is the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.



ZWA REPORTS: Are Plastic Products Causing Breast Cancer Epidemic?

PHILADELPHIA, PA, Oct 12, 1999 - Are plastic products, such as plastic food and drink containers, causing the current breast cancer epidemic? The EPA's Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee (EDSTAC) may soon find out. On Oct. 5, 1998, EDSTAC announced that they are "moving toward" launching a screening program that will evaluate health and environmental effects of endocrine-disrupting synthetic chemicals used in thousands of common products, from plastics to pesticides.

The connection between plastic and breast cancer was first discovered in 1987 at Tufts Medical School in Boston by research scientists Dr. Ana Soto and Dr. Carlos Sonnenschein. In the midst of their experiments on cancer cell growth, endocrine-disrupting chemicals leached from plastic test tubes into the researcher's laboratory experiment, causing a rampant proliferation of breast cancer cells. Their findings were published in Environmental Health Perspectives (1991).

Again in 1987, a research team headed by David Feldman of the Stanford University School of Medicine also discovered that plastics, such as the plastic giant jugs used to bottle drinking water, had similarly contaminated their experiments. They reported their findings in Endocrinology (1993).

Spanish researchers, Fatima and Nicolas Olea, tested metal food cans that were lined with plastic. The cans were also found to be leaching hormone disrupting chemicals in 50% of the cans tested. The levels of contamination were twenty-seven times more than the amount the Stanford team reported was enough to make breast cancer cells proliferate. Reportedly, 85% of the food cans in the United States are lined with plastic. The Oleas reported their findings in Environmental Health Perspectives (1995).

Some environmental and health activists question why the EPA waited years to act. They dispute the EPA's claim that "Science has only recently come to understand the possible threats posed to public health from endocrine disruptors."

In July of 1991, government officials representing EPA, National Institutes of Health, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service attended the Wingspread Conference in Racine Wisconsin for the specific purpose of discussing endocrine disruptors with leading researchers. At the end of the conference they signed a consensus statement in which the threat of endocrine disruptors to the environment and public health was clearly recognized.

Endocrine disruptors gained national attention in 1997 with the release of the book, Our Stolen Future, by Dr. Theo Colborn. For more information visit

CONTACT: Lynn Landes, Zero Waste America, (215) 493-1070,


This news is provided by: Breaking News On Food Processing & Packaging
Email this page | Print in friendly format | News by email | Your comments  
Scientists raise spectre of cancer-causing packaging
 Related News
 Danisco launches vegetable oil-based plasticiser

Non-PVC stretch wrap to shake up US film market

Bottle prototyping

All news for April 2005
All news for March 2005


20/04/2005 - Compounds found in plastic food packaging could be possible cancer-causing agents, according to a worrying new study from the US.

Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, US claim to have demonstrated that two plasticiser compounds, BPA and BBP, are environmental estrogens capable of affecting gene expression in the mammary glands of young female laboratory rats exposed to the compounds through their mothers' milk.

Plastic products used to wrap or contain food and beverages have therefore aroused concerns as possible cancer-causing agents because they can sometimes leach out of the plastic and migrate into the food.

The scientists found that this was especially true after heating or when the plastic is old or scratched.

"Development of breast cancer entails multiple events, in which estrogen appears to play an important role," "Estrogenic agents involved in breast development and possibly in breast cancer may include foreign estrogens, or xenoestrogens, that are used in manufacturing a number of products. The studies of BPA and BBP in young rats were designed to see whether exposure to these hormonally active biological compounds could alter the genomic signatures of the mammary gland during critical stages of development."

BPA (bisphenol A) is a synthetic resin used in food packaging and polycarbonate plastic products. BBP (n-butyl benzyl phthalate) is a widely used plasticiser used in food wraps and cosmetics.

"In exposing prepubescent female rats to BPA and BBP, our aim was to determine what effects, if any, each compound had on mammary gene expression during at different ages," said postdoctoral associate Raquel Moral.

"Our results showed that exposure to BPA changes the gene expression profile of mammary tissues as a function of age. That is, there was a significant increase in protein production governed by various genes at increasing ages from 21 to 100 days."

These included proteins regulating cell proliferation and differentiation, including tumour-suppressing proteins and a large number of unknown proteins. The exception was decreased expression of the GAD1 gene. It encodes a key enzyme of the GABA-ergic system, which could be involved in hormonal regulation and breast cancer development. GAD1 has consistently been overexpressed in primary breast cancer.

"In contrast, the BBP exposure modified the genomic signature of the mammary gland primarily at 21 days of age and had less effect later," said Moral.

However, future studies are needed to determine whether exposure to such xenoestrogens leads to breast cancer in rats and whether these estrogens bring about similar gene alterations in human breast tissue.