Our industrial society uses a plethora of chemicals to survive. Inorganic and organic compounds are used for dry-cleaning, and producing rubber products, PVC pipes and plastic packaging. Some of these chemicals give plastics their desirable characteristics of flexibility and durability. However, most of these chemicals do not occur naturally in the environment and recently, more attention is being given to how those chemicals affect human health as they leach from the plastic products.Three chemicals were investigated in this project: bisphenol-a (BPA), nonylphenol (NP) and di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). BPA has received much media attention as it is found in baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical devices, CDs and household electronics. NP is used as an industrial cleaning agent and a stabilizer of the chemical process during plastic and rubber manufacturing. DEHP is used commonly used for making PVC more flexible in many products, such as packaging, furniture upholstery, shower curtains, garden hoses and medical tubing. Research shows these chemicals can disrupt reproductive and developmental systems, increase cancer risks and damage the immune systems of experimental laboratory animals. The effects on marine ecosystems, where many plastic items with these chemical accumulate as litter, have yet to receive the same level of research so the impacts to marine animal health are mostly unknown.
The OPC Marine Debris Resolution item #11 encourages developing a plan for the phased ban of the most toxic types of plastic packaging. Part of that plan involves determining the risks to human and marine animal health from specific chemicals. The OPC turned to the expertise of the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), a department of California Environmental Protection Agency whose mission is to protect and enhance public health and the environment by scientific evaluation of risks posed by hazardous substances. OEHHA developed toxicological profile reports of BPA, NP and DEHP to inform how these chemicals affect the marine ecosystem.
The OPC used $155,684 from the California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks and Coastal Protection Fund (Proposition 40) to fund this project.
Integrated Risk Assessment Branch, The Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)
California Environmental Protection Agency
David Siegel, PhD
The toxicological profile reports may be viewed here: