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					                                                 Healthy Environments for Child Care and Preschool Settings 2009

Plastics in our daily lives
Plastics are widely used in many everyday products. Common uses
include food storage and packaging, household items, and furniture. i
For example, plastics are often used for eating, preparing and storing
foods and liquids (plastic wraps, water/juice bottles, baby bottles).
Plastics are so common in our daily lives that you can probably easily
identify 10 objects that you and your children use every day that are
made entirely or partially of plastic, including many toys.

Why should we be concerned about plastics?
   Environment
      o Plastics are traditionally made from petroleumi, a non-renewable resource that plays a
         role in the release of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.ii
      o Making and disposing of plastics and their byproducts create air and water pollution,
         and expose the workers involved to toxic chemicals. iii
      o Plastics create a waste disposal burden, especially single-use plastics like product
         packaging and soft drink bottles. Plastics now make up over 10% of municipal solid waste in
         the U.S. according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). i
   Health
      o Plastics can contain chemicals and metals, which are used as additives and stabilizers.
         Some of these additives and stabilizers can be toxic, such as lead (e.g. toys, vinyl
      o Plastics can release chemicals into food and drink; some types of plastics are more likely
         to do so than others (polycarbonate, PVC, polystyrene).
      o Effects are not fully studied or understood, but in animal studies some plastics have been
         tied to a wide range of negative health effects including endocrine (hormone)
         disruption and cancer.
      o Plastics and their ingredients of concern:
              Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): also known as vinyl, is one of the most commonly used
                 types of plastics today. PVC is present in many things that we use daily from water
                 bottles and containers, to wallpaper, wall paneling, credit cards and children’s toys.
                 One can be exposed to vinyl through various stages of a product’s life cycle: during
                 factory production, in the home and similar settings while the product is being used,
                 and when the product is discarded as waste in the environment. iv, v Some of the
                 substances added to PVC are among the hormone-disrupting chemicals that may
                 pose hazards to human health and child development. PVC products, including
                 certain toys, may have chemicals such as lead, cadmium and phthalates, which can
                 flake, leach, or off-gas, causing the release of these chemicals into our
                      Diethylhexyladepate (DEHA): is a chemical commonly found in PVC
                         plastics used to give them flexibility. You can find DEHA in vinyl plastic films
                         that package refrigerated and frozen foods. Evidence shows that DEHA
                         interferes with fetal development and causes harmful reproductive effects in
                         animals and can cause cancer in rodents. vii,viii
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                                                 Healthy Environments for Child Care and Preschool Settings 2009

                 Phthalates: is a class of chemicals used to make plastics flexible. Phthalates are
                  used in many products: vinyl flooring, plastic clothing (e.g. raincoats), detergents,
                  adhesives, personal-care products (fragrances, nail polish, soap), and is commonly
                  found in vinyl (PVC) plastic products (toys, plastic bags). In a national study, some
                  phthalates have been found in 97% ix of the people tested with generally higher
                  concentrations found in children.x In animal studies, health effects range from
                  developmental and reproductive toxicity to damage to the liver. xi,xii
                 Bisphenol A (BPA): is used when making polycarbonate and other plastic
                  products. BPA is widely used in consumer products (baby bottles, protective coating
                  in food cans, toys, containers and personal care products). It can leach from these
                  products and potentially cause harm to those in contact with them. It can also have
                  estrogen (female hormone)-like effects, which may impact biological systems at very
                  low doses. Children may be exposed via: ingestion (diet & sucking/mouthing
                  plastics), inhalation (of dust) and dermal contact. A national study found BPA in the
                  urine of over 90% of people tested; children were found to have higher levels than
                  adults; xiii and BPA has been found in pregnant women, umbilical cord blood and
                  placenta at levels demonstrated in animals to alter development.xiv
                 Lead: is used to soften plastics or keep them more stable in heat. xv Lead is
                  associated with learning disabilities, decreased IQ, delayed onset of puberty, etc. (see
                  the enclosed lead module for more information). It has been found in plastic toys
                  and vinyl lunchboxes.

What you can do:
       o Substitute plastics for other materials (some which are more durable) whenever possible,
         such as paper, ceramic, glass and stainless steel.
   In regard to foods and drinks:
      o Avoid heating foods in plastic containers.
      o Avoid transferring hot foods/drinks into plastic containers.
      o Do not use plastic wrap in the microwave (try substituting a
         paper towel or waxpaper for covering foods).
      o If you cannot avoid plastics for food and beverages, try to avoid those plastics labeled
         “3” with a “v” underneath (PVC), “6” “PS” (polystyrene), and “7” “other”
         (polycarbonate) except for the new bio-based plastics. (See table below on plastic types
         and their symbols)
      o Avoid sports water bottles made of polycarbonate.
      o Use alternatives to polycarbonate “7” baby bottles and sippy cups.
         Alternatives include glass baby bottles and products made of safer
         plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene that are less likely to
         release harmful plasticizers. Safer non-polycarbonate bottles are
         usually cloudy and squeezable.
      o If you cannot avoid plastics, such as polycarbonate baby bottles, discard those that are
         old and scratched and heat foods/drinks outside of plastic containers and do not transfer
         into plastic until the food/liquid has cooled to the serving temperature.
      o Choose canned food from companies that do not use BPA.
      o Try to buy soups/milk/milk products in cardboard containers.

