Plastic Bag Pollution
Every year, around 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. 500,000,000,000
A lot of bags. So many that over one million bags are being used every minute and they're
damaging our environment. Big numbers can be daunting so let's put it another way. Every man, woman and child on our planet uses 83 plastic bags every year. That's one bag per person every four and half days. Of those 500 billion bags, 100
billion are consumed in the United States alone.
Plastic bags are difficult and costly to recycle and most end up on landfill sites where they take around 300 years to photo degrade. They break down into tiny toxic particles that contaminate the soil and waterways and enter the food chain when animals accidentally ingest them. But the problems surrounding waste plastic bags starts long before they photo degrade. Our planet is becoming increasingly contaminated by our unnecessary use of plastic bags. Big black bin liners, plastic carrier bags carrying advertising logos, clear sandwich bags and a variety of other forms are all polluting our environment. They're lightweight, handy and easily discarded. Too easily discarded.
While they were rarely found during the 60s and 70s, their usage has increased at an alarming rate since they became popular during the 80s. Just take a look around you. Plastic bags can be seen hanging from the branches of trees, flying in the air on windy days, settled amongst bushes and floating on rivers. They clog up gutters and drains causing water and sewage to overflow and become the breeding grounds of germs and
bacteria that cause diseases.
Dangers to Sea Life
Plastic bags are now amongst the top 12 items of debris most often found along coastlines ranging from Spitzbergen in the north to the Falklands in the south.
Animals and sea creatures are hurt and killed every day by discarded plastic bags - a dead turtle with a plastic bag hanging from its mouth isn't a pleasant sight but mistaking plastic bags for food is commonplace amongst marine animals. Plastic clogs their intestines and leads to slow starvation. Others become entangled in plastic bags and drown.
Because plastic bags take hundreds of years to break down, every year our seas become 'home' to more and more bags that find their way there through our sewers and waterways. Every bag that's washed down a drain during rainfall ends up in the sea - every bag that's flushed down a toilet (many small bags are), ends up in the
sea - every bag that's blown into a river will most likely end up in the sea.
Add to that the enormous amounts of energy that's used every year in order to manufacture these bags and it's no surprise that pressure is being put on governments to make changes and consumers to re-think their attitudes.
Pollution Taxes & Bans
Following the levy of taxes on plastic bags in Ireland, usage dropped by 90 percent. Several countries have already banned their use and more will doubtless follow.
While anything that lowers our consumption is good, why wait until we're hit financially before we change our habits when changes aren't difficult to make?
How about taking previously used bags with you next time you go to the shops? Or even better - turn back time and do as grandma did and take a sturdy bag with you every time you go shopping.
Shop-owners would much rather you use their bags as they're a convenient and cheap form of advertising, but what's more important, shareholder profits or the environment?
Plastic bags can be re-cycled although only about one in every 200 ever find their way to a re-cycling unit. Find out if there's a re-cycling bin near you and, if not, lobby your local authority for one.
Some countries have introduced so-called "environmentally friendly plastic bags" that are biodegradable. These bags take about three years to break down into practically nothing and while that sounds like an attractive solution, the truth is that the process of breaking down these petrol based bags causes carbon to become methane which is a greenhouse gas. It's also possible to get 'plastic' bags manufactured from corn. These break down very quickly and give off no more methane than any other corn product on landfill sites. Unfortunately, they're more expensive to produce and few shops use them.
Until a real alternative is freely available, the only solution is a re-think of attitude:
Re-use bags when shopping.
Choose biodegradable bags to use for litter (photodegradable bags used in this way are guaranteed to end up on landfill sites taking hundreds of years to break down).
Re-use large plastic sacks whenever possible
Refrigerate food in containers rather than plastic bags
One question that's often raised in connection with the plastic bag dilemma is what should be used to line bins if not plastic bags?
To answer that, let's go back in time to when plastic bags were yet to become commonplace. There's no need to go any further back than the 70s. What did we do?
For one, we had far less garbage. Goods had much less packaging than is the case today so we didn't fill our bins as quickly. Peelings, eggshells, tea bags and coffee grounds were all composted, as was any paper that wasn't needed for lighting fires.
What was left went into an unlined bin with anything sloppy being wrapped in newspaper first.
If we choose carefully when shopping so as not to bring home more packaging than necessary - there's really no point in bringing it home just to throw it straight in the bin when we unpack - and keep a compost bin going, the amount of waste that goes into the kitchen bin will be halved, at least.
Now that we have re-cycling plants, even less will need to be binned. Tins, bottles and paper (we generally have too much for the compost heap these days) can all be delivered to the local re-cycling point.
If you really must line your bins, instead of buying plastic liners, it's possible to use newspaper. You won't be able to pull everything out, tie it up and put it out, of course, but you'll be able to tip it from your kitchen bin into the main bin without too much mess. People managed before; perhaps the comfortable lives we have today
just make everything appear more difficult than it really is.
Obviously, if you live in an area where the garbage collectors expect to find bin liners neatly arranged along the edge of the street rather than the bins themselves, you'll have to continue using plastic bags. That doesn't mean to say you can't lobby your local authority for change, though. Explain why you need to leave the bin outside and that it's their duty to support any move that will improve the environment.
By refusing to use plastic bags, you can make a huge difference to the pollution problem. Remember that each person uses about 83 bags a year. If there are four people in your family, that's 332 plastic bags less every year.
That's 332 bags less that will:
Release toxins into the ground water from landfill sites
Stay in the environment for hundreds of years while they break down
Get into the food chain through animals that ingest small particles of plastic
Waste energy during the manufacturing process
Kill any of the estimated 100,000 marine animals that die each year of plastic pollution
These are all-important factors that have a profound affect on our environment and the creatures we share our planet with. Should we really put our own selfish needs before the needs of everything around us now and the lives of future generations? That's up to you to decide.
SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING:
A petroleum-based polymer, plastic is a material that doesn’t easily break down or biodegrade in nature. Nonetheless, it has been one of the most widely used materials in the United States and other countries since the 1970s. In fact, in 2010 alone, some 330 million tons of new plastic will be manufactured around the world. It is used in packaging, electronics, home construction and many other arenas. However, very little of it will be recycled and the rest will eventually be discarded. Where does this plastic waste go?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or Pacific Trash Vortex, is a large system of rotating water currents that contains an enormous concentration of plastic litter trapped by the swirling water. Found in the north central Pacific Ocean, this garbage patch is thought to encompass an area somewhere between the size of Texas and the continental United States. The spot can’t be captured by satellite imagery, as much of the garbage contained within it is actually suspended in the upper water column. Because of the rotational water in this area, called a gyre, the region draws in debris from all across the Pacific, including the coastal waters of the United States and Japan. Much of the garbage found here is made up of small particles of plastic that concentrate as they get closer to the center of the region. Although it isn’t known exactly where all of the garbage in the patch comes from, estimates put about 80 percent of it from land-based sources and around 20 percent from ships. The pollution found in the patch ranges from pieces of abandoned fishing nets to the small, abrasive plastic pellets found in some household cleaning products. As the plastic debris collects in the vortex, it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles. Eventually, it becomes small enough to be ingested by the tiny organisms living near the ocean surface and thus enters the food chain.
Plastic Pollution: An Ocean Emergency
The oceans have become one giant refuse bin for all manner of
plastics. Environmental and health concerns associated with plastic
pollution are a long recognised international problem (Carpenter
& Smith 1972). Whilst approximately 10% of all solid waste is
plastic (Heap 2009), up to 80% of the waste that accumulates on
land, shorelines, the ocean surface, or seabed is plastic (Barnes et
Plastics have an array of unique properties: they are inexpensive,
lightweight, strong, durable, corrosion resistant, and with high
thermal and electrical insulation properties. This versatility has
revolutionized our life and not least made information technology
and electrical goods far more readily available than would have been
possible otherwise. They have also contributed to our health and
safety (e.g., clean distribution of water and breakthrough medical
devices), and have led to substantial energy savings in transportation.
Unsurprisingly, with an ever expanding population and our standard
of living continuously improving, plastic production has increased
from 0.5 to 260 million tons per year since 1950 (Heap 2009),
accounting today for approximately 8% of world oil production
(Thompson et al. 2009b). Almost all aspects of our daily life involve
plastics in some form or another: from hair dryers to shoes, to
the car we drive and the wrap around lunch sandwiches. A scary
thought considering that in the 1960s, less than 1% of our waste
The key problem with plastic however is that a major portion of
plastic produced each year is used to make disposable packaging
items or other short-lived products that are permanently discarded
within a year of manufacture (Hopewell et al. 2009). Well over a
billion single-use plastic bags are given out for free every day.
Around 0.2 to 0.3% of plastic production eventually ends up in
the ocean (Andrady & Neal 2009). Two of plastics’ most touted
advantages, their light weight and durability, also make plastic items
plastics are buoyant and remain so until they become waterlogged or
photo degradation and abrasion plastics only break into smaller
and smaller pieces so “that they can be consumed by the smallest
marine life at the base of the food web,” according to a report by
the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP 2009). Saline
marine environments and the cooling effect of the sea mean that
degradation requires very long exposure times. Persistence of plastic
debris is poignantly illustrated in the account that plastic swallowed
by an albatross had originated from a plane shot down 60 years prior
some 9,600 km away (Weiss et al. 2006).
