The next plastics health scare is here

The next plastics health scare is here

Summary: The charge, delivered in a study from the Mt. Sinai Center for Childrens Environmental Health, is that these chemicals are endocrine disrupters, and may be responsible for the rise in childhood obesity and Type II diabetes.

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Now that you've dumped your old Nalgene bottle because of BPA, you're just in time for the next health scare involving plastics.

This time the target are phthalates, plasticizers used in medical tubing, dialysis bags, clothing and building materials.

(Until this most recent report opponents of phthalates have emphasized their use in toys like this rubber ducky, as here at the Notquitecrunchyparent blog.)

While BPA is made by condensing phenol and acetone in the presence of an acid, phthalates are the most common form of plastcizer, made through a simple reaction of alcohol and acid.

The charge, delivered in a study from the Mt. Sinai Center for Childrens Environmental Health, is that these chemicals are endocrine disrupters, and may be responsible for the rise in childhood obesity and Type II diabetes.

The Daily Green is already out with a list of precautions, which focus on avoiding product with the vague ingredient "fragrances" and choosing plastic containers with the recycling codes 1, 2, or 5, never 3 or 7.

There has been an ongoing debate about plasticizers and cancer for over a decade, but the Growing Up Healthy studies are the first to make a link between diabetes and phthlates. This was done by simply examining the urine of young girls, and finding that the heaviest girls were those with the highest concentrations of phthalates in their bodies.

Phthalates were removed from toys last year, and the industry is already pushing back, pushing interviews with Bush-era scientists who called it unnecessary. A 2008 government study on the risks of phthalates questions the methods by which such risks are assessed.

It should be noted here that the link between phthalates and diabetes is not yet proven. But if this or the cancer link is proven, and there is little the industry seems able to do to stop the science, it's going to cause a big, big problem.

Getting BPA out of our lives will be a piece of cake next to getting rid of the softeners in our plastics.

Topics: Health, Enterprise Software, Software

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58 comments
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  • phthalates are poison

    It has been common knowledge for years that phthalates are poisonous.

    It is only corporate greed that keeps these chemicals on the market.

    The gangster corporations have control of our government and the
    regulatory process and will not give up their profits no matter how many
    children are poisoned.

    Do you really think that the health of your children are any concern of
    corporate CEO's and the wealthy shareholders?
    gertruded
    • No, that is not common knowledge

      The common knowledge is that they are endocrine disruptors.... but that they only have an effect at extremely high levels that no person would be exposed to unless they were drinking this stuff in it's 'pure' form. Same thing really for BPA, which was ANOTHER overreaction based on hysteria from the enviroloonies and the extreme left.

      Personally, I don't worry about this stuff. I drink from crystal glasses, staying away from any plastic cups that I haven't had for YEARS.... yet I am overweight.

      It's time to realize that just because two things APPEAR to be related does not mean that they are.
      Lerianis
      • enviroloonies and the extreme left

        Drinking that corporate Koolaid? Just saying it is not dangerous doesn't
        make it not dangerous, just more salable. The whole idea fostered by the
        chemical industry that there are "safe" exposure levels to dangerous
        chemicals is wrong, especially when it comes to children.
        gertruded
        • Little problem... this wasn't coming from the corporate people

          This was coming from a national study, funded by the federal government in Britain. So, you cannot say that they were 'drinking the corporate Kool-Aid' when they had absolutely NO montetary connection with the industry in question.

          The facts stand: you would have to be drinking nearly a LITER of this stuff a day for it to have any negative health effect on you, and no one is doing that.
          Lerianis
          • This year's saccarine.

            Too much of pretty much anything is dangerous. Don't believe me? Try drinking 4+ gallons of water a day.
            Dr. John
      • Case not proven

        I did not say the case was proven, but that a
        correlation was found between phthlalate
        concentration in the urine and obesity among
        young girls.
        DanaBlankenhorn
        • Correlation not equal to cause and effect.

          The fact that you find a correlation between two things statistically is only an indicator that they bear more investigation.

          If you dig deeper, you're going to find one of three things:

          1. Hurrah! You may find a cause and effect relationship.

          2. Hurrah! You may find no cause and effect relationship.

          3. You may find an indirect relationship between the two things and something else. It being the something else that is actually causing the problem, and affecting the readings.
          Dr_Zinj
          • That is correct

            I agree with what you say here. I think this
            merits further study -- both in the lab and
            longitudinal work.

