Sunday, September 30, 2018

Endocrine Disruptors: Plastic Water Bottles, The Great Garbage Patch, and Your Risk of Dia-besity

Plastic arguably has made the world a better place – in some very important ways. Plastic allows us  to preserve food, sterilize equipment, and create building materials or safety products (think baseball helmets.) Plastic is relatively inexpensive, … or is it?  Read on. . .

Plastic is generally NOT biodegradable. However, over time it will wear down into microscopic pieces. Much of it finds it's way to the world's oceans where it can release some potentially troublesome compounds (such as BPAs and PCBs.). The microscopic materials are consumed by plankton and microorganisms, which are then consumed by other organisms, and eventually further up the food chain – we Humans.

BPA and PCBs are two classes of compounds known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals.
EDCs are defined as “substances in our environment, food, and consumer products that interfere with hormone biosynthesis, metabolism, or action resulting in a deviation from normal homeostatic control or reproduction.” In 2009 The Endocrine Society published a Scientific Statement reviewing the supporting scientific evidence of effects of EDCs on reproduction, breast cancer, prostate cancer, thyroid disease, metabolism/obesity, and cardiovascular disease. There are literally thousands of known EDCs. They can be synthetic such as PCBs, DDT, DES, or dioxin, or natural compounds such as phytoestrogens.

EDCs may not only affect one individual but also the children and subsequent generations of that individual. This effect is not by way of genetic mutation but rather by affecting how genes are expressed (by DNA methylation and histone acetylation.) In other words, by way of epigenetic expression.

There is much debate on risk and significance of low dose exposure to BPA and EDCs in general. One of the problems is that it may take years or decades of exposure before the effects become apparent.

Can we, or should we, avoid using plastic?

.We can refuse a plastic shopping bag for purchase of a package of chewing gum. Avoiding the use of plastic for most other things may be fairly impractical and probably impossible. How we dispose of plastic when we are though with it is another matter. We can be smart about recycling not merely for the benefit of some rare species in a remote corner of the world, but for us now. It is estimated by
The CDC that 93% of Americans have BPA in their urine. I don't know about you, but I would like to avoid dealing with cancer, diabetes, thyroid, and prostate issues if possible. Certainly, I do not wish to gift the same to my children or grandchildren either.

Diamanti-Kandarakis, Bourguignon, Giudice, Hauser, Prins, Soto, Zoeller, & Gore .
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement
Endocr Rev. 2009 Jun;30(4):293-342. doi: 10.1210/er.2009-0002

Maffini, Maricel & S Rubin, Beverly & Sonnenschein, Carlos & Soto, Ana. (2006). 
Endocrine disruptors and reproductive health: The case of bisphenol-A. Molecular and cellular endocrinology. 254-255. 179-86. 10.1016/j.mce.2006.04.033.

Le Corre L1, Besnard P, Chagnon MC.    
BPA, an energy balance disruptor. 
Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(6):769-77. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2012.678421.               

BPA and Obesity in Children
Eng DS, Lee JM, Gebremariam A, Meeker JD, Peterson K, Padmanabhan V. 2013. 
 Bisphenol A and chronic disease risk factors in U.S. children. Pediatrics 132(3):e637-e645.

Other Links:
E.P.A. Website:

N.P.R. Story on  microplastics:

1 comment:

  1. In 2007, after reading about the sea of plastics floating out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I proposed a solution to that problem to a client whose company was selling a machine that converted cheap plastics into heating oil. They had, up until that point, had only modest success selling their invention since it was such a messy operation to take the cheapest kind of recycling materials, collect them together in massive quantities, and put them through a process that resembles an oil refinery. He, in turn, showed my proposal to someone he worked with at the U.N. who liked it very much. To make a long story short, alas, nothing ever came of it. But the problem is not new and interest in a solution has been building, ever so slowly over the last ten years. This is the second reference to the problem I've seen in as many weeks. We'll get there eventually. I'm hoping sooner rather than later.