibrated at the same concentration as the exposure atmosphere."

PVC (polyvinyl chloride)

PVC is used for many products including: flooring, toys, teethers, clothing, raincoats, shoes, building products like windows, siding and roofing, hospital blood bags, IV bags and other medical devices. One of it's major ingredients is chlorine. When chlorine-based chemicals are heated in the presence of hydrocarbons they create dioxin, a known carcinogen and endocrine disruptor.  All PVC production releases dioxin. Other sources of dioxin are: production and use of chemicals, such as herbicides and wood preservatives, oil refining, burning coal and oil for energy, all car and truck exhaust, cigarette smoke, and much more. PVC medical waste is regularly incinerated all around the country. Incinerators are the one largest major source of dioxin. Incinerator "experts" say that the latest super-heated incinerator technology detoxifies dioxin, but that's not the case. It condenses after it leaves the incinerator and is just as toxic as ever. Many incinerators are sited in the middle of heavily populated regions, next to schools and day care centers. But even if they were as far away from civilization as possible, they are no less a threat. Dioxin in the exhaust of incinerators travels many thousands of miles in the atmosphere--all the way to the arctic.

This has had an extremely bad effect on the Inuit (Eskimos), who depend upon fish as their main food source. Because of the accumulation of dioxin in the fish, the Inuit have extremely high body levels of dioxin. Plasticizers are used in PVC that migrate into a blood recipient via the blood bag, IV bag, IV tubing. Even though non-PVC bags are manufactured, many corporations won't switch, saying it's a health risk to switch. In reality, it's a case of putting the cost of change above the health of our health and that of our children. Children's toys are made with PVC. To soften them, a common plasticizer in them that is still used is DINP phthalate. In spite of being asked by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to stop using DINP in PVC toys and teethers, there are still manufacturers that insist on using it. Many have "voluntarily" stopped after years of knowing of its toxicity.

Plastic Recycling Regularly Means Incineration

PVC is no exception. Building products cause dioxin to be released when they are produced and when they are burned, either accidentally or incinerated as a part of waste reduction plans. Anyone who receives blood, is on kidney dialysis, or has tubes either inserted in them or has liquid or air transported to their body is at risk.  About 85% of medical waste is incinerated, accounting for ten percent of all incineration in the U.S. Approximately five to fifteen percent of medical waste needs to be incinerated to prevent infectious disease. The remaining waste, while not posing any danger from infectious pathogens, is very dangerous when burned. It contains high volumes of chlorinated plastics including PVC (also the toxic substances mercury, arsenic, cadmium and lead.)

Polyethylene

Hexachloroethane is one chemical of note that is used as an initiator in the formation of polyethylenes. It is listed as a reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen. Hexachloroethane has had a variety of applications as a polymer additive. It has flame-proofing qualities, increases sensitivity to radiation cross linking, and it is used as a vulcanizing agent. Added to polymer fibers, hexachloroethane acts as a swelling agent and increases affinity for dyes. Hexachloroethane may emit tetrachloroethylene, carbon tetrachloride, and chlorine when thermally decomposed. Occupational exposure of workers in industrial facilities manufacturing or using hexachloroethane may occur through inhalation or dermal absorption. Hexachloroethane has been detected in river water, drinking water, industrial effluent water, and effluent from sewage treatment plants that use chlorination. Hexachloroethane also was detected in waste streams and stack emissions of incinerators burning pesticide-related wastes.

Phthalates

Softened vinyl products manufactured with phthalates (and used in the U.S.) include an array of consumer and medical products: 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, ure monitoring tubing, IV containers and components, Cannulas, Surgical Gloves, Breathing tubes, General purpose labware, Inhalation masks, Inflatable splints, Bed pans, basins, and bed rails, Thermal blankets, Catheters, Thermoformed plastic trays, Device packages, Dialysis tubing, Drip chambers, Nasogastric tubing, Enema tips. Different phthalates are used to create the different products listed above. Besides DEHP and DINP, other phthalates include Butyl Benzyl Phthalate (BBP), Diisodecyl Phthalate (DIDP), di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP), di-n-Hexyl Phthalate (DNHP), and di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP). The final content of phthalate in the finished plastic product varies depending on the product but ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent of the product mass on a weight basis. Phthalate exposure is both higher and more common than previously suspected. Exposure data for phthalates is critically important among potentially susceptible populations [child-bearing aged and pregnant women]. Although DEHP and DINP are produced in the largest quantities, these reference range data indicate a substantial internal human dose of DBP, DEP, and BzBP. MBP and MBzP are of particular concern because of their developmental and reproductive toxicity in animals. Therefore, assessments of health risk from exposures to phthalates should include exposures to DBP, DEP, and BzBP. The phthalates that have been identified have been classified as endocrine disruptors, suggesting a possible association between plasticizers with known estrogenic and antiandrogenic activity and the cause of premature breast development in human female population.

