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Health and environment: A closer look at plastics
Date:1/23/2013

ntravenous bags and plastic syringes eliminate the need for repeated sterilization, which is often costly and inefficient. Such single-use items have had a marked effect on reducing blood-borne infections, including hepatitis B and HIV.

Many varieties of polymers are produced to meet the expanding needs of modern medicine. Polymer chemistry is used to produce sophisticated drug delivery systems for the pharmaceutical industry; material to cement bone for hip replacements is made with polymer polymethylmethacrylate and polymer scaffolds are revolutionizing the practice of tissue engineering.

Researchers like Halden have shown, however, that the benefits of global plastics use can come at a steep price in terms of both human and environmental health. Continuous contact with plastic products, from the beginning to the end of life has caused chemical ingredientssome with potentially harmful effectsto form steady-state concentrations in the human body.

In recent years, two plastic-associated compounds have been singled out for particular scrutiny, due to their endocrine-disrupting properties: Bisphenol A (BPA) and di-(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP). Studies of bioaccumulation have shown that detectable levels of BPA in urine have been identified in 95 percent of the adult population in the U.S. and both BPA and DEHP have been associated, through epidemiological and animal studies, with adverse effects on health and reproduction. These include early sexual maturation, decreased male fertility, aggressive behavior and other effects. Concern over BPA exposure, particularly for highly vulnerable members of the population, has recently led the Food and Drug Administration to place a ban on BPA use in infant bottles, spill proof cups and other products intended for infants and toddlers.

Similar issues exist with DEHP, a plasticizer found in polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Because this additive is not tightly bound to the plastics in which it
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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