Oestrogens leach from most plastics

Almost all types of plastic packaging leached substances with hormone-like effects in tests by US scientists

Almost all types of plastic packaging leached substances with hormone-like effects in tests by US scientists.

In May an EU ban on plastic baby bottles made with oestrogenic plastic ingredient bisphenol A (BPA) will come into force (ENDS Report 431, p 23). Most baby bottles are already sold as BPA-free, but this latest research finds even these bottles can leach oestrogenic substances.

The scientists tested high density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene, polystyrene, polycarbonate and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) packaging bought in US stores during 2005-08.

They used a sensitive test based on breast cancer cells which divide and grow in response to exposure to oestrogenic substances. Across all plastic types, 71% of samples tested positive.

The results are consistent with work published in 2009 which found oestrogenic substances in German mineral water, especially that bought in PET bottles (ENDS Report 411, p 26).

Several of the authors work for CertiChem and PlastiPure. The firms, based in Austin, Texas test and make plastics which do not contain endocrine-active substances. They have received $3m in grants from the US National Institutes of Health over the past five years to develop the materials.

Oestrogenic substances leaching from plastic are a potential, rather than proven health risk. But alternative plastic polymers and additives are available “at minimal additional cost”, the authors say.

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