On March 21, 2001, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the first-ever assessment of chemicals in the bodies of average people, including information with potentially significant implications for the health of Americans. The study found surprisingly high levels of chemicals called phthalates in the blood of humans tested. Other studies of environmental chemicals have relied on measuring levels in the air, water or soil. The current report measured blood and urine levels of 27 chemicals in a sample of about 5,000 Americans during 1999. Regarding the CDC report, Dr. John Balbus, with the George Washington University School of Public Health, said, "Exposure to phthalates appears to be higher than previously believed. The CDC report suggests that the scientific models of exposure that we use generally underestimates the public's real-world exposure. This report should serve as a wake-up call--Americans are clearly being exposed to an array of toxic chemicals--many of which can and probably should be avoided. Every family in America should be taking note of this unprecedented information and should be asking for more of it." It is known that some phthalates are passed from the mother both across the placenta and via milk. Phthalates have been reported in water, sediment, air and biota sampled from the Gulf of Mexico, and river water and sewage effluent samples from the Greater Manchester area, United Kingdom. Food samples contaminated with phthalates have also been reported. Phthalates are regulated as a toxic substance under environmental laws that limit the discharge of chemicals to air, land and water. There are no limitations, however, on the amount of phthalates used in most consumer products.

DINP (diisononyl phthalate)

In a national press release the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission "requested industry to remove phthalates from soft rattles and teethers. ...also has asked the industry to find a substitute for phthalates in other products intended for children under 3 years old that are likely to be mouthed or chewed." CPSC Commissioner Ann Brown advised parents on national TV "if you have a child who teethes a lot, who is mouthing toys a lot...you may want to get rid of [mouthing toys containing phthalates] until the new products are on the market." The final CPSC report points out "there are a number of significant uncertainties in this assessment including the cancer risk" Before September 2000, a petition by the Washington Toxics Coalition to EPA contended that DINP causes cancer, systemic toxicity, developmental toxicity, and endocrine disruption.  EPA reviewed the petition and available data and preliminarily determined that DINP meets the listing criteria and that there is sufficient evidence that chemicals in the DINP category can reasonably be anticipated to cause cancer or other serious or irreversible chronic liver, kidney, or developmental toxicity in humans.

B.C. Blount et al in Environmental Health Perspectives Oct 2000, "...phthalate exposure is both higher and more common than previously suspected. Exposure data for phthalates is critically important for human risk assessment, especially among potentially susceptible populations." According to the National Environmental Trust, "based on the CPSC's own information on the range of uncertainty of their data, their conclusions can be interpreted to show that as many as 2% of U.S. children (or one child in 50) under 12 months could be exposed to amounts of DINP greater than the recommended daily intake level. This amounts to 64,000 U.S. children potentially being exposed to excessive amounts of DINP every year. If the CPSC were to use more realistic chewing and mouthing times, or if their studies showing the amount of leaching of DINP were closer to what some European studies found, the number of children potentially at risk would be substantially higher. When purchased for laboratory use, DINP is labeled with a number of hazard phrases, including "harmful by inhalation, in contact with skin and if swallowed," "possible risk of irreversible effects" and "may cause cancer." In contrast, toys containing up to 40% by weight DINP in a readily leachable form are frequently labelled "non toxic" (Estrogenic)

DNOP (Di n octyl phthalate)