Plastics’ buoyancy also means they can be easily carried by ocean
currents and transported across ocean basins, their contamination
stretching from the shorelines to the deepest parts of the sea, from
the poles to the Equator and the most remote of islands. Between
reefs of the Northwest Hawaiian Island Marine National Monument
(NWHI-MNM), one of the largest marine conservation areas in the
world (Pichel et al. 2007). Stewart Island’s Mason Bay, located at
almost 47° S, is a spectacular, remote and isolated, ca.10 km sandy
beach that is open to the Southern Ocean, facing into the Roaring
Forties. The beach is fouled with 2 to 3 tons of plastic pollution,
offshore waters (Barnes et al. 2009). Most of these items are from
comes from Korea and Japan; other sources include Argentina,
Australia, Belgium, Chile, France, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain,
South Africa, and the United Kingdom (Barnes et al. 2009).
increasing number of reports of sunken plastic debris settling to
73 in Gregory 2009) report of numerous white plastic shopping
bags suspended upside down and freely drifting past a deep-sea
submersible at depths of 2,000 m, looking like an assembly of
Impacts on ocean wildlife. The bodies of almost all marine species,
ranging in size from plankton to marine mammals, and including
some of the wildest and most vulnerable species on the planet
– animals that make nearly their entire living far from humans
– now contain plastic. Sixty percent of 6,136 surface plankton net
tows conducted in the western North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean
Sea from 1986 to 2008 contained buoyant plastic pieces, typically
millimetres in size (Law et al. 2010). Plastics turn up in bird nests,
are worn by hermit crabs instead of shells, and are present in sea
turtle, whale and albatross stomachs (Mrosovsky et al. 2009). Over
mammals, have been reported to ingest or become entangled in
plastic debris, resulting in impaired movement and feeding, reduced
reproductive output, lacerations, ulcers, and death (Derraik 2002;
Entanglement in discarded or lost plastic netting, rope and
visible impacts of plastic pollution (Laist 1997). Recent sightings
include pods of endangered humpback whales travelling northwards
Macfadyen 2007; Goñi 1998).
Ingestion of plastic items occurs much more frequently than
entanglement (e.g., Laist 1997; Robards et al. 1997). At sea, plastic
Marine Turtle Newsletter No. 129, 2010 - Page 2
seabirds have been seen to pick at plastic items the same way
Fulmars (Fulmarus glacialis) contain some plastic. Monitoring
of plastic loads in seabirds showed increases in plastic ingestion
from the 1960s to the 1980s, but have stabilized or decreased
more recently (Ryan et al. 2009). On the other hand, microscopic
fragments, in some locations outweighing surface zooplankton,
1960s and 1970s were compared with the 1980s and 1990s (Barnes
et al. 2009). When ingested, such small particles can also be taken
up from the gut into other body tissues. Ingestion of plastic can lead
to wounds (internal and external); impairment of feeding capacity;
blockage of digestive tract followed by satiation and starvation;
and general debilitation often leading to death. Plasticizers and
organic contaminants that typically sorb and concentrate on plastics
at levels far superior to the surrounding marine environment have
been shown to affect both development and reproduction in a wide
range of marine organisms. Molluscs and crustaceans appear to be
particularly sensitive to these compounds (Oehlmann et al. 2009).
Being an important food item for many species, plastics ingested
by invertebrates then have the potential to transfer toxic substances
up the food chain (Teuten et al. 2009). The mechanisms by which
ingestion lead to illness and death can often only be surmised because
the animals are at sea unobserved or are found ashore dead.
Once fouled with marine life or sediment, plastic items sink to
operated vehicle submarine in the Fram Strait (Arctic) revealed 0.2
to 0.9 pieces of plastic per km at Hausgarten (2,500 m) (Galgani &
Lecornu 2004 in (Barnes et al. 2009)). On dives between 5,500 and
6,770 m, 15 items of debris were observed, of which 13 were plastic
(Barnes et al. 2009). The presence of plastic at shallow and greater
feeders, deposit feeders and detritivores, all known to accidentally
The hard surfaces of pelagic plastics also provide an attractive and
and wood) for a number of opportunistic colonizers. The increasing
availability of these synthetic and non-biodegradable materials in
marine debris may increase the dispersal and prospects for invasions
by non-indigenous species (Gregory 2009).
Impacts on sea turtles. All sea turtle species are particularly
prone and may be seriously harmed by ‘feeding on’ anthropogenic
marine debris, particularly plastics (Carr 1987) (e.g., Hawaiian
Islands, (Balazs 1985); Texas coast (Shaver 1991); coastal Florida,
(Bjorndal et al. 1994); Azores (Barreiros & Barcelos 2001); Western
Mediterranean, (Tomás et al. 2002); Paraíba, (Mascarenhas et al.
2004) and Rio Grande do Sul, (Bugoni et al. 2001/, see below)
turtles get entangled, or pieces of which they ingest (Mrosovsky
et al. 2009). Laboratory experiments demonstrated that green and
loggerhead turtles actively target and consume plastics whether it
be small pieces intermixed with food items, or single 1- to 10-cm2
sheets (Lutz 1990). Sublethal impacts of plastics on sea turtles can
be substantial, yet mortality resulting from interactions with plastic
Ingestion. Plastic ingestion by sea turtles is a relatively common
occurrence, albeit often in small quantities. However, even in
small quantities, plastics can kill sea turtles due to obstruction of
the oesophagus or perforation of the bowel for example. Relief of
gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction of a green turtle off Melbourne
beach, Florida, resulted in the animal defecating 74 foreign objects
over a period of a month, including four types of latex balloons,
different types of hard plastic, a piece of carpet-like material, and
two 2 to 4 mm tar balls (Stamper et al. 2009).
Fishing line can be particularly dangerous, when, during normal
intestinal function, different parts of the digestive tract pull at
different ends of the line. This can result in the gut gathering along
the length of the line preventing digesta from passing through the
tract (Bjorndal et al. 1994). Plastic ingestion may also indirectly
lead to death of an animal through nutrient dilution, i.e., plastic
pieces displacing food in the gut (and reducing the surface available
for absorption). Typical consequences include decreased growth
rates, longer developmental periods at sizes most vulnerable to
predation, depleted energy reserves, and lower reproductive output
and survivorship of animals (McCauley & Bjorndal 1999). The
latter is likely to be an important threat to smaller individuals with a
lower ability to increase intake to meet their energetic requirements
than larger animals.
islands” of drifting seaweeds such as Sargassum. Floating plastics,
are drawn by advection into the same drift lines (Carpenter & Smith
1972; Pichel et al. 2007; Wong et al. 1974). As young sea turtles
indiscriminately feed on pelagic material, high occurrences of
plastic are common in the digestive tract of these small sea turtles,
often contributing to their mortality (Witherington & Witherington
As plastics can accumulate in multiple segments of the gut,
stomach lavages underestimate the incidence of ingestion.
ropes or lines, can prevent sea turtles from diving to feed or from
surfacing to breathe. Nets and lines can also amputate limbs, severely
reducing an animal’s mobility. Notes on selected studies:
Fifty turtles (23 out of 38 juvenile greens, one out of 10 adult
loggerheads and one out of two adult leatherbacks) out of the
92 turtles found dead stranded on the shorelines of Rio Grande
do Sul State, Brazil, had ingested considerable amount of
anthropogenic debris. Most of this debris consisted of plastic
bags and ropes, causing severe lesions and/or obstruction of
the digestive tract, linked to the death of four green turtles
(Bugoni et al. 2001).
Of 51 sea turtle carcasses that washed ashore in Florida, 25 had
The death of at least two animals was attributed to ingestion of
plastic debris in their digestive tract (Tomás et al. 2002).
Necropsy records of 408 leatherback turtles, spanning 123 years
(1885 - 2007), were studied for the presence or absence of
plastic in the GI tract. Plastic was reported in 34% of these cases,
with a marked increase over time (Mrosovsky et al. 2009).
Marine Turtle Newsletter No. 129, 2010 - Page 3
Hope and the future of plastic in the ocean. “There is a role for
individuals, via appropriate use and disposal, particularly recycling;
for industry adopting green chemistry, material reduction, and
by designing products for reuse and/or end-of-life recyclability;
and for governments and policymakers by setting standards and
incentivize change, and by funding relevant academic research and
technological developments.” (Thompson et al. 2009a).
Re-design. The past decades have proven that there is no stopping
the ingenious human mind. Therefore, the development of
materials derived from renewable natural resources, with similar
functionalities to that of oil-based products, needs to be supported/
subsidised. The use of such materials should particularly be
encouraged for packaging applications. There is some hope: the
Green Chemistry Initiative (Boughton 2009), signed by California
Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008, directs the Department of Toxic
Substances Control to reduce toxics going into our oceans, including
those from plastics, with biodegradable, non-toxic substitutes.
