New report highlights health hazards from plastics

Household plastics pose a serious risk to human health, according to a new report from the Endocrine Society and the International Pollutants Elimination Network. The report found that commonly used plastics contain and leach toxic chemicals that can disrupt the body's endocrine system (via ScienceDaily).

The endocrine system is a collection of hormone-secreting glands which control a range of bodily functions, including respiration, metabolism, reproduction, sexual development, sensory perception, movement, and growth (via Hormone Health Network). Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, mimic and interfere with these hormones and their corresponding functions and can cause a variety of diseases and ailments, such as diabetes, cancer, reproductive disorders in men and women, and neurological impairments in children and fetuses.

"Many of the plastics we use every day at home and work are exposing us to a harmful cocktail of endocrine-disrupting chemicals," the report's lead author, Jodi Flaws of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a statement. "Definitive action is needed on a global level to protect human health and our environment from these threats."

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals could impact future generations

The report has identified at least 144 EDCs found in commonly used plastic products and items, including cookware, children's toys, cosmetics, packaging, flooring, and furniture. This number will only grow as plastic production accelerates, which is expected to surge by 30 to 36 percent within the next six years. An increase in exposure to EDCs could negatively impact future generations, giving rise to a new population of people with endocrine disorders and diseases.

"When a pregnant woman is exposed, EDCs can affect the health of her child and eventual grandchildren," the report's co-author, Pauliina Damdimopoulou of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, said in a statement. "Animal studies show EDCs can cause DNA modifications that have repercussions across multiple generations."

As a result, the authors of the report are calling EDCs an international health issue and are advocating for global policies that effectively reduce the amount of EDCs present in plastic products.