Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Is Polypropylene a safe plastic
With the recent CPSIA bans on Phthalates Lead PVC in children products and with impending bans on BPA manufactures have turned to the extensively used currently deemed safe polypropylene among other plastics but is it really harmless?
Recently I was doing some research for an eco-friendly baby bathtub of which there is only one that comes up when you do the search the tub in question is a great concept and touted as being "non-toxic, recyclable, energy efficient, BPA and PVC free" I was ready to press the checkout button when I thought is any plastic really eco-friendly? Then again is any plastic really safe? So I looked into this mystery "non-toxic, recyclable, energy efficient, BPA and PVC free" plastic. Turns out its made out of our friendly plastic Mr.Polypropylene (PP) which is one of the most used plastics!
This #5 recyclable is what replaced the BPA and PVC in those baby bottles, it's the plastic tub you get from the prepared foods section of your grocery store, it's your yogurt container, the cap to your glass/steel water bottle, in addition to many many other things and it's even used in Europe! So you figure it's safe right? Well perhaps we were wrong as a recent experiment by researchers in Canada had their research fouled by two compounds, quaternary ammonium biocides, and oleamide,leaching from their polypropylene equipment. The fortunate thing is that they noticed this and raised a red flag about using PP which is now being brought into question in much the same way Mr.Polycarbonate was in the early 90s according to the Environmental Working Group. I wonder about how many crucial experiments have been fouled by these products leching unnoticed.
So what are quaternary ammonium biocides, and oleamide besides hard to to pronounce?
Lets start with quaternary ammonium biocides are an anti-bacterial compound which has a variety of applications including being mixed in with the plastic that holds your pro-biotic yogurt which sounds like false advertising if it does leach this compound into your friendly bacteria. Not to mention it getting into your body and killing your friendly bacteria that you tried to hard to place there by eating yogurt and into the environment killing off friendly bacteria which the results of this happening are largely unknown but most anti-bacterial hand soaps have been causing a commotion.
On to the other compound olemide leaching from PP, this is naturally occurring in the body and causes sleep to be induced when one is sleep deprived as it collects in the cerebrospinal fluid. If you're like me you may be asking why Mr. PP has this compound is he being sleep deprived? Actually it's used as a slip agent or lubricant as it were. Since this compound is found within the human body this substance is of the highest concern as no one knows what it's effects could be perhaps making people lazy, hallucinate as if sleep deprived or the "run-of-the-mill" effect of causing cancer.
However, before people go screaming into the streets that Mr.Polypropylene is the devil what caused these compounds to leach in the first place so that is still a mystery but the EWG reports that they were "conducting experiments on a human enzyme" and that the "substances were leaking from the plastic tubes they used to transfer liquids in the experiment." Also there is currently research happening to see exactly what the potential effects these compounds can have on us and the environment.
So in conclusion this knowledge is your to take whatever action you want to with it. I personally did not buy the bath tub because a baby can be very susceptible to these compounds being absorbed through their thin skin and I save money on not getting one anyways, however I still come in contact with this plastic almost daily so I anxiously await the results. As do product injury lawyers it seems, more info can be found at Lawyers and Settlements.com, The Environmental Working Group(EWG), Gaiam, and lastly a report of the leaching study here