Remove. Beach and ocean cleanups are a great way to raise
awareness and to collect data on abundance and trends of debris on
shorelines. However, alone they will not solve the problem. At some
locations around the world cleaning plastic from the coast amounts
to little more than relocation of the items from the beach to inland
dumpsites where they pose different problems to the environment
serve to mask the severity of the plastic pollution problem with a
feel-good event. The most well-run cleanup efforts combine the
removal of trash with proper disposal and follow-up educational
efforts on how to reduce the production of single-use disposable
plastics. When people see and touch plastic pollution they are most
open to such behavioural changes.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. There is considerable scope for reuse of
plastics utilised for the transport of goods, and for potential re-use
or re-manufacture of plastic components in goods such as vehicles
and electronic equipment (Hopewell et al. 2009). Provided with
adequate incentives, industry could be led to use plastic “waste” as
raw instead of virgin material, which currently is often cheaper. At
much smaller scales users should be encouraged to reuse plastic bags
and other plastic goods as much as possible. Although globally only
a small proportion of plastics get recycled, mechanical recycling
has been increasing at 7% per year in Western Europe (Thompson
et al. 2009a). Public support for recycling is high in some countries
(57% in the UK and 80% in Australia (Hopewell et al. 2009)). Still,
together with clearer labelling could lead to greater separation of
materials by users. This would in turn reduce labour associated with
sorting costs, currently one of the main impediments to recycling
e.g., The Netherlands and Germany.
use disposable plastic and subsequent release of plastics into the
environment. Some simple and immediate actions include:
o Avoiding plastic-bottled beverages;
o Buying products with minimal or reusable packaging;
o Buying in bulk whenever possible to reduce packaging;
o Buying used items;
o Seeking out reusable shopping bags like those made from
o For coffee and or tea – bring your own mug;
o For food – bring your own container.
Personal actions can advance social change, yet policy actions are
Ireland, Eritrea, Rwanda, China, South Africa, Bangladesh, Thailand
and Taiwan, have banned or taxed plastic bags. In July 2009, the
in the world to pass a law banning PET bottles (Malkin 2009). Bans
on polystyrene, bottled water and plastic bags are being inplemented
by communities, businesses and universities around the world, and
these trends are expected to continue. At the international level, the
United Nations Environment Program is calling for a worldwide
ban on plastic bags.
Continued research on the impacts of plastic on the ocean
environment and human health is likely to conclude the problem is
worse than currently understood. Plastic production and pollution
continues to increase at most locations. The symptom of this growing
crisis can be seen inside and on sea turtles as well as their oceanic
and terrestrial habitats. Bold initiatives that directly confront the
source of plastic pollution, redesign packaging and rethink the very
idea of “throwaway culture” are urgently required (e.g., Plastic
PollutionCoalition.org). Sea turtle researchers and conservationists
have a unique role to play in this cultural evolution, as we have
See these Titles? They are talking about sea, beaches, environment, etc…
but what about risks for animal and mankind? This is a very strange way to carry on a god job!!!
Stop Plastic Pollution from Trashing California's Beaches
Ocean Pollution of Small Plastic Particles 1 Running head: RISK
Perils of Pacific Plastic Pollution: Facts, Myths, and How You Can Help
Seabirds as indicators of plastic pollution in the North Pacific
Is mankind not suffering from the use of plastic? And not only the use of it regards to plastic bags, but related to any kind of plastic object, material, or item we could find around us. I understand they are not going to talk about this problem, because they are not willing to change their attitudes. Petroleum industry, still is a big business, and produces in most cases, with direct and non direct taxes added on fuels, 70% of the money paid in taxes, to nations that are not wishing to lose it. Vice, is something that we should consider from an ethic point of view, moral, and common sense. Adding a tax to pay on any plastic bag we use, enables these people to avoid the cost of them, and still use them. We pay this damage twice. Let’s consider a titanium wire bag, that could carry up to 40 kg weight that could last 100 years with no problem at all for environment. Private interest, industries, and governments, will never act against their own interest, unless, populations change their attitudes and force them to act in a proper way. The day we will stop using them, they will not be able to make money out of them, and that will be the end of their use. Any inventor that could easily do something about this problem, would easily be stopped. I guess it is time consciousness, awareness and common sense get to work together to transform these political classes and industrials, into wiser people.
See: Marine plastics pollution is a growing international dilemma that
threatens marine resources from the crowded New Jersey shore1 to the
otherwise pristine and uninhabited beaches of Antarctica
… and so on, they keep avoiding the obstacle, and I could show you more than 12000 articles that are talking about this problem, whilst a greater one is just standing there behind the corner waiting for us to se it. A mortal one. An invisible one. BPA. Not only bags, bags, bags, bags…. The BPA scandal is just going to burst as soon as someone will consider that these substances are a problem. But I guess that hypocrisy is the real problem here, and the attitude they have towards the world. Let’s persecute, give proportional fines, and arrest those who behave in this criminal way against species, animals, mankind and the world, so that they will be forced to change attitude. Remember that we have options, and most of the time, no choices, whist they have possibilities, to change, get better, and build a better future. To blame the people, and make them pay the price of their policies, is to give them the opportunity to continue. Simply stop buying, using, and paying for plastic in any possible form. It’s time to tell them that a green world is not what they are talking about and building, as it looks to me, that the whole affair is a way to make money with carbon tax, without changing attitude, and saying that we will do it in the next future. Now they are talking about, 2015 -2030.
Every time you want to transform a plastic through fire, make energy with it, etc… you will produce dioxin. Read this: DIOXIN POLLUTION PREVENTION AND PVC PLASTIC IN
MUNICIPAL SOLID WASTE: PRECAUTIONARY STATE POLICY
The disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) generates polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and
polychlorinated dibenzofurans (referred to together as “dioxin”) through open burning, waste
incineration and landfill fires1,2. Backyard burning of household trash is a significant source of
dioxin3. In the U.S., about 100 municipal waste combustors incinerate about 20% of MSW after
recycling4, compared to 70% in Maine. Dioxin air emissions from MSW incineration have
declined due to facility closures, operating improvements and added pollution controls5. Dioxin
air emissions remain significant and incinerator ash adds very large amounts of dioxin to the land6.
40% to 70% of the chlorine input to MSW incinerators is from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a widely
used plastic7. Yet PVC accounts for only 0.6% of the total mass of MSW4. Several variables
affect dioxin formation during incineration including chlorine precursors, metal catalysts, oxygen
content, combustion temperature, residence time, quenching conditions and pollution controls5.
Many studies have correlated chlorine input and dioxin formation during combustion8,9,10,11,12,13. A
PVC industry-funded study found no correlation between chlorine input and dioxin air emissions
in MSW combustors14. Others have also discounted the importance of chlorine input to dioxin
formation15. These negative findings have been criticized for flawed analysis16. The relationship
between chlorine input and dioxin formation in waste incineration remains complex and uncertain.
The precautionary principle holds that if an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the
environment, then preventive actions should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships
are not fully established scientifically17. While risk assessment justifies a halt to open burning, a
precautionary approach supports dioxin pollution prevention by reducing the incineration of PVC.
Materials and Methods
In 1997, the Maine Department of Conservation surveyed 545 town fire wardens and state forest
fire rangers about backyard trash burning. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection
(DEP) used these survey results, EPA emission factors for burn barrels3 and air dispersion
modeling (ISCST3) to characterize exposure, risk and mass emissions of dioxin. In 1999, a
medical waste disposal crisis spurred the Maine Hospital Association and Maine DEP to develop a
plan for in-state management of biomedical waste and reductions in waste volume and toxicity18.
In 2000, the Maine DEP began drafting a plan for the statewide collection of household hazardous
waste19 and in 2001 the Maine Legislature began policymaking on PVC to address dioxin issues.
Results and Discussion
The 1997 backyard burning survey identified 8,510 permitted burn barrels in Maine or about one
barrel for every 144 people. An inverse relationship was found between population (by county or
Organohalogen Compounds, Volumes 60-65, Dioxin 2003 Boston, MA
by town) and the number of burn barrels per 1,000 residents, showing that backyard incineration is
a rural phenomenon. When surveyed, local fire wardens offered three broad categories of opinion
as to why rural people burned their trash in backyard barrels: economic incentives (e.g. avoiding
pay-as-you-throw disposal fees), cultural habits and the inconvenience of proper disposal2.
Environmental releases of dioxin in air emissions and ash from backyard burn barrels in Maine in
1997 are reported in Tables 1 and 2, based on 21 tons per day of waste burned in barrels2. Burn
barrels were found to be a significant source of dioxin air emissions (7 - 23 grams TEQ/year). The
high dioxin content of burn barrel ash also raises environmental health concerns. Air dispersion
modeling showed that fifteen minutes of open burning resulted in dioxin impacts two times the
health based guideline for subchronic (24-hour) exposure at a downwind distance of 500 meters2.
The 2000 Maine dioxin inventory (Table 3) revises the estimate of dioxin air emissions from burn
barrels to 4.1 grams TEQ (26% of air emissions). This exceeds the 2.0 grams TEQ dioxin air
emissions from Maine’s four municipal waste combustors, which burn about 600,000 tons of
MSW each year20. Dioxin releases to land from disposal of MSW incinerator ash account for 34.1
grams TEQ or 60% of all dioxin released to air, water and land, far more than from any source.