DNOP is a colorless, odorless, oily liquid that doesn't evaporate easily. It is a man-made substance used to keep plastics soft or more flexible. This type of plastic can be used for medical tubing and blood storage bags, wire and cables, carpetback coating, floor tile, and adhesives. It is also used in cosmetics and pesticides. Known exposure to DNOP occurs mainly from eating food or drinking water that is stored in plastic containers. This substance has been found in at least 300 of the 1,416 National Priorities List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DNOP is often used in mixture with other phthalate compounds and can be difficult to track. DNOP is easily absorbed orally.  Methods of absorption include eating foods stored in containers made with DNOP that has leaked into the food; receiving blood transfusions, dialysis, or other medical treatments in which the equipment is made of plastics containing DNOP; breathing contaminated air, drinking contaminated water, or touching contaminated soil near hazardous waste sites or an industrial manufacturing facility that uses or makes DNOP. Little information is known about the health effects that might be caused by DNOP. It is not known what happens when you breathe or ingest the chemical. Some rats and mice that were given very high doses of DNOP by mouth died. Mildly harmful effects have been seen in the livers of some rats and mice given very high doses of DNOP by mouth for short (14 days or less) or intermediate periods (15 to 365 days) of time, but lower doses given for short periods of time generally caused no harmful effects. No information is available on the health effects of having DNOP in contact with human skin. It can be mildly irritating when applied to the skin of animals. It is not known whether or not DNOP could affect the ability to have children, or if it could cause birth defects.

 

 

 

BPA (bisphenol-A)

For 40 years we ate and drank from containers containing bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used in producing polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Those substances are found in hundreds of products, from water bottles to compact discs and medical devices. Until recent years, the American public didn’t suspect that BPA could be harmful. BPA can leach from the materials in plastic tableware, baby cups, and the epoxy resin coatings inside cans, especially when those products are heated, releasing the harmful chemical into food and liquids we consume. BPA leaches because the ingredients used in producing polycarbonates and epoxy resins are just loosely bound enough that they break down under heat or when damaged.

 

Bisphenol-A is a monomer of polycarbonate plastics. While it very little like estradiol structurally, it is however, very similar to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic substance with potent estrogenic activity. Because of superior stability, toughness, and pliability, BPA-based epoxy resins [plastics] are used in many consumer products, including inner coating of food cans, dental composites, and drug delivery systems. BPA has been detected in liquid from canned vegetables and in saliva collected from subjects treated with composite dental sealants. It competes with tamoxifen, an anti-cancer drug, reducing its effectiveness. It is lipophilic or accumulates in fat, whether in the human body or cheese on the supermarket shelf. According to EPA this substance/agent has not undergone a complete evaluation and determination under US EPA's IRIS program for evidence of human carcinogenic potential. But most Americans are probably unaware that they are regularly exposed to the same endocrine-disrupting chemical in cash register receipts.

 

New studies reveal that levels of BPA are massively higher in humans than previously assumed, causing major concern for what has been downplayed by the packaging industry as a false alarm.

 

BPA, or Bisphenol-A, leaches into food from plastic packaging and from the linings of canned foods, causing cancerous tumors and developmental disorders, including learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and deformations of sexual organs, especially in newborns.

 

The CDC estimates that over 90% of people in the U.S. are chronically exposed to BPA at over 3000 times the daily level that the FDA reports. Maybe this monstrous difference comes from the fact that the FDA standards ignored more than 100 credible research experiments and studies other than their own. The new FDA regulatory language offers to seek “further public comment and external input on the science surrounding BPA,” but industry lobbyists argue about “safe levels” and do their best to muddy those waters in order to keep the profits margins maximized.

 

Much of the latest research and testing of chemicals in foods is being conducted by the very companies that sell them, or by independent labs hired and well paid to conclude that there is “insufficient evidence of levels harmful to humans.” The FDA and the CDC use the rationale that what kills rats in labs may not have the same effect on humans, but this time, hundreds of tests done on humans reveal otherwise.

 

The BPA label is either on the side or bottom of bottles in black or clear numbers, usually inside of the recycling sign formed by circular arrows. The number 2 means your food is contaminated by aluminum and polyethylene plastic, and the number 7 means there is BPA in your polycarbonate container.

 

To make things worse, if the bottles or cans have been sitting on the shelf at the grocery for months, the toxic levels of BPA are higher, and since there’s no “born-on date,” like beer might have, there’s no telling the age of the container. Also, if the plastic gets heated up, like in a car, more toxins are released into the drink. Plus, canned goods are sterilized at up to 265% Fahrenheit, so the level of BPA released in those foods is horrendous, not to mention the fact that all of the nutrients at that temperature have been depleted from the source. Metal cans have no warning or indicator whatsoever about BPA.

