According to a new study, 144 endocrine-disrupting chemicals can be found in ordinary plastic products. The study details plastic endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and the threats that these chemicals pose to human health during the plastic life cycle.

Source: Endocrine Society

Most plastic additives are considered to interfere with the functioning of hormones and are endocrine disrupting substances, by definition. Many EDC exposures are the agent of tumors, diabetes, kidney, liver, and thyroid symptoms, metabolic disorders, neurological effects, inflammation. At the 4th International Chemicals Management Conference, more than 100 countries agreed to call for policy action on EDCs. AMA, largest U.S. medical professional group, called for increased regulatory oversight in 2009 and 2011. American Public Health Laboratories and American Chemical Society proposed increased education and research. International Conference on Children's Health and Environment released a 2013 Jerusalem Declaration on its "commitment to protect the health of children from environmental hazards."

EDCs include Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in polycarbonate plastics. EDCs are linked to cancer, early puberty in young girls, obesity and diabetes, male and female reproductive disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders

Grocery Store Bag
Photo by Christopher Vega / Unsplash

Estimates of the health and other economic costs of EDC exposure are also coming to light. A number of international health organizations have taken up the call for improved EDC policies. The Policy Department for Citizen's rights and Constitutional Affairs within the European Parliament commissioned its own study of EDcs.

The endocrine system consists of a series of glands that are distributed throughout the body. Each gland produces one or more hormones that are released into the bloodstream. When they reach a target organ, they bind to specific receptors, triggering a response. Hormones are critical to reproductive function and are essential to normal development of the body and brain. The glands must be able to adjust hormone release in response to the changing environment to enable a healthy life.

Chart: Production of selected chemicals and plastics in the United States in 2019, by type

Source: American Chemistry Council; US Census Bureau; US International Trade Commission; ICIS; Chemical Week; AFPM; TFI

The Endocrine Society described EDCs as an exogenous [non-natural] chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that interferes with any aspect of hormone action Today, a vast number of chemicals generated are in use. The report concentrated on plastic EDCs, "particularly bisphenols, phthalates, alkylphenol ethoxylates, nonylphenols, brominated flame retardants, perfluorinated substances, benzotriazole UV stabilizers, and toxic metals".

Chemicals enter the body primarily through the oral route, skin contact, and inhalation. Chemicals in a pregnant or lactating woman's body may also be transferred through placental transfer or via breast milk to a fetus or infant. EDCs in plastics are better studied for mimicking or interfering with estrogen- and androgen-regulated processes such as reproduction.