Table 3 also shows that PVC plastic is the major chlorine donor for dioxin sources that account for
79% of quantified dioxin releases to air, water and land. PVC is also the major chlorine donor for
dioxin releases from car and building fires, open burning at construction sites and landfill fires.
About 75% of PVC is used for building and construction21. PVC mixed with wood recovered
from construction and demolition debris may form dioxin when burned at biomass power plants.
In 2001, Maine’s 39 hospitals pledged to steadily reduce the use and disposal of PVC plastic so as
to prevent dioxin formation from both medical and solid waste incineration. Disposable PVC
medical products such as IV bags, tubing and gloves account for 10% -15% of medical waste22.
Table 4 lists the steps being taken by to reduce PVC use. Maine hospitals have made modest
progress in reducing PVC (Table 5), reflecting the complexity of the task and the need to move the
market23. The Southern Maine Medical Center has already switched to PVC-free IV bags.
In 2001, the State identified PVC as a problem waste that should be included in a statewide
household hazardous waste collection program19. Legislation was proposed (LD 1543) to define
PVC plastic as a dioxin-forming product, fund an education program to discourage open burning
of MSW and encourage the diversion of PVC waste away from incineration. The bill was strongly
opposed by the chemical industry and was substantially amended before being signed into law to:
1. Ban all open burning of MSW in Maine (except for clean wood waste)
2. Fund a one-time educational program to discourage open burning and promote PVC alternatives
3. Establish a state policy to reduce the total release of dioxin to the environment with the goal of
its continued minimization and, where feasible, ultimate elimination
4. Require a study by the State Planning Office (SPO) to assess the feasibility of diverting PVC in
MSW away from incineration, which concluded in 2003 that: “the majority … supported
identifying polyvinyl chloride plastics as a material of concern in the state’s efforts to reduce the
formation of dioxins and their release into the environment” and “there was substantial support for
efforts that would result in the diversion of polyvinyl chloride plastic away from incineration”24.
Further actions are needed to prevent dioxin releases to air, water and land from MSW disposal.
Organohalogen Compounds, Volumes 60-65, Dioxin 2003 Boston, MA
Given the factors that motivate rural Americans to use backyard burn barrels, statutory bans on
open burning are unlikely to be effective alone. The highly successful anti-tobacco industry
public health campaign to reduce smoking could serve as a model. An industry-funded but
publicly-controlled public education campaign against open burning should target the chemical
industry as responsible for dioxin-forming products such as PVC in the waste stream. Like
household hazardous waste, PVC should be separately collection and diverted away from
incineration. Expanded labeling of PVC products would facilitate education, identification and
waste segregation. Disposable PVC packaging, e.g. consumer bottles and ‘blister packs’, should
be phased out. We should exercise precaution by working to eliminate PVC plastic from MSW.
Table 1: Estimated Dioxin Releases to Air from Backyard Burn Barrels in Maine
EPA Study3 (mass
emitted per kg waste)
Dioxins TEQ Worst-Case 0.005 mg/kg 0.000007 23
Average 0.002 mg/kg 0.000006 7
Calculations based on: Maine waste production = 1.2 kg/capita/day; average household size = 2.5 people; number of burn
barrels in Maine = 8,510; Maine average recycling rate = 25%; combustion rate = 68.1% (worse-case scenario) or 57.9%
(average scenario) of original mass burned. Tables 1 & 2 adapted from Maine Department of Environmental Protection2.
Table 2: Estimated Dioxin Releases to Land (as Ash) from Backyard Burn Barrels in Maine
Scenario Dioxin Concentration in Ash
(EPA Study3) ng/kg (ppt) TEQ
Total Dioxin Releases to Land as
Worst-Case 2,586 3,732,039 10
Average 1,611 2,942,300 5
Table 3. Maine Dioxin Inventory 2000: Dioxin Releases to Land, Air and Water
Is PVC a Major
Municipal Solid Waste Incinerator Ash Land 34.1 YES
Backyard Burn Barrels Air 4.0 YES
Residential Fuel Burning (wood & oil) Air 3.4
Commercial / Industrial Fuel Burning Air 3.1
Backyard Burn Barrel Ash Land 2.9 a YES
Pulp & Paper Mills – Kraft Bleach Discharge Water 2.3
Municipal Solid Waste Incinerators Air 2.0 YES
Medical Waste Incinerators Air 1.7 YES
Utility Boilers (biomass/wood and oil-fired) Air 1.1 some b
Pulp & Paper Mills - Sludge & Ash Land 1.0
Non Point Sources, including On Road Vehicles Air / Water 0.6
Sewage Sludge Land 0.2
Miscellaneous Industrial Sources Air 0.1
Biomass/Wood-Fired Power Plant Ash Land < 0.1 some b
Automobile & Building Fires Air / Land nd YES
Industrial Sludge & Kiln Dust Land nd
Landfill Fires Air / Land nd YES
Open Burning (construction sites, etc.) Air / Land nd YES
TOTAL > 56.6
Adapted from Maine DEP6. nd = no data; a = extrapolated from 1997 study; b = from PVC-contaminated scrap wood
Organohalogen Compounds, Volumes 60-65, Dioxin 2003 Boston, MA
Table 4: Hospital PVC Reduction Steps18 Table 5: Maine Hospitals’ Progress – Jan 200322
1. Establish a written PVC reduction policy
2. Assess current use of PVC products.
3. Reduce PVC use in disposable products
4. Replace PVC use in durable products
5. Ask GPOs to evaluate of PVC alternatives
6. Renegotiate GPO contracts on PVC prod.
7. Report annually on progress achieved
GPO = Group purchasing organization
(# of hospitals)
Product inventory 21 % (8)
Patient safety review * 10 % (4)
Minimize incineration 8 % (3)
Product phase-out not yet quantified
* based on patient exposure to toxic PVC additive DEHP
Funding for this work has been provided by John Merck Fund, Bingham Program & Beldon Fund.
1. U.S. EPA (2000) Sources of Dioxin-Like Compounds in the U.S. Vol. 2 in: Exposure and
Human Health Reassessment of TCDD and Related Compounds, EPA/600/P-00/001Bb
2. Maine Department of Environmental Protection (1997), Backyard Trash Burning (BYB) Study
3. Lemieux, P.M. (1997) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA-600/r-97-134a
4. Franklin Associates Ltd. (2002) Municipal Solid Waste in the U. S.: 2000 Facts and Figures
5. National Research Council (2000) Waste Incineration & Public Health, ISBN 0-309-06371-X
6. Maine Department of Environmental Protection (2001), Maine Dioxin Inventory 2000
7. Commission of the European Communities (2000) COM(2000) 469 final
8. Mahle, N.H. and Whiting, L.F. (1980) Chemosphere. 9: 693-699
9. Aliberti, Goretti, G., and Russo, M.V. (1983) Chemosphere 12(4/5):661-663
10. Halonen, I., Tarhanen, J., Kopsa, T., Palonen, J., Vilokki, H. and Ruuskanen, J. (1993)
Chemosphere 26(10): 1869-1880
11. Frankenhauser, M., Manninen, H., Kojo, I., Ruuskanen, J., Vartiainen, T., Vesterinen, R. and
Virkki, J. (1993) Chemosphere 27(1-3): 309-316
12. Huotari, J. and Vesterinen (1996) Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Materials 13(1)-10
13. Hatanaka, T., Imagawa, T. and Takeuchi, M. (2000) Environ. Sci. Technol. 34: 3920-3924
14. Rigo, H., Chandler, J. and Lanier, S. (1995) in: Solid Waste Management: Thermal Treatment
and Waste-to Energy Technologies (Kilgroe, J., Ed.) AWMA, ASME/CRTD-Volume 36
15. Wikstrom, E., Lofvenius, G., Rappe, C. and Marklund, S. (1996) Environ. Sci. Technol. 30(5):
16. Costner, P. (1997) Organohalogen Cpds. 32: 436-440
17. Tickner, J. (2002) Public Health Reports 117: 493-497
18. MHA (2001) http://www.themha.org/pages/resource_pages/res2b.(blueprint).htm
19. Maine DEP (2001) Plan for Statewide Collection and Disposal of Household Hazardous Waste
20. Maine State Planning Office (2002) 2001 Solid Waste Generation & Disposal Capacity Report
21. Thornton, J. (2002) Environmental Impacts of Polyvinyl Chloride Building Materials, ISBN 0-
22. Thornton, J. (2001) Pandora’s Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy,
23. MHA (2003) http://www.themha.org/pages/resource_pages/scorecard.htm
24. Maine SPO (2003) Report: Plan to Reduce Toxic Emissions and Expand Plastics Recycling
Organohalogen Compounds, Volumes 60-65, Dioxin 2003 Boston, MA
They perfectly know what it is all about….. but unfortunately, it is a little worst…. Lets read what they say about this other substance, to avoid problems….. it looks like plastic is good for you here,,,,
Bisphenol A and Polycarbonate Plastics
1. What is bisphenol A?
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic and resins. It
has been used safely in the manufacture of these materials for more than 40 years.
Bisphenol A is not used to make PET plastics and resin. PET is typically used for the
single-serve, single-use bottle and have a number 1 on the bottom.
2. Where is polycarbonate plastic used?
Many familiar consumer products are made from polycarbonate plastics, including
compact disks, impact resistant eye glass lenses, dental fillings, and food and
beverage containers. Polycarbonate plastic is also used to make streetlight globes,
small and large household appliances, components of electrical/electronic devices,
automotive applications, telephones, and safety and sports helmets. Polycarbonate
sheets are used extensively in signs, windows and window protection, walkways,
roofing structures, greenhouses, solar and construction glazing, and skylights.
In addition, many food and medical devices are produced from polycarbonate (e.g.,
blood oxygenators used to purify blood and intravenous harnesses). Because of its
use in food contact and medical products, polycarbonate and bisphenol A have
undergone extensive safety testing.
As recently as January 2007, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), after
completing an extensive, independent expert panel review of all new scientific data
from the past five years concluded that bisphenol A does not post a risk to human
health at the trace levels present in consumer products. The EFSA findings were
confirmed by independent expert panels in both the United States and Japan.
Polycarbonate plastics have been deemed safe packaging for food products by
these and other food regulatory agencies worldwide.
3. How is polycarbonate plastic used in food packaging?
Polycarbonate plastic is used in both beverage and food containers because it is
hygienic and provides protection from food contamination and spoilage. Plastics
have proven to be excellent in protecting food and beverages from bacteria, which is
vitally important in safeguarding public health.
All plastics intended for contact with foods or beverages are regulated by Health
Canada to assure their safety. In addition, all products for food contact applications
made from bisphenol A must meet health and safety regulatory guidelines
throughout the world. Polycarbonate resins are employed in food-contact uses
primarily in such applications as components of food processors, microwave
ovenware, table ware, refrigerator crisper drawers, food-storage containers, and
returnable water, milk and juice containers.
4. What bottled water containers are made with polycarbonate plastic?
Polycarbonate can be used to manufacture a variety of plastic bottled water
containers. The plastic used in all bottled water containers is shown to be safe
through extensive laboratory testing. Bottled water and the containers it is placed in
are brought to consumers under full regulation of Health Canada. This regulatory
oversight, reinforced with strong industry standards, ensures that consumers will
receive a clean, safe product each time they enjoy a serving of bottled water,
whether packaged in glass or plastic.
5. Is bottled water in plastic containers safe to drink?
Yes. The Health Canada investigates the potential toxicity of leaching chemicals and
establishes safe levels for any contaminants in bottled water. There is currently no
indication that contaminants from leaching or from the water source are a
problem in bottled water.
As recent as April 2008, Health Canada confirmed the safety use of
polycarbonate water bottles following an extensive evaluation of bisphenol A.
In January 2007, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) summarizes a weight of
the evidence evaluation of low-dose reproductive and developmental effects of
bisphenol A. Bisphenol A is used to make polycarbonate plastic; 18 litre plastic bottles
commonly used in water coolers are made from polycarbonate plastic. The EFSA
convened an expert scientific panel to evaluate the weight of evidence for low-dose
reproductive and developmental effects of bisphenol A. In their overall conclusion after
reviewing some 200 scientific papers published since 2002, was that bisphenol A does
not pose a risk to human health at the trace levels present in consumer products.
The full details of the study available on the EFSA’s Web site at:
6. I heard that a study on animal cages and water bottles made from
polycarbonate plastics became dangerous after they were scrubbed. Aren’t
water cooler bottles cleaned for re-use?
Bottled water cooler containers are cleaned and sanitized in accordance with
guidelines as dictated by Health Canada’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP’s).
These include specifics related to cleaning agents used, water/rinse temperature
and duration. These containers are cleaned and sanitized on specialized equipment
designed specifically for that purpose. The methods and materials used in the study
would not be utilized in a bottled water plant. For instance, researchers conducting
the study mistakenly used a highly caustic floor cleaning detergent that would not be
used to clean and sanitize bottled watercooler containers.
7. Are products made with bisphenol A safe to use?
Yes. Claims of adverse health effects in laboratory animals at extremely low doses
are based on small, unvalidated studies. Much larger, more comprehensive studies
by several different research groups in the United States and Japan failed to show
any adverse effects after exposure of laboratory animals to low doses of bisphenol A
over multiple generations. These studies follow internationally accepted guidelines
for conducting toxicity tests and also comply with Good Laboratory Practice
requirements to ensure valid results.
Products made from bisphenol A are safe if used as intended because bisphenol A
has been highly studied. A large number of studies have been conducted to assess
the impact of bisphenol A on human and environmental health. Research has shown
that bisphenol A is not a carcinogen, not a reproductive or developmental hazard,
and is not bioaccumulative because it is rapidly metabolized and eliminated from the
body. In addition, bisphenol A degrades rapidly in the environment. The benefits of
bisphenol A as an environmentally friendly food packaging material have proven
vitally important to public health.
Assessments of the scientific evidence conducted by government agencies
worldwide all confirm that polycarbonate products made from bisphenol A are safe
for use. Health Canada confirmed the safety of polycarbonate water bottles and
these pose no health risk. There evaluation included the review of 150 sets of data,
which included the review of the 18 litre polycarbonate water bottle.
8. If I eat or drink something that was contained in a plastic container that was made
with bisphenol A will I harm my health?
No. a scientific evaluation of bisphenol A was published by Professor Michael
Kamrin, Professor Emeritus at Michigan State University. After systematic
evaluation of the extensive scientific literature on bisphenol A, Professor Kamrin
concluded “it is very unlikely that humans, are at risk from the presence of BPA in
consumer products.” Professor Kamrin’s 2004 evaluation is available in the peerreviewed
journal Medscape General Medicine at
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/484739?src=search (free registration
After consideration of Professor Kamrin’s evaluation, the American Council on
Science and Health, which includes a board of 350 physicians, scientists and policy
advisors, concluded “The current, very low levels of exposure to bisphenol A from
plastic bottles and other consumer products do not pose a hazard to human health.”
The Council’s views on bisphenol A are available at
There is no known evidence of any effect on human health from exposure to
bisphenol A resulting from consumer uses of products made from polycarbonate
plastic. Polycarbonate food and beverage containers, as well as other consumer
products made from polycarbonate, are safe for their intended uses.
9. How does Health Canada regulate bisphenol A?
Plastic food and beverage containers, including polycarbonate plastic made with
bisphenol A, meet or exceed all requirements of the Health Canada which regulates
food packaging to assure its safety.
Health Canada clears food-contact plastics for their intended use based on migration
and safety data. The clearance process includes stringent requirements for
estimating the levels at which such materials may transfer to the diet. Health
Canada's safety criteria require extensive toxicity testing for any substance that may
be ingested at more than negligible levels. This means Health Canada has
affirmatively determined that, when cleared plastics are used as intended in foodcontact
applications, the nature and amount of substances that may migrate, if any,
In April 2008, Health Canada announced as part of their assessment of bisphenol A,
polycarbonate water bottles continue to be safe for use. Health Canada based their
conclusion on the review of 150 sets of data, which included the evaluation of the 18
litre polycarbonate water bottle.
10. What does the code found on the bottom of a container indicate?
Many plastic items are marked with a Resin ID code – usually a number (1 through 7)
or a letter abbreviation – which indicates a particular type of plastic. The code is
typically found on the bottom of a container and is often displayed inside a three-arrow
recycling symbol. The codes help facilitate the recovery of post consumer plastics.
The Resin Identification Code System was introduced in 1998 by The Society of
Plastics Industry, Inc. (SPI) at the request of recyclers around the country. A growing
number of communities were implementing recycling programs in an effort to decrease
the volume of waste subject to rising tipping fees at landfills. In some cases, test
programs were driven by state-level recycling mandates.
The SPI code was developed to meet recyclers' needs while providing manufacturers a
consistent, uniform system that could apply nationwide. Because municipal recycling
programs traditionally have targeted packaging - primarily containers - the SPI coding
system offered a means of identifying the resin content of bottles and containers
commonly found in the residential waste stream.
Recycling firms have varying standards for the plastics they accept. Some firms may
require that the plastics be sorted by type and separated from other recyclables; some
may specify that mixed plastics are acceptable if they are separated from other
recyclables; while others may accept all material mixed together. Not all types of
plastics are generally recycled, and recycling facilities may not be available in some
areas. To this day, the Resin Identification Code System helps sorters separate basic
types of plastics for recycling, and provides manufactures with a consistent, uniform
identification system that’s applied nationwide.
Here’s what the numbers represent:
#1 - Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
#2 - High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
#3 - Vinyl (Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC)
#4 - Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
#5 - Polypropylene (PP)
#6 - Polystyrene (PS)
#7 - Other (which commonly includes: Polycarbonate, ABS, Nylon, Acrylic or a
composite of 2 or more resins)
11. Where can I get additional information on bisphenol A?
Additional information can be obtained from:
Canadian Bottled Water Association
70 East Beaver Creek Road, Suite 203-1
Richmond Hill, Ontario L4B 3B2
One of the plastics that carry the No. 7 recycling symbol—is clear, tough,
and lightweight. That makes it ideal for everything from
bulletproof glass, riot shields, and computer cases to eyeglass
lenses and compact discs.