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                                                            Healthy Environments for Child Care and Preschool Settings 2009

   In regard to toys and other products:
      o Buy phthalate-free toys or those approved for use by the European Union (the EU has
         banned several phthalates in children’s toys).
      o Try to choose phthalate-free personal care products.

    For more tips on safer food use of plastics:
     Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). 2005. Smart Plastics Guide: Healthier Food
     Uses of Plastics.

    For more tips on safer alternatives to PVC plastics, visit:
     Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ): The Campaign for Safe Healthy Consumer

    For general information on plastics and on how to recycle them you can refer to:
     U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2007. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW): Plastics.

  Types of Plastics
        Symbol                   Type                    Full Name                               Common Uses
                                 PETE            Polyethylene terephthalate            Soda bottles, juice, water and peanut
                                                          ethylene                              butter containers

                                 HDPE             High-density polyethylene           Milk and water jugs, bleach, detergent,
                                                                                                some plastic bags

                                V, PVC                Polyvinyl chloride             Water pipes, detergent, cling wrap, some
                                                                                             plastic squeeze bottles

                                 LDPE             Low-density polyethylene            Most plastic bags, most plastic wraps,
                                                                                              some plastic bottles

                                   PP                   Polypropylene                  Most Rubbermaid brand containers,
                                                                                      many clouded plastic containers, baby
                                                                                        bottles, straws, long underwear

                                   PS                     Polystyrene                  Styrofoam food trays, egg cartons,
                                                                                      packaging "peanuts, disposable bowls
                                                                                        and cups, opaque plastic cutlery
                                 Other          Usually polycarbonate, some           Most plastic baby bottles, clear plastic
                                                bio-based plastics (e.g. made       ‘sippy’ cups, 5-gallon water bottles, liners
                                                    from corn instead of              of metal food cans, clear plastic cutlery
  Sources: Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, 2005. Smart Plastics Guide: Healthier Food Uses of Plastics.; U.S. EPA, 2007. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW): Plastics.

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  U.S. EPA. 2007. Municipal Solid Waste (MSW): Plastics. Accessed January 18, 2008.
    U.S. EPA. 2005. In Brief: The U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory.$File/ghgbrochure.pdf
Accessed January 18, 2008.
    Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. 2005. Smart Plastics Guide: Healthier Food Uses of Plastics. Accessed January 7, 2008.
    Center for Health, Environment & Justice, The Campaign for Safe, Healthy Consumer Products. PVC: The Poison Plastic. Accessed January 30, 2008.
    Eder, T., and W. Schmidt. 1995. Organochlorine Contaminants in the Great Lakes: The Risks Are Real and Demand Action.
Ecological Applications 5(2): 298-301. Stable URL:
0761%28199505%295%3A2%3C298%3AOCITGL%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F Accessed February 27, 2008.
    Healthy Building Network. PVC Plastic. Accessed January 31, 2008.
     Huff, James. 1982. Di(2-ethylhexyl) Adipate: Condensation of the Carcinogenesis Bioassay Technical Report. Environmental
Health Perspectives 45: 205-207. Accessed April 21, 2008.
      Kluwe, William M. 1986. Carcinogenic Potential of Phthalic Acid Esters and Related Compounds: Structure-Activity
Relationships. Environmental Health Perspectives 65: 271-278. Accessed
April 21, 2008.
    Silva, M.J., D.B. Barr, J.A. Reidy, et al. 2004. Urinary levels of Seven Phthalate Metabolites in the U.S. Population from the
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1999-2000. Environmental Health Perspectives 112(3): 331-338. Accessed February 5, 2008.
    Kolarik, B., K. Naydenov, M. Larsson, et al. 2008. The Association between Phthalates in Dust and Allergic Diseases among
Bulgarian Children. Environmental Health Perspectives 116(1): 98-103.
 Accessed February 5, 2008.
    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2005. Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals. NCEH
Pub. No. 05-0570. Accessed January 18, 2008.
     Blount, B.C., M. Silva, S. Caudill, et al. 2000. Levels of Seven Urinary Phthalate Metabolites in a Human Reference Population.
Environmental Health Perspectives 108(10): 979-982.
Accessed January 30, 2008.
     Calafat, A.M., X. Ye, L. Wong, et al. 2008. Exposure of the U.S. Population to Bisphenol A and 4-tertiary-Octylphenol: 2003-
2004. Environmental Health Perspectives 116(1): 39-44. Accessed
January 23, 2008.
     Ikezuki, Y., O. Tsutsumi, Y. Takai, Y. Kamei, Y. Taketani. 2002. Determination of Bisphenol A Concentrations in Human
Biological Fluids Reveals Significant Early Prenatal Exposure. Human Reproduction 17(11): 2839-2841. Accessed January 30, 2008.
     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2007. Toys and Childhood Lead Exposure.
Accessed April 21, 2008.

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