Home » » Toxic leaching from polypropylene plastics

Toxic leaching from polypropylene plastics

Written By mediavigil on Saturday, November 15, 2008 | 11:13 PM

Researchers raise alarm after chemical leak found in common plastic

Medical researchers at the University of Alberta say that two chemicals leaking from plastic laboratory equipment were so biologically active they ruined a drug experiment.

The inadvertent discovery could have wide-ranging consequences because the chemicals causing the experiment to go awry were leaching from polypropylene, one of the most commonly used plastics in the world. Besides being found in scientific equipment, the plastic is used to make everything from yogurt tubs to clothing.

The findings were so alarming to the researchers, from the university's faculty of medicine, that they issued a warning yesterday in the journal Science, alerting others scientists to the possibility that contaminants from plastic ware in their laboratories could put experiments at risk.

Not enough is known about the two substances leaking from the plastic - quaternary ammonium biocides and oleamide - to know what hazard, if any, they might pose through exposure to consumer products made from polypropylene.

"It's very difficult to say whether we should be worried from a health point of view about this," said Andrew Holt, the paper's lead researcher and an assistant professor of pharmacology.

But Dr. Holt said that virtually all medical laboratories in the world routinely use materials, such as bottles and tubing, made from the polypropylene, putting their results at risk. "Scientists need to be aware of this," Dr. Holt said.

Other experts, though, said they were worried that plastics might be leading to human exposures, with unknown effects.

"We simply don't want these chemicals getting into our bodies," said Rebecca Sutton, senior scientist with Environmental Working Group, a U.S.-based advocacy organization.

The group wrote to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month, objecting to an effort to loosen exposure standards for quaternary ammonium compounds.

The Alberta researchers aren't the first to be surprised that chemicals inadvertently leaking from some types of plastic can skew experimental results.
During the early 1990s, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine in California found that bisphenol A leaking from a different type of plastic, polycarbonate, caused experiments investigating estrogen to run amok. Their discovery helped trigger a flurry of research into the chemical.

Last month, Health Canada said it would place bisphenol A, which is now considered a female hormone mimic, on the country's list of toxic substances.

At the U of A, a team lead by Dr. Holt made their discovery while conducting experiments on a human enzyme that is the target for drugs to treat Parkinson's disease.

The researchers were trying to inhibit the activity of the enzyme with ammonium chloride. They were surprised to find that even when they only added one part per million of the ammonium chloride, an amount that is so minute it was expected to have little effect, some mystery substance was still blocking the enzyme function.
The team initially suspected contaminants in the chemicals they were using, but eventually they determined that biologically active substances were leaking from the plastic tubes they used to transfer liquids in the experiment.

Using sophisticated testing equipment, they found that one of the mystery chemicals was oleamide, a compound used to improve the fluidity of molten plastic. Oleamide also occurs naturally in the human body, and is found in the brain and blood.
The chemical is also added to other types of plastic, such as polyvinyl chloride and low-density polyethylene.

Ms. Sutton expressed concern that exposing people to extra oleamide might alter brain function.

"If we end up dosing ourselves with higher levels, this could disrupt various processes."

November 7, 2008


Reacting to the news Mark Rossi of Clean Production Action says,

This reflects the issue with additives in plastics. All plastics have additives. And generally those additives leak out over time. This article is not unique to polypropylene. What we need on additives, and this is for all plastics, is to:

Know the additives used in plastics

The hazards they poseAnd plans to move away from the more hazardous ones to safer alternatives.
This is the plan we've laid out in the Guiding Principles for Chemicals Policy J
"Quats" – quaternary ammonium compounds are respiratory sensitizers. I don't know much about the oleamides. Neither of these chemicals are found on the CPA-HBN "Red List". That, however, does not make them green of course, just possibly less bad.

Pat Gruber, a well known Chemist who invented PLA from corn says:
Both are additives. The biocide to prevent microbial growth, the oleamide is a lubricant or mold release. Their presence could be from the part manufacturing process rather than pp itself. I should think that the issue is with the manufacturer of parts—other manufacturers, say for food products, will no doubt have their own additive packages.
Share this article :

+ comments + 10 comments

5:40 AM

Hello! Is there any news about this leaching thing on PP?

9:55 AM

I was a silicone chemist for Mentor Corp. Santa Barbara Calif. making silicone/saline breast implants and when silicone that contains Methyl chloride is heated such as in polypropeline plastics toxic chemical
substances are cooked out for toxic reactions !!

9:56 AM

Read !!!!!

7:09 AM

This is a great article. I have been trying to learn more about toxic and hazardous waste ever since I started working at a hospital. There are a lot of containers labeled with a hazardous symbol so I thought it might be a good idea to learn more about it. I have heard of incidents regarding the chemical polypropylene and its effects. However, the two substances mentioned in this article, quaternary and ammonium, I do not know much about. I wounder if any of these chemicals are found in laboratory reagents. I have been working with a lot of these chemical substances so it would be nice to know.

8:52 PM

what are your credentials? I am hesitant to follow a story without the proper credentials. That being said, Polypropylene also lines every single aeseptic box (cartons of orange juice, cartons of milks, etc.)

8:52 PM

what are your credentials? I am hesitant to follow a story without the proper credentials. That being said, Polypropylene also lines every single aeseptic box (cartons of orange juice, cartons of milks, etc.)

Test these horrible chemicals for Lupus as well as parkinson. My body says you will find that these chemicals can trigger SLE Lupus that attacks the CNS. i am willing to personally be a guinea pig.

6:29 AM

Are these products tested before they are put into people's bodies? I have a friend with a couple of polypropylene products inside her body.

Your very own commitment to getting the message throughout came to be rather powerful and have consistently enabled employees just like me to arrive at their desired goals.

4:41 AM

Transvaginal and hernia mesh are made from polypropylene and inserted into womens reproductive area. The outcome of this surgery can often be catastrophic. Many women also have autoimmune responses after implantation. We all know how poisonous this stuff is. You dont need experiments just ask women who have mesh implants they will tell you what polypropylene in the body does.

Post a Comment

Copyright © 2013. ToxicsWatch, Journal of Earth, Science, Economy and Justice - All Rights Reserved
Proudly powered by Blogger