Those properties also make polycarbonate ideal for hard
reusable water bottles (like Nalgene), sippy cups for toddlers,
and some food storage containers. And that’s where it gets into
trouble. Polycarbonate is made from BPA. So are the epoxy resins
that line the insides of food and beverage cans. And small
amounts of BPA leach out when the plastic or can lining comes
in contact with food or water.
“Close to 100 percent of our exposure occurs this way,” says Michael Shelby of
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), a division of the
National Institutes of Health in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.
“Low levels of BPA are also found in house dust, the air, and in water,” adds
Shelby, who is director of NIEHS’s Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human
What worries some scientists is that BPA is an estrogen “mimic.” It activates
the same receptors in the body as estrogen does. In fact, BPA was first studied
in the 1930s as a synthetic estrogen for women. Because hormones are the
messengers in the body’s
endocrine system, chemicals like BPA are called “endocrine disruptors.” “BPA is the largest volume endocrinedisrupting
chemical in commerce,” says BPA critic Frederick vom Saal, a biologist
at the University of Missouri. Worldwide, more than six billion pounds of BPA are
manufactured every year. Vom Saal is convinced that BPA causes a host of
including breast and prostate cancer. While some other researchers aren’t willing to go that far,
they are concerned that BPA may affect the maturing brain. Vom Saal is convinced that BPA causes
a host of problems, including breast and prostate cancer. While some other researchers aren’t willing
to go that far, they are concerned that BPA may affect the maturing brain. cancer, early onset
of puberty in girls, type 2 diabetes, obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a decline in
semen quality, and urogenital abnormalities in male babies.
The panel, chaired by vom Saal, was composed of 38 researchers, many of whom
had done laboratory studies on BPA and had expressed concern about its safety.
In November, a second panel of scientists, also convened by the NIEHS,
disagreed with most of the first panel’s findings. It consisted of 12 toxicologists,
pharmacologists, neurobehavioral experts, and other researchers who had not studied BPA.
Two were reproductive toxicologists from drug companies (Pfifizer and
Schering-Plough, neither of which makes BPA).Why did the two panels disagree?
According to vom Saal, the second panel gave more weight to studies funded by
the plastics industry. “We’re to the point now where 100 percent of industry-funded
studies conclude that bisphenol A at any dose causes no harm,”
he says. “And there are now hundreds of government-funded studies that show the
opposite outcome.” However, Robert Chapin, the Pfizer toxicologist who led
the second panel, argues that there was good reason to reject many of the non
“We didn’t flippin’ care who does the study,” he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper
in December. “There’s a lot of bad science out there.”
One reason the second panel rejected so many studies: The first panel looked at
research in which scientists injected BPA into test animals. The second panel
said that those studies weren’t relevant, since that’s not how humans are exposed to BPA.
“That’s absurd,” counters vom Saal. “We found identical blood levels whether we
fed or injected BPA
into young mice,” he argues, citing a new study he did to test the second panel’s conclusion.
While the two panels may not have concurred on much, they did agree on one thing:
BPA may cause brain and behavioral disturbances
in young animals. “The biggest concern we have is for
neurobehavioral alterations in the young,
” says Chris Portier, associate director for risk assessment at the
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
For example, male rats exposed to BPA were less likely to explore a new
a trait more characteristic of female rodents. In other studies of young animals exposed to BPA,
mice were more anxious, female rats were less playful and more exually motivated, and male rats
were more defensive and showed impaired
sexual performance. “Some behaviors are influenced by hormones, so you expect to
certain differences between the sexes,” explains neuro developmental toxicologist Jane Adams
of the University of Massachusetts. (Adams served on the second NIEHS panel.
She has received funding for some of her research from Pfizer.)
“When the magnitude of those differences changes, you worry about a hormonal
says Adams. For example, mothers ordinarily treat their male offspring differently than their female offspring.
But “if maternal behavior changes because the right signals aren’t coming from the mother’s pups,
then you fear that really subtle hormonal effects on the pups could disturb their brain development
and later behavior,” says Adams. But the evidence is still murky, she adds.
“There’s really no cohesive picture. No two studies looked at the same thing. One would focus on
a maternal behavior index, another on prenatal exposure of pups at one age,
another at exposure of pups at other ages, others on different behaviors.”
Still, Adams’s panel found enough well-designed studies that picked up subtle
behavioral changes in animals that “we just felt something might be going on
and needs to be studied further.”
Part of what impressed the second panel was that the animals also showed
changes in nerve cells—“the density of cells, the number of cells, things like
that,” says Adams— in areas of the brain that respond to hormones.
“If the changes had been in an area that had nothing to do with any of this stuff,
we wouldn’t have been persuaded,” she adds. Adams isn’t just worried about the
youngest brains. “Adolescents have a growth spurt in brain development that’s
on the magnitude of what we see in early infancy, and we know very little about
it,” she notes.
(Could BPA cause problems in adults? Researchers haven’t looked extensively at the brain cells
or the behavior of animals that were exposed to BPA as adults. One study, however, hinted at subtle changes
“If you’re concerned about BPA, take whatever steps you can to reduce your
f exposure,” says Michael Shelby, director of the Center for the Evaluation of
to Human Reproduction at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
“That means avoiding polycarbonate baby bottles, the water bottles that hikers
and sportsmen use, and canned food.” If you do that, you’ve probably eliminated
most of your exposure.
How to Minimize Your Exposure to BPA
■ Avoid plastic containers made of polycarbonate. Any bottle or container made of
polycarbonate has the recycling No. 7 on the bottom. But the number can also
appear on plastics that don’t contain BPA.
■ When possible, prepare or store food—especially hot foods and liquids—in glass,
porcelain, or stainless steel dishes or containers.
■ If you have polycarbonate plastic food containers, don’t microwave them. The
plastic is more likely to break down and release BPA when it’s repeatedly heated
to high temperatures.
■ Don’t wash polycarbonate plastic containers in the dishwasher. The detergent
may break down the plastic, which could release BPA.
■ Use infant formula bottles that are made of glass or BPA-free plastic. BornFree
(newbornfree.com) is one of many companies that make them.
■ When you can, replace canned foods with foods that are fresh, frozen, or packaged
in aseptic (shelf-stable) boxes (see “No Can Do,” p. 11). At least one manufacturer—
Eden Foods—lines its cans with a BPA alternative made from plant extracts.
■ A good alternative to polycarbonate is polyethylene terephthalate (PETE), which
has the recycling No. 1 on the bottom (see “Unlucky ‘7,’” p. 10).
■ Avoid older versions of Delton dental sealant. (Dental sealants are plastic resins
that a dentist bonds into the grooves of the chewing surface of a tooth to help
prevent cavities. Delton is made by Dentsply International of york, Pennsylvania.)
Most dental sealants are free of BPA. However, older Delton sealants contain a
compound that breaks down into BPA, mostly during the first day after it comes
into contact with saliva. The newer Delton Plus (or Delton+) sealants don’t contain
the compound, but Dentsply still sells the old sealants to dentists who prefer them.
And what, if anything, do the changes in the brain cells or the behavior of lab
animals mean for h human fetuses, infants, and young children?
Researchers don’t know. “There’s uncertainty about the possible effects,” says
the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Michael Shelby.
“If you’re concerned, the thing to do is to take whatever steps you can to reduce
exposure. And the published literature suggests that close to 100 percent of the
exposure comes from water and food.”
Beyond the Brain
Once you look beyond BPA’s impact on the developing brain, the picture is no clearer...
and the opinions are no less heated. Take cancer.
In studies by Frederick vom Saal, exposing fetal mice to very small amounts of
BPA stimulates the growth of epithelial cells in the mammary glands of females
and accelerates the proliferation of epithelial cells in male prostate glands.
“We’re talking about an animal carcinogen that mis-programs the cell, and
these are the cells that later transform into the tumor,” says vom Saal.
“There are now clear molecular mechanisms that explain how bisphenol A alters
human and animal cells at concentrations at and below one part per trillion,”
“And that’s over a thousand times below the levels that you virtually are
certain to have in your body, according to the CDC. So if that doesn’t get you a little
nervous, nothing should.”
Yet when other studies expose animals to much larger amounts of BPA from
through adulthood, the animals have no higher rates of breast or prostate cancer.
“It’s a real head-scratcher,” says Michael Shelby. “Here’s this body of research
reporting that very small amounts of BPA can cause effects in animals that might
be interpreted as precursors or early stages of problems like infertility and cancer.
“Yet when we do large, more robust standardized studies, the kind of tests
toxicologists and risk assessors have relied on for decades, using very small or
larger amounts of BPA for longer periods of time, birth defects and other possible
problems raised by some low-dose studies just don’t show up.”
That’s reassuring, but it still leaves doubts and unanswered questions, especially
for parents of young children. “People think the government has
tested environmental chemicals and shown them to be safe,” says vom Saal.
“That’s a big lie.”
