Plastics: New Health Risk Studies in Children

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Posted: 27/07/2015 Print

Plastics: New Health Risk Studies in Children

Guest article by Sam Hadadi

Lucy Bee and Plastics

Our Lucy Bee friends and family will know that we are incredibly passionate about saving the environment and recycling.

Every one of our glass jars is made so that it’s as easy as possible for you to recycle and dispose of in a safe and green way.


Why? Well, it’s partly down to the dangers of plastic that we’re so hell-bