Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hormone-Mimicking Plastic Softeners: Killing Every Living Thing?

Are plastic softeners – a convenience item of our overly industrialized society – inexorably killing every form of life on the surface of the Earth?

By: Ringo Bones

Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund had been calling for a ban on plastic softeners for a number of years, because of their deleterious effects on biological reproduction as a hormone mimic. The two leading environmental groups were concerned of the effects of plastic softeners on developing infants because these chemicals are usually found in babies’ teething rings. And when these plastics break down, they don’t only release hormone mimics, which can lead to future developmental and fertility problems. But also significant levels of dioxins as these plastics age.

Plastic softeners are now so ubiquitous in the industrialized world that incidents of infertility on us humans are on the rise. Plastic softeners can even be found in flexible PVC – i.e. polyvinyl chloride – floor tiles, which release the hormone-mimicking plastic softeners every time they are washed. Over time, these hormone-mimicking plastic softeners wind up in the marine ecosystem. Tests done on marine animals like fish, mollusks, and crustaceans show substantial amounts of these hormone-mimicking plastic softeners. Not only affecting these animals’ reproductive health, but given they form a significant portion of our diet, but also the reproductive health of people as well.

These hormonally potent plastic softeners has a robust enough chemical structure to survive their journey into the Arctic regions. Biologist studying the Arctic wildlife recently discovered male polar bears with multiple penises during the past few years. While infertility of the female polar bear population is on the rise. Given that global warming is already affecting the polar bear’s food supply, the effects of hormone-mimicking plastic softeners only hasten the polar bear’s journey into extinction.

Even though widespread data now document the deleterious effects of hormone-mimicking plastic softeners, policymakers are very reluctant in legislating laws banning these chemicals. Not because they are ignoring the scientifically verifiable data that’s available, but it is because most of them are already “beholden” by these multi-billion dollar multinational petrochemical corporations. Plus, plastic manufacturers say that finding substitutes cost time and vast sums of money, which will have to be eventually passed to us – the consumer as higher-priced goods. But given what’s at stake, it seems like inaction will only do more harm. Not only to our ever-diminishing wildlife, but to our future generations as well.

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