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Abstract

By 2010, the worldwide annual production of plastics will surpass 300 million tons. Plastics are indispensable materials in modern society, and many products manufactured from plastics are a boon to public health (e.g., disposable syringes, intravenous bags). However, plastics also pose health risks. Of principal concern are endocrine-disrupting properties, as triggered for example by bisphenol A and di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP). Opinions on the safety of plastics vary widely, and despite more than five decades of research, scientific consensus on product safety is still elusive. This literature review summarizes information from more than 120 peer-reviewed publications on health effects of plastics and plasticizers in lab animals and humans. It examines problematic exposures of susceptible populations and also briefly summarizes adverse environmental impacts from plastic pollution. Ongoing efforts to steer human society toward resource conservation and sustainable consumption are discussed, including the concept of the 5 Rs—i.e., reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink, restrain—for minimizing pre- and postnatal exposures to potentially harmful components of plastics.

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/content/journals/10.1146/annurev.publhealth.012809.103714
2010-04-21
2024-04-13
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  • Article Type: Review Article
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