The above was prompted by the good folks at Enviroblog. They picked up on a story of two Canadian researchers whose biology experiment was contaminated by equipment made with plain old polypropylene plastic - the plastic "interfered with the function of a human brain protein and ruined a drug experiment." It surprised the researchers and caused them to raise alarms that this kind of contamination could be occurring everywhere. Enviroblog tells us where it can be found:
These plastics are marked by recycling code 5. Just now, running to check my refrigerator, I found a pack of cream cheese, a container of spreadable butter, and a yogurt tub, all packaged in number 5 plastic. Polypropylene is also used for manufacturing thermal coffee mugs, bottle tops, kitchen appliances, cutting boards, rugs, mats, bags and even baby bottles.No, you're not experiencing deja vu. Yes, it's bisphenol-A all over again. In fact, in another clearly unrelated coincidence, the toxicity of BPA was also discovered when BPA-laced equipment interfered with biological research. As for longterm health effects, The Toronto Globe and Mail, which reported on the underlying paper, points out:
Tell you what. I'm worried.
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.
This all goes back to the fact that, also according to Enviroblog, of the 80,000 industrial chemicals in the wild, approximately 60,000 were grandfathered into the government's chemical toxicity testing legislation enacted in 1976. The good news is that New Jersey's Senator Frank Lautenberg has introduced an updated version that would tighten testing requirements. The bad news is there are and always will be at least 80,000 chemicals in the environment (and likely in our bodies) that no one really understands. Did I mention that plastics are bad?