Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plastic products leach toxic substances

17.05.2011
Many plastic products contain hazardous chemicals that can leach to the surroundings. In studies conducted at the University of Gothenburg, a third of the tested plastic products released toxic substances, including 5 out of 13 products intended for children.

“Considering how common plastic products are, how quickly the production of plastic has increased and the amount of chemicals that humans and the environment are exposed to, it is important to replace the most hazardous substances in plastic products with less hazardous alternatives,” says Delilah Lithner of the Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg.

Plastics exist in many different chemical compositions and are widespread in the society and the environment. Global annual production of plastics has doubled over the past 15 years, to 245 million tonnes in 2008. The plastic polymers are not regarded as toxic, but there may be toxic residual chemicals, chemical additives and degradation products in the plastic products that can leach out as they are not bound to the plastic polymer. Plastics also cause many waste problems.

In her research, Lithner studied the toxicity of 83 randomly selected plastic products and synthetic textiles. The newly purchased products were leached in pure (deionised) water for 1–3 days. The acute toxicity of the water was then tested using water fleas (Daphnia magna).

“A third of all the 83 plastic products and synthetic chemicals that were tested released substances that were acutely toxic to the water fleas, despite the leaching being mild. Five out of 13 products that were intended for children were toxic, for example bath toys and buoyancy aids such as inflatable armbands,” says Delilah Lithner.

The products that resulted in toxic water were soft to semi-soft products made from plasticised PVC or polyurethane, as well as epoxy products and textiles made from various plastic fibres. The toxicity was mainly caused by fat-soluble organic substances.

Lithner also studied the chemicals used to make around 50 different plastic polymers and has identified the plastic polymers for which the most hazardous chemicals are used. They were then ranked on the basis of the environmental and health hazard classifications that exist for the chemicals. Examples of plastic polymers made from the most hazardous chemicals are certain polyurethanes, polyacrylonitriles, PVC, epoxy and certain styrene copolymers. The results are of great benefit for further assessing environmental and health risks associated with plastic materials.

The thesis Environmental and health hazards of chemicals in plastic polymers and products was successfully defended in public on 6th May 2011. Supervisors: Prof. Göran Dave and Prof. Åke Larsson.

Contact:
Delilah Lithner, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden
+46 31-7864912
delilah.lithner@dpes.gu.se

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:
http://hdl.handle.net/2077/24978
http://www.gu.se

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Research team creates new possibilities for medicine and materials sciences
22.01.2018 | Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

nachricht Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent
22.01.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Thanks for the memory: NIST takes a deep look at memristors

22.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Radioactivity from oil and gas wastewater persists in Pennsylvania stream sediments

22.01.2018 | Earth Sciences

Saarland University bioinformaticians compute gene sequences inherited from each parent

22.01.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks Wissenschaft & Forschung
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>