The recycling numbers that appear on the bottoms of most plastic bottles and
other containers were designed by the plastics industry in 1988 to help
separate different types of plastics. Some—but not all—plastics with the recycling
No. 7 are polycarbonate, which has BPA. Here’s what each number means.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE): Many soda bottles,
water bottles, vinegar bottles, medicine containers. The
easiest plastic to recycle.
High-Density Polyethylene: Many milk and water jugs;
containers for laundry and dish detergents, fabric softeners,
bleach, shampoos, conditioners, motor oil. Can be recycled
into more bottles or into bags.
Polyvinyl Chloride: Many meat wraps, cooking oil bottles,
baby bottle nipples, shrink wraps, coffee containers. Difficult
Low-Density Polyethylene: Many wrapping films, grocery
bags, sandwich bags. Can be recycled into more of same.
Polypropylene: Tupperware and many other food storage
containers, syrup bottles, yogurt and margarine tubs, diapers,
outdoor carpet. Can be recycled into fibers.
Polystyrene: Some take-out food containers, Styrofoam
cups and containers, disposable cutlery and cups, bakery
shells, meat trays, packing “peanuts.” Recyclers don’t want
it because it’s bulky and light weight.
Other (mostly polycarbonate or mixtures of the other
plastics): Food can liners, Nalgene-type water bottles,
disposable cutlery, sippy cups. Recyclers don’t want it.
You’re always safe when you microwave in glass.
Sources: plastics industry Web sites, CSPI.
For more information about BPA, including links to scientific
reviews and to companies that make BPA-free products, see nutritionaction.org/bpa.
Concern over BPA is picking up speed. The National Institute of Environmental
Health Sciences is preparing to release its BPA recommendations this spring. The
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that it will begin
reviewing the safety of BPA this year. And the California Environmental Protection
Agency is considering whether to include BPA in its annual Proposition 65 list of
chemicals that cause cancer or birth defects.
The FDA approved BPA for use in materials that come in contact with food
three decades ago, when there was little research about its risks. Now the agency
says that it will review the findings of the two recent NIEHS panels.
“If it causes us to change our mind, we will take appropriate action,” says Mitchell
Cheeseman, deputy director of the agency’s Office of Food Additive Safety.
But that could take years. Meanwhile, if BPA does cause harm, especially to the
very young, its impact may be irreversible. Says NIEHS associate director for risk
assessment Chris Portier: “There’s sufficient evidence now to give people who
want to be prudent—especially parents— a reason to avoid BPA.”
The Bottom Line
■ young a animals that are exposed to BPA in the womb or soon after
birth show abnormal behavior and abnormal changes in brain cells
and receptors, but there’s no direct evidence that the same occurs in
■ Some animal studies suggest that BPA increases the risk of cancer,
obesity, diabetes, or other health problems, but other studies find no
■ There is no evidence that BPA causes neurobehavioral or other
problems in adults, but little research has been done.
■ To play it safe, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding,
infants, young children, and adolescents should try to avoid BPA.
Want to avoid plastic packages that leak BPA? Check the
recycling symbol on the bottom. If it’s No. 7, the plastic may be
polycarbonate, which contains BPA. (Not all No. 7 plastics are
polycarbonate, though.) But the odds are that you won’t find a No. 7.
For example, we didn’t see No. 7 on plastic containers that
hold baked goods (cakes, muffins, cookies, etc.), berries,
grape tomatoes, margarine, butter, milk, cottage cheese,
or yogurt. Nor are you likely to see a No. 7 on the plastic
clamshell containers used at salad bars. And even if you run across a
No. 7, that doesn’t mean it contains BPA. For example, Gerber baby food plastic
containers carry a No. 7 because they’re composed of
layers of different plastics, none of which are polycarbonate, says
(No. 7 is the “Other” category, which covers mixtures of plastics
and plastics that don’t carry their own recycling symbols—see
“Unlucky ‘7,’” p. 10.)
So where’s the BPA? Unless you carry a Nalgene reusable
water bottle, the linings of canned foods and sodas are the
most likely source for adults. Here’s how to avoid them:
Look for BPA-free cans.
At least one company—Eden Foods—uses cans that aren’t
lined with the epoxy resins that can leach BPA into food.
■ Buy soup that’s dried or in cartons. Imagine, Trader Joe’s, and many other
companies use aseptic (shelf-stable) cartons. you can also look for dried soups
(like Dr. McDougall’s) or in bags (like Bean Cuisine). Or make your own.
■ Switch to fresh or frozen vegetables. you might get less salt to boot.
■ Buy tuna or salmon in pouches. you’ll also have less water to drain.
Why is there concern? Researchers are concerned that even at low levels, environmental estrogens may work together with the body’s own estrogen to increase the risk of breast cancer. An ingredient called bisphenol-A (BPA) is used in certain plastics (polycarbonate plastic) and the lining of canned food and beverages. BPA can leach out of plastics and can liners with heat. BPA is an environmental estrogen.
How is BPA used? In the U.S., 2.3 billion pounds of BPA is produced each year. About 60% is used in hard plastics (sports and baby bottles, sports equipment, auto parts, CDs/DVDs) and 40% is used in epoxy resins to line metal food and beverage cans and in dental sealants.
Are we exposed to BPA? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study in 2008 showing that low levels of BPA were detected in 92.5% of the urine samples in a survey of the general U.S. population. Other researchers have detected BPA in human breast milk and one study reported detecting BPA in the body fat of women. The major source of BPA is the diet, e.g. BPA from canned foods and BPA leaching from polycarbonate beverage containers.
What you can do now:
Learn the name of this environmental estrogen
� Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an environmental estrogen found in polycarbonate (PC) plastic
� PC plastic has been used to make plastic sports bottles and baby bottles
� To find PC plastic, look for recycle symbol “7 – PC” or symbol “7” and “Other”)
- Not all PC plastic containers that have BPA are clearly marked
- If the plastic is hard and transparent, assume it is made of PC and has BPA
- NOTE: Single-use water bottles are NOT made of PC, and do not contain BPA
� BPA is used extensively in the epoxy lining of metal food and beverage cans
Minimize leaching of BPA from PC plastic sports or baby bottles
Wear and tear, harsh detergents, and especially heat, can cause BPA to leach out
� DO NOT microwave in plastic containers
� DO microwave in heat-resistant glass (e.g. Pyrex) or lead-free ceramic containers
� DO NOT leave PC bottles where they can heat up (hot car, hot sand, etc.)
� DO NOT wash in the dishwasher. DO hand wash PC bottles in mild detergent.
� DO NOT use PC plastic bottles that are worn or scratched
� DO RECYCLE - Many recycling programs accept Type 7 PC plastics in recycling bins
Make alternative choices
� Use food-grade stainless steel water bottles or glass baby bottles instead
� Minimize your use of canned foods. Eat more fresh, frozen or dried produce.
� Look for products that are clearly labeled “BPA free” or “Bisphenol-A free”
Yet bisphenol A (BPA), a man-made chemical used in thousands of consumer
products to harden plastic, line tin cans, make CDs, and coat receipts, is a known
endocrine disruptor, which means it interferes with how hormones work in the body.
BPA has been linked to a range of adverse health effects including cancer, diabetes,
heart disease, early puberty, obesity, and behavioral problems.
Because of their smaller size and stage of development, babies and children are
particularly at risk from the harmful health effects of BPA. This is why I have
introduced legislation that would ban BPA from the products we use to feed babies
Right now, we do not know our daily exposure to BPA, or which products to avoid,
since BPA is not listed on food or drink labels. But we do know that this chemical is
so widespread that it has been detected in the bodies of 93 percent of Americans.
Some organizations claim that BPA has not been proven harmful, so they continue to
use it in the products we use every day. They’ll tell you not to worry, plastic bottles
couldn’t possibly hurt you. Moms and grandmothers like me know better. They
once told us it was OK to smoke cigarettes while you’re pregnant, too.
This bill is a simple step to begin combating this problem. Eight states have
already enacted laws banning BPA from children’s products, and many more are
on their way.
We should not use our kids as guinea pigs with a chemical that can seriously harm
their immediate and long-term health. No chemical should be used in food products
until it is proven to be safe.
I will continue to fight to ban BPA from the products we use every day.
overwhelming body of scientific evidence links BPA
to very serious health problems. More than 200 scientific studies link BPA exposure to breast and prostate cancer,
cardiac disease, diabetes, lowered sperm counts and early puberty. Early Puberty Journal of Periatrics Study – 2010
• Found that puberty in girls is occurring even earlier – by age 7
• Researchers suspected that environmental chemicals, like BPA
could influence the onset of puberty.
• Found that early puberty can cause a host of problems later in
life, such as increased rates of breast cancer, lower self-esteem,
eating disorders and depression.
The Endocrine Society Study – 2009
• Expressed concern for adverse health impacts of endocrine disrupting
chemicals like BPA.
• Adverse health impacts include infertility, thyroid problems,
obesity and cancer.
Environmental Health Perspectives – 2010
• Found that men who had high levels of BPA in their bodies also
had higher levels of testosterone.
