Our Lifelong Exposure to 'Poison' Plastics; They're Used in Packaging, Storing and Processing Food - but Experts Warn Plastics Contain Potentially Cancer Causing Substances

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 20, 2014 | Go to article overview

Our Lifelong Exposure to 'Poison' Plastics; They're Used in Packaging, Storing and Processing Food - but Experts Warn Plastics Contain Potentially Cancer Causing Substances


CANCER-CAUSING substances and hormone disruptors are among thousands of chemicals leaching into food in tiny amounts, leading to "chronic" exposure over a lifetime.

Environmental scientists are warning that more needs to be done to fill gaps in knowledge about the long-term effects of exposure to food contact materials (FCMs).

The researchers said "acknowledged toxicants" are legally used in FCMs in Europe, the US and other parts of the world, including China. While some are regulated, too little is known about their long-term impact, they said.

There has also been little research on exposure to such chemicals at critical points in human development, such as in the womb and during early childhood, which is "surely not justified on scientific grounds".

Formaldehyde - a known cancer-causing substance - is present at low levels in plastic bottles and melamine tableware, while FCMS also contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) such as bisphenol A, tributyltin, triclosan and phthalates.

Exposure to EDCs in the womb could potentially lead to chronic disease in later life, the group of scientists said in an article in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. They also called for more work to establish whether there are any links between food chemicals and diseases such as cancer and diabetes, as well as obesity and neurological disorders.

The World Health Organisation and the UN Environment Programme recently said EDCs are a "global public health threat", so it is vital that "knowledge gaps" on FCMs are reliably and rapidly filled, the experts said.

They concluded: "Whereas the science for some of these substances is being debated and policy makers struggle to satisfy the needs of stakeholders, consumers remain exposed to these chemicals daily, mostly unknowingly."

Humans who consume packaged or processed foods "are chronically exposed to synthetic chemicals at low levels throughout their lives".

The writers, who include Jane Muncke, from the Food Packaging Forum Foundation in Zurich, said the potential cellular changes caused by the chemicals are not being considered in routine toxicology analysis. This, they argue, "casts serious doubts on the adequacy of chemical regulatory procedures". Dr Ian Musgrave, senior lecturer in the faculty of medicine at the University of Adelaide, said it was hard to take the article seriously.

He said: "Formaldehyde is also present in many foods naturally. …

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