            You can't do science on headlines.
            DanaBlankenhorn
        • Case not Proven

          But you have to understand that it is a huge leap from correlation and causality. In [i]Freakonimics[/i], Levitt and Dubner point out there is correlation between having a large number of police and a high crime rate. By the previous poster's premise, a reduction in police would lead to a comparable reduction in crime.

          Or as my Statistics prof pointed out on our first class:
          scotch + water = hangover
          rye + water = hangover
          bourbon + water = hangover
          therefore, water causes hangovers.

          People twist (often innocently) what studies say. I doubt that the scientists that conducted the study said there was a high concentration of Phthlalate in the girls urine. They would have said the urine tested as having a high level of phthlalate - this is a whole different thing. This last statement allows for the possibility of a substance (possibly natural) that triggered a false positive. That possibility will have to be eliminated as a first step in showing causality.

          Correlation is a good start to investigation, but much further work has to be done before causality is shown.
          seamountie
      • Indeed. In enough quantity ANYTHING is poisonous.

        Both Oxygen and Water being prime examples. Colleges have had several hazing deaths involving the drinking of too much water, because the ones involved didn't think water could kill you.

        I still laugh at the "Ban DHMO" furor of a few years back.
        D. W. Bierbaum
    • Case not proven

      There have been studies linking them to cancer
      which were looked at closely even during the
      last Administration and will be examined again.

      But reaching for conspiracy theories on this
      question is wrong.
      DanaBlankenhorn
      • reaching for conspiracy theories

        DanaBlankenhorn, I like your article very much. The matter of hazards to
        our children is very important and you are bringing this forward.

        In my experience, however, the chemical companies use the tobacco
        company strategy to maximize their profits, and keep that profit stream
        going as long as possible through disinformation to the public.

        They also sponsor "studies" to "prove" their point.

        If that is conspiracy theory, then so be it.
        gertruded
        • Incentives

          It is wrong to assume that everything companies
          say is false. What we need to do is create
          incentives so that their greed and our needs
          mesh more closely.
          DanaBlankenhorn
        • chemical companies are not corporate monoliths

          As a retired worker at a 'chemical company' I finsd this view as highly offensive. The scientists and workers in that company are people too, they are ethical people who care about the environment and their place in society. They would no sooner put a 'poison' in their products than hand out hand grenades to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. They have families that use those products. Millions of dollars are spent every year to ensure that the products that they create are safe. Shame on you for such a broad brush characterization.
          neon.moon
      • Case has been DISproven

        And the fact is that anything can be linked to cancer. Red meat can be linked to cancer. Water can be linked to cancer. Vegetables can be linked to cancer.

        A link does NOT imply a 'cause and effect' thing here.

        Personally, I know MANY children who eat out of stoneware bowls and whose parents allow NOTHING plastic in their homes because they have been feared by the enviroloonies on this issue who are very heavy.

        It's not coming from phthalates. It is coming from lack of exercise, parents who are too afraid to let their children go outside because of the VASTLY overblown 'pedosexual danger', etc.
        Lerianis
        • danger

          Rspeating the corporate lies again and again does not make them true.
          It
          makes some people believe that they are true, but does not make them
          true.

          The problem is that when people believe them true, people get hurt.
          gertruded
          • maybe danger

            And repeating mis-information again and again does not make that information true, either. Nor does hysterically shouting down any one who does not agree, help find the truth - which MAY be that phthlalates do lead to obesity, diabetes and cancer. We just don't know yet.
            seamountie
    • So, better off dead is what you're saying?

      Dump the material, which means no more medical tubing or dialysis bags, or replace it with something even worse (though if you know something better, please tell us)

      Let everyone die long before this stuff "may"hurt them?

      Obviouslly the health of our children is of little concern to you.
      AllKnowingAllSeeing
      • health of our children

        Attack the person if the ideas are not liked or affect your income. There
        are lots of substitutes for phthalates and most people know it. It is just
        the cheapest plasticizer and the most profitable for the corporations.
        gertruded
      • This is analog, not binary

        I think it's important to note that what we're
        talking about here is an analog process, not a
        binary one.

        It's not "companies are evil" or "liberals are
        evil." There are many, many gradations in
        between, in which some companies are bad and
        some liberals are overly cautious, but there is
        room for common ground to be found through more
        research.
        DanaBlankenhorn