• This study demonstrated that higher BPA levels in the body are
associated with altered hormone levels.
Well-known and respected organizations and federal
agencies have also expressed concern about BPA:
The President’s Cancer Panel Annual Report released in April
2010 concluded that there is growing evidence of a link between BPA
and several diseases, such as cancer. The Panel recommended using
BPA-free containers to limit chemical exposure.
A 2008 study by the American Medical Association suggested links
between exposure to BPA and diabetes, heart disease and liver problems.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey
(NHANES) linked BPA in high concentrations to cardiovascular disease
and Type II diabetes.
What is BPA?
• Bisphenol A is a synthetic chemical used to harden polycarbonate
plastics, line tin cans and coat receipt paper.
• BPA is an endocrine disruptor, which means it interferes with
how hormones work in the body.
• This chemical is used in some plastic baby bottles, sippy cups,
food and infant formula containers.
Why is there cause for concern?
• BPA is so widespread that the chemical has been detected in the
bodies of 93 percent of Americans.
• Linked to breast and prostate cancer, brain and behavioral
disorders, early puberty, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
• Babies and children are particularly at risk because of their stage
What can I do?
• Buy products that are labeled “BPA-free.”
• When possible, buy glass.
• Use powdered formula.
• Don’t microwave polycarbonate plastic food containers.
• Support retailers that refuse to sell products containing BPA.
• Urge your state and federal legislators to pass legislation banning
Look for the Code
• Recycling codes stamped on some plastics can help
identify problematic chemicals.
• Avoid clear, hard plastic bottles marked with a 7.
• The number 7 can indicate the presence of BPA in polycarbonate
plastic food containers.
• Not all containers marked with the number 7 are polycarbonate
We may not know everything yet. But what we do know should spur us to urgent
action. Early development appears to be
the period of greatest sensitivity to the harmful effects of BPA, so why not ban this potentially toxic chemical from children’s products?
This is why I have introduced legislation that would ban BPA from the
products we use to feed our babies and children.
The Ban Poisonous Additives Act:
• Bans the use of BPA in baby bottles, sippy cups, baby food and
infant formula (largely because infants and children are the most
vulnerable to the harmful effects of BPA);
• Requires the FDA to issue a revised safety assessment on BPA;
• Includes a savings clause to allow states to enact stronger
Until BPA is proven to be absolutely harm-free to our kids, BPA needs to
be banned from plastic containers used for children.
Canada labeled BPA a toxic substance and banned it from baby bottles
and sippy cups. Denmark and France have national bans on BPA in
certain children’s products and the European Union has a ban on BPA in
baby bottles. The Chinese Ministry of Health has begun to take steps to
issue a ban.
In the United States, the following states have passed laws banning BPA:
Why needlessly expose our babies and children to this potentially toxic chemical
when there are safe, BPA-free alternatives available
for baby bottles, sippy cups, baby food and infant formula packaging? Recognizing the potential harm, some manufacturers of children’s feeding
products have already started to offer BPA-free alternatives, and numerous retailers either offer BPA-free alternatives or have completely banned its use.
I’m not going to give up, and neither should consumers. Until Congress takes
action, parents should vote with their pocketbooks by refusing to buy any baby
or sippy cup that is not labeled “BPA-free.” The chemical industry doesn’t want you to know about companies that are already phasing out BPA or are
searching for alternatives. But those companies are out there and deserve our support.
At least 14 U.S. manufacturers of children’s products are phasing out BPA in baby bottles:
Disney First Years
Nuby Sippy Cups
Green to Grow
Sunoco, a company that makes BPA, has said it would refuse to sell the chemical
without a guarantee that it would not be used in children’s products.
Eden Valley Organics now sells beans in BPA-free cans, and Wal-Mart and Toys “R” Us no longer sell baby bottles containing the
U.S. Retailers that sell BPA-free baby bottles and cups:
• Rite Aid
• Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us
• Wegmans Foods
• Whole Foods
Major baby food and formula manufacturers offer BPAfree
• Nestle’s GOOD START and liquid formula
• Similac powdered and liquid infant formula
• Enfamil powdered infant formula
FOR MORE INFORMATION
If you would like more information on this important issue, please visit
Senator Feinstein’s website at www.feinstein.senate.gov or contact these
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Environmental Working Group
Breast Cancer Fund
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Building
So, now you know how things are most of the time run by those who take advantage of some situation.,
1 first, they avoid saying there is a problem, do not answer, deny it,
of give a no comment answer.
2 then, when they can’t avoid the problem anymore, they relate it to another one, so that you are not concerned about it and or can’t do anything about it ( let’s say they put it right in the middle of the ocean !! ).
3 third, researchers founded with money coming from industry, look for non pertinent answers, and claim that there exist no problem. Money, founded by government, is usually spent, instead of private money, to reach a no solution answer, and things stay as they are.
4 Independent searchers, start looking for publications of the results, and understanding that there is a problem, usually because of the way these scientist carried out the research and experiments. ( most of the time, even results, can’t be found anywhere, or have been misplaced in the office… etc… etc…
5 Thousands of searchers publish data about the problem, and finally, the organism that was ment to control the situation, has to deal with public opinion, politicians, technicians, scientists etc… and organizations like FDA are forced to change attitude.
6 Soon after, they will advice you not to….. but there is still no true concern or problem
7 Ultimately, they make an agreement with the government that will give them time and money, to sell all their left over products ( most of the time in Europe, Asia and Africa for a longer time than the one agreed for, within their country ), that it is now time to do something imperatively, and ask the government money, money, money, to face the inevitable changes that will cost the procedure.
I hope it is clear. Avoid plastic, just in case, especially when food touches
it, liquids, solids, and powders. Use glass instead, if you can. Tin cans are
not good for you BECAUSE OF METAL PARTICLES POISENMENT. Parkinson’s and
Alzheimer’s diseases probably have something to do with them. Use glass instead,
and pour oil, water and milk, into glass bottles as soon as you reach home. Oil
melts pvc, and it is most of the time used as a solvent to recuperate and
recycle, melting them, plastic bottles. Remember that every time something is
recycled, more and more poisons are added to the next generations, ( phthalates,
dioxins, and other substances made to create a better package, rather than
taking care about food contamination. Inox is ok, but do not leave in it strong
acids, like tomato sauce. Teflon, again another plastic substance banned because
it is harmful, is bad for our health, and we shoud dispose of our frying pans
that were made with it, as soon as possible, as we did with aluminum ones. Cans,
are still the best example of Alu contamination products nowadays. Try to avoid
them. Ask for glass every time you have the opportunity to chose. Do not sleep
in a room where plastic objects are, so that you will not absorb phthalates
during sleep time breathing. Contamination, is continuous, it does not matter
how slowly it happens, and produces hormonal problems, cancer and genetic
mutations in the cells. Cars are made of recycled plastics, so let the aeration
inlets open, and if it is possible, do not shut completely windows. Aerate the
car, especially in summer or hot weather, to avoid contaminants. Wood, glass,
porcelain, and extremely hard materials, are usually better for food. The
softer, the worst. It take just a couple of weeks to decide, and change
mentality. The production of 5 different kinds of reusable and unbreakable
bottles for fluids, would save the global community a lot of money. They would
create no waste products, labels, could simply be made with soy, paper, and
washed out immediately after their use. The color of the bottles should be
transparent for water and alcohol, white for milk, brown for oils, green for
wine, and blue for special liquids. Re usable containers, should be made of
unbreakable Pyrex, and malls should serve portions, rather than sell packets.
No plastic should touch meat or fish, polystyrene should be banned immediately, even for frozen food boxes, and be sure that as soon as laws of this kind will be voted and pass, industry will change attitude straight away, if it does not want to lose its markets and money. The son has to teach his father how to behave in a world that is so changeable, that the static models of status quo, are obsolete. Now ecological laws should be passed in a dynamic society that wants to solve problem straight away, and the executive powers, should take care of the use some make of them, to limit too strongly freedom. Without a triple control organism, ( let’s say arbitrarily ) local groups could take control and male profit of them. Automatic towers, placed in every city, should collect and display environmental data, like temperatures, particulate values of dusts, and data collected on radioactivity, lead and arsenic in water, atmospheric pressure, humidity, wind, etc… Too many times in fact false data have been used to legitimate the creation of new taxes, or generate repressive conducts made to make money, solely based on private interest. Regional taxes that have nothing to do with global environmental solutions, but rather, with provincial budget affairs, should be uniformed, and no game should be played with indetermination factors and non constitutional criteria, introduced to make it impossible for the people to know when they will be allowed or not to do something. Arbitrary criteria, generate confusion and displeasure. Equanimity, should be the motto, and a wealthier system of systems, would be produced consequentially, following these efforts. Variety is one of the gifts of nature, that enables it to face challenges, whatever change may be required to trespass given problems. That’s it! Let’s stop consuming all this Dino-sauce and move to water HHO fuels. And next time someone else comes up with a new model of water-car, let’s advice them not to buy it to hide it away in a safe, but to start producing it. Acting in this way, there will be no need to spoil water or privatize it, and we shall concentrate next, our efforts to find an equilibrated solution to greed, rather making money with another green affair.