 

The remedy is to simply buy glass only and not have to worry about BPA, but then don’t forget to check for sodium benzoate, BHA, BHT, EDTA, and the other “preservative” criminals.

BPA was originally developed in the 1930's as a synthetic version of the female hormone estrogen. BPA is an endocrine disrupter, meaning it is a chemical that interferes with the hormone system in animals, including humans. Wondering why kids are more hyperactive these days and the doctors suggest prescribing ADHD pharmaceuticals? Bisphenol-A mimics estrogenic activity and enhances mesolimbic dopamine activity, which results in hyperactivity and attention deficits. Still have plastic liters or cans of soda on your grocery list?

 

Ordered up by the USA at 8 billion pounds per year, BPA is one of the highest volume chemicals produced by mankind, having adverse effects in mammals and invertebrates all over the world. Canned goods sell particularly well in times of recession and financial stress. In February of 2009, the United States saw an 11.5% rise in canned food sales alone. The highest concentrations recorded are in chicken soup, infant formula and ravioli. By the way, it’s also in your dental fillings.

 

The EPA has not even evaluated BPA for possible carcinogenic activity, and food packaging executives and lobbyists are still planning to use a pregnant woman in their advertising in order to reassure Americans that BPA is safe for children. Remember, an advertisement’s slogan is often a cover up for the product’s greatest weakness.

 

The jury is still out on just how much BPA exposure is safe for children and adults. The FDA's National Center for Toxicological Research continues to study BPA, and the Breast Cancer Fund is staging a “Cans Not Cancer” campaign to get BPA out of canned foods and replace it with a safer substance. Every plastic container displays a recycle code on the bottom. Those with code 3 or 7 may contain BPA; take special care to avoid putting hot liquid in these bottles and cups.

 

Two-fifths of the paper receipts tested by a major laboratory commissioned by Environmental Working Group were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. Wipe tests conducted with a damp laboratory paper easily picked up a portion of the receipts' BPA coating, indicating that the chemical would likely stick to the skin of anyone who handled them. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs).

 

Major retailers using BPA-containing receipts in at least some outlets included McDonald's, CVS, KFC, Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and the U.S. Postal Service. Receipts from some major chains, including Target, Starbucks and Bank of America ATMs, issued receipts that were BPA-free or contained only trace amounts.

 

Scientists have not determined how much of a receipt's BPA coating can transfer to the skin and from there into the body. Possibilities being explored include:

 

A study published July 11 by Swiss scientists found that BPA transfers readily from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off (Biedermann 2010). This raises the possibility that the chemical infiltrates the skin's lower layers to enter the bloodstream directly. BPA has also been shown to penetrate skin in laboratory studies (Kaddar 2008).

BBP or BzBP (butyl benzyl phthalate)

Used as in adhesives, PVC flooring, wood finishes, tampon ejectors. Dermal (skin) absorption also occurs at a significant rate for phthalates with short side chains such as BzBP, DEP, and DBP. It could contaminate indoor air through its use in flooring or wood finishes, causes reduction in mean testicular size and reductions of 10-21% in daily sperm production. It is used widely in industrial and some household detergents and cleaners, in certain plastics, and in many other ways, human exposure via routes other than drinking water are likely. There is more evidence for concern about the possible risk to human health because BBP and other phthalates are the most ubiquitous of all environmental contaminants, primarily because of their use as plasticizers, and human exposure is likely to be high. For example, a recent study reported levels of BBP alone as high as 47.8 mg/kg in some foil-wrapped butters, which would mean that ingestion of 50 g/day of such butter by a 60-kg woman would lead to an intake of approximately 40 µg/kg/day, which approaches the nominal intake values in the present study. As the levels of total phthalates in other dairy produce can exceed 50 mg/kg, and there are many other possible sources of human exposure to these compounds, the present findings suggest that further studies of the estrogenicity of phthalates should be a priority. Estrogenic exposure to BBP is measured by looking for its metabolite, mono-benzyl phthalate, in the urine. These metabolite measurement tests have only recently been perfected and put to use by the CDC.

DBP (dibutyl phthalate)

Dibutyl phthalate is used in many products including nail polishes, cosmetics, and insecticides.  Effects on the second generation were greater than first generation, causing male infertility in rat studies. It caused shortened length of gestation, reduced body weight,  increased relative liver weight and significantly reduce number of live pups per breeding female rat. Body weights remained low into adult life, along with anemia, liver abnormalities, testes degeneration, reduced fertility, lowered testis epididymal weights of males, an abnormal deficiency of cholesterol in the blood, lipofuscin accumulation (pigment left over from the breakdown and digestion of damaged blood cells) found in the liver. Toxic to fetus, and to male and female reproductive organs. Mutagenic. (Estrogenic.)

DEA (diethanolamine)

Diethanolamine is widely used in the preparation of diethanolamides and diethanolamine salts of long-chain fatty acids that are formulated into soaps and surfactants used in liquid laundry and dishwashing detergents, cosmetics, shampoos, and hair conditioners. Diethanolamine is also used in textile processing, in industrial gas purification to remove acid gases, as an anticorrosion agent in metalworking fluids, and in preparations of agricultural chemicals. Aqueous diethanolamine solutions are used as solvents for numerous drugs that are administered intravenously. DEA causes liver, kidney, thyroid and skin cancers in rats. The FDA is still undecided on this issue.

DEP (diethyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalate)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program classifies diethylhexyl phthalate as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Some uses are as a solvent in erasable ink; as an acaricid for use in orchards; as an inert ingredient in pesticides; as a component of cosmetic products; as a vacuum pump oil; in detecting leaks in respirators; and in the testing of air filtration systems, toothbrushes, auto parts, tools, toys, food packaging, insecticides, mosquito repellents, aspirin and volatile components of cosmetics--perfumes, nail polishes and hair sprays.. There is particular concern about the susceptibility of children to toxic effects because the plasticizer is used in pacifiers and other plastic baby products. In the food industry, di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate is no longer used to plasticize plastic wrap. Primary routes of potential human exposure are air inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact. A substantial fraction of the U.S. population is exposed to measurable levels of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate. Citric acid-based plasticizers are being evaluated to replace di(2- ethylhexyl)phthalate.

It is a phthalate ester widely used as a plasticizer to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) products soft and flexible. As early as 1970, studies identified and measured DEHP and its metabolites in human tissue and serum from exposure to DEHP in patients receiving dialysis, blood transfusions, artificial ventilation, and exchange transfusions. DEHP exposures occurring in the medical setting are of particular concern because the amount of exposure can be substantial and because those exposed, such as premature infants and other neonates or adults with life-threatening illnesses, may be particularly vulnerable to the effect of toxic chemicals. Because conversion of DEHP to mono-ethylhexyl phthalate (MEHP) occurs primarily in the intestinal tract, exposures to DEHP by ingestion may be more hazardous than by intravenous exposure, which largely bypasses the intestinal tract. DEHP is highly toxic and has a wide range of deleterious effects on the testis, ovaries, lungs, heart, kidneys, fetus/embryo, and liver. In spite of strong actions on the part of groups such as Health Care Without Harm, industry opposes the use of safer alternatives to PVC that exist and are being used presently. The Ministry of Environment Japan has added DEHP to its list of endocrine disruptors recently, along with three other substances. Estrogenic. Production in 1996 was 400-500 thousand tons per annum in Europe alone.

DIBP (diisobutyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

Di-n-butyl phthalate

Cellulose plastics, solvents for dyes, solvents for cosmetics (i.e., nail polish), food wrap, perfumes, skin emollients, hair spray, and insect repellents.

DTDP (ditridecyl phthalate)

Estrogenic

Alkylphenol polyethoxylates

Phthalates, several of which have been shown to be estrogenic.

Isohexylbenzyl Phthalate (IHBP)

Estrogenic

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene)

Fishing net, ropes, tapes, tarpaulins, mono-filaments, fuel tanks, small/medium/large containers, containers for detergent, cosmetics, pharmaceutical products shopping bags, general purpose industrial packaging materials, agricultural mulching film, films for high-speed processing crates, containers, closures general purpose goods, housewares, toys, base cup for PET bottles, pressure pipes for water, sewage, and gas pipes.

