Magazine article USA TODAY

Leaching from Plastic Can Prove Harmful

Magazine article USA TODAY

Leaching from Plastic Can Prove Harmful

Article excerpt

Did you ever buy a fish at a pet store that died within days of being put in an aquarium at home? The plastic bag in which the fish traveled home may be the culprit, according to research by marine scientist Heather Hamlin of the University of Maine, Orono. Hamlin and colleagues discovered that certain plastic bags with the Food and Drug Administration food-grade approval leach no-nylphenol (NP) in concentrations that are highly toxic to fish.

The chemical NP--also found in food packaging, cosmetics, and laundry and dish detergents--binds to estrogen receptors. Even at low concentrations, it mimics estrogen, which feminizes and alters fertility in fish, thus threatening their existence. NP also has been found to alter fish immune function and damage DNA.

Hamlin's findings demonstrate that NP may pose a greater health risk to people, the ocean, and aquatic wildlife than can be predicted from examining properties of plastic from one manufacturer, which is the method the FDA uses to test for toxicity.

"This study contributes to the growing body of research highlighting concerns with plastic contaminants," says Hamlin, assistant professor of aquaculture and marine biology. …

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