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Use of plastic products linked to cancer and impairment of the immune system

Monday, October 24, 2011 by: Shona Botes
Tags: plastics, immune system, health news

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(NewsTarget) These days, we seem to be surrounded by plastic products. From the containers we store food in to the interior of the vehicles we drive, these plastics pose serious risks to our health as well as the environment. Side effects of the chemicals used in the manufacturing process of plastic include endocrine disruption, which can result in immune system suppression. This in turn can lead to cancer, birth defects and developmental problems.

However, more and more studies are exposing the health risks associated with plastic products. Each piece of plastic ever created still exists. That which has been incinerated has released toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Exposure to chemicals in plastic occurs not only during the manufacturing process, but also when we use plastic products. This normally occurs when plastic bags and containers are used to cook with or store food in.

Plastics, which are known to contaminate food and water, include styrene (from polystyrene), antioxidants from polyethylene, plasticizers from PVC products and acetaldehyde from PET plastic products. These toxic substances are also affecting our ocean life because fish are consuming plastic, which is dumped in the ocean. Chemicals from the plastic are leeching into the ocean as well, which will soon render the fish and other seafood unsafe to eat.

Health risks associated with PVC use and exposure include ulcers, liver dysfunction, genetic changes, skin disease, indigestion, cancer, birth defects, deafness and chronic bronchitis. Products containing PVC include most food packaging, toys, pacifiers, car upholstery, hosepipes, shower curtains, containers housing toiletry and personal care products, many floor tiles, crib bumpers and inflatable swimming pools.

Polystyrene use and exposure has been linked to nose, eye and throat irritation. Cases of dizziness and unconsciousness have also been reported. Workers, who are exposed to high levels of this carcinogenic product, experience increased rates of hematopoietic as well as lymphatic cancers. Polystyrene can be found in many items including many food containers, foam packaging, CD cases, disposable cups and plates, paints, packing peanuts, ice buckets and flotation devices.

Polyethylene and Urea-Formaldehyde are both carcinogenic. These are found in products such as drinking bottles, toys, kitchenware, carpet fibres, building insulation, particle board, fabric finishes and plywood. Formaldehyde has been linked to birth defects, headaches, breathing problems, watery eyes, rashes and tiredness.

Bisphenol A, which is found in polycarbonate plastic products, has been linked to various health conditions such as early onset of puberty in children, cancer, hyperactivity, obesity, impaired immune functioning and diabetes.

Phthalates (DINP, DEHP and many others) are found in items such as printing ink, some toys, vinyl flooring, shoes and surgical gloves and apparatus. These have been linked to asthma, declining sperm counts, endometriosis, infertility, hormonal changes, birth defects and various forms of cancer.
One of the most commonly used forms of plastic used today is that used in non-stick cookware, clothing irons and tools. This is known as Tetrafluoroethylene. This product has been linked to breathing difficulties as well as nose, throat and eye irritation.

The best way to avoid as much exposure as possible to these carcinogenic substances would be to look for replacements made from glass, cardboard, wood or bamboo. Do not heat or reheat food in plastic or polystyrene containers. Drink from glass instead of plastic containers and replace sports drinking bottles with stainless steel bottles which have BPA-free linings.

Further Reading:

About the author

Shona Botes blogs about green living, budgeting, saving money, natural remedies and humour (which is often combined with the abovementioned topics). Her spare time is spent tending to her organic herb garden, cycling and engaging in photography.
Her blog may be viewed here
Some of her photography work may be viewed here
Other articles written by her may be viewed here

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