MDPE (Medium Density Polyethylene)

Chemical Tank, Oil Tank, General Usage - Toy, Water Tank, Snow Tool, Ductile Pipe Coating, Steel Pipe Coating

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene)

Heavy-duty wrapping film, Wide blown film, shrink wrapping, general purpose wrapping, thin films, shrink films, agricultural films for greenhouse application, protective films, gel free films for lamination, packaging materials for consumer electronics, automobile interiors, thermal insulation sheets, food containers and detergent bottle. Resin Bag, Sugar Bag, Corn Powder Bag, Bottle Box Wrapping, Greenhouse, Tunnel Film, Mulching Film, Shopping Bag, Food Packing Film, Auto Interior, PET Coating, Paper Coating, Toothpaste Tube, Mayonnaise Bottle, Ketchup Bottle, Primary Insulation for wire.

LLDPE (Linear Low Density Polyethylene)

Packaging, agricultural uses, heat sealing lamination, high clarity film, stretch wrapping, stretch wrap food wrapping, shopping bag, mulching film, fertilizer bag, refill bag, resin bag.

EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate)

Dry lamination, agricultural film (virgin resin), special agricultural film (long-life film, antifogging film),  sandals, mid-soles for sports shoes, packaging materials

ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene)

Pipes, many other uses

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) Resin Code 1

Soda and water bottles

HDPE (High-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 2

Milk and water jugs, laundry detergent bottles

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) Resin Code 3

LDPE (Low-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 4

LLDPE (Linear Low-density Polyethylene) Resin Code 4

PP (Polypropylene) Resin Code 5

Garment packaging, food and cigarette packs, albums and tapes, containers, toys, kitchen utensils, medical supplies, housewares, and transparent containers, fishing nets, woven bags, ropes and bands, multi-filaments, BCF, carpets, straw, high-rigidity filaments, high-quality PP monofilament, spun-bond, non-woven fabric, Metallized Film, Housewares, Ice Box, Microwave Oven, Jar Pot, Coffee Maker, Paper Coating, Woven Bag Coating, Transparent Stationery File.

Antifungal PP (also PS and ABS)

Rice containers, water purifier filter housings, Dish Washer/Dryer, Kitchenware. Inhibits colon-germs and has antibiotic properties.

PS (Polystyrene) Resin Code 6

Recycling

What the industry calls recycling is not at all what most people think of when they hear that term. The hard, cold fact of the matter is that there is no such thing as recycling of plastic. Recycling means a closed loop. Plastic "recycling" is not a closed loop. In other words, it is not recycled. The number one reason is that it has an extremely limited lifespan. None of the plastic milk bottles or soda bottles that we put in our curbside recycling bins are made back into new milk bottles or soda bottles. Because plastic degenerates each time it is heated, all those plastic bottles are generally made into products such as park benches--products that don't require standards as high as those for milk bottles. Virtually all milk bottles are new plastic made mostly from the same natural gas that you cook your meals with. When the useful life of those park benches has ended, they are not qualified to be recycled. It's a quick dead end for plastic. In order to make a valid energy use comparison to glass, the short life of plastic must be accounted for. The energy used to recycle glass is considerably less than what is used to make new plastic, making glass the winner by far. Glass bottles used for milk are typically washed an average of seven times before being recycled into new bottles. In California alone, about 55 million single-use milk containers are put into landfills each month.

When vehicles reach the end of their life, parts from vehicles that can be sold as spare parts may be removed, cleaned and tested where appropriate; hazardous and recyclable fluids e.g. oil and auto coolants have to be drained and removed. This also includes CFCs that, in accordance with an EC Regulation on ozone depleting substances, have to be recovered and destroyed; the rest of the hulk is flattened and taken to a shredder where it is broken up into smaller manageable pieces, which are then separated by material types.

Ferrous material is sorted by magnetic separation. Non ferrous metal is sorted both mechanically and by hand and sold for use in new products; and remaining waste, made up mainly of plastics, rubber, glass, dirt, carpet fibres and seat foam is sent to landfills sites. Although the plastic industry has maintained an adequate supply of recycled-content plastics, it has experienced an unprecedented decline in value in comparison to virgin plastics. Innovative products, such as guardrail blockouts and plastic drainage and lumber products, may prove to be the savior of the plastic recycling industry.

What's really made from used plastic bottles?

Products made from recovered plastic bottles include drainage pipes, toys, carpet, filler for pillows and sleeping bags, and cassette casings.  But not more bottles.

Plastic in Microwave

Microwave ovens periodically ignite fears about unwanted chemicals emanating from plastic cookware or food packages. Are they safe or not? It's not such a simple question. The explosion in food-packaging technology--yielding a plethora of new plastics--makes microwave safety a moving target for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to monitor; likewise, for health-conscious consumers. Connoisseurs of microwave-ready popcorn and pizza got a scare several years ago when it was discovered that browning and crisping units in the packages leached low levels of benzene. The culprits were heat-concentrating elements in the packages called "susceptors," made of PET plastic bonded to aluminum with adhesive that emitted traces of the carcinogen. Manufacturers reformulated the packages, and FDA officials say it's now "a non-issue." But consumers should stay tuned. Other modern plastics are under scrutiny, including polyvinyl chloride, polycarbonate and plasticizers--chemicals that make plastics pliable and soft. In the microwave, some chemicals may migrate into food, especially fatty food cooked at high temperatures.

Some plasticizers emit hormone-mimicking substances called endocrine disrupters, which are now being examined for potential links to birth defects, cancer or fertility problems. Though animal and population studies haven't proved causation, "they're on the radar screen," says John Brock of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. And, he notes, "These compounds are ubiquitous." Plasticizers are used in everything from medical supplies and cosmetics, to toys and teething rings. Consumer Reports recently tested plastic cookware and food wraps for endocrine disrupters. The good news was that no plasticizers were found in the Rubbermaid and Tupperware microwavable bowls tested. Plastic wraps sold for home use released only tiny traces of a plasticizer that isn't known to be an endocrine disrupter. The study did find potentially hazardous plasticizers in deli cheeses in commercial cling wrap. That leakage occurred even at cold temperatures, not just in the microwave.

It isn't known how much risk resides in low-level exposure to plasticizers or chemicals in plastic ware. Still, FDA science policy analyst Catherine Bailey says "When you microwave, it's a good idea not to have the plastic touch the food." Alternatively, cook in microwaveable glass or ceramic dishes with lids, suggests Joel Tickner, a researcher and doctoral candidate studying environmental hazards at the University of Massachusetts. "I won't microwave plastic," he says. Plastic industry groups contend plastic is safe and consumers should use common sense. "Somebody that's going to cook a steak in plastic film, they're only going to do it once," says Jerome Heckman, a lawyer for the Society of the Plastics Industry. "Not because it's unhealthy--because it's going to be a mess." The FDA's Ms. Bailey says the agency does what it can to monitor new plastics, but if a product is marketed as microwavable, it's up to the manufacturer to demonstrate its safety. While declaring there's no cause for alarm, she says the FDA continues to monitor microwave cookware: "If we see a material that causes concern, we'll take action on it."

The bottom line for consumers is: Not all plastic is alike, and not all name-brand plastic products are microwave-safe. Tupperware Corp. of Orlando, Fla., says that its microwaveable products are identified on the label. Those that aren't so marked could warp or melt. Many consumers don't bother to read such labels, however. Indeed, takeout cartons, children's tableware with cartoon characters, butcher's wrap and Styrofoam meat trays are all finding their way into the microwave. "In addition to plastic migration, there's also the physical hazard of burning and scalding," says food science specialist Donald Schaffner at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. "I know lots of people who microwave in pouches and bags that were never intended to microwave in," adds Clair Hicks, professor of food science and packaging at the University of Kentucky at Lexington.

While concerned about endocrine disrupters, Prof. Hicks says he believes consumers can be reasonably confident if they cook in containers marked microwave-safe. However, he cautions, "Trust your nose, and trust your taste." If a microwaved food picks up flavor from its container, "throw it out," he says. "If you get things tasting like plastic, you're getting breakdown products." A dash of forethought and label reading will make microwaving safer. At a minimum, consumers should: Cook only in containers labeled for use in the microwave. If you like plastic cookware, look for polyethylene, which doesn't contain plasticizers. Leave a gap between food and plastic wrap. Consider waxed paper safe. Choose the plain white paper towels, not colored or recycled fibers containing dyes or chemicals. Don't use recycled margarine tubs, dairy food containers or deli wraps in the microwave. They aren't heat-tested, and can allow chemicals to leach into food. Remove meat, poultry or fish from butcher trays and cling wraps before microwave defrosting. Don't reuse plastic trays containing microwaveable entrees. Intended only for a single use, they're not safe for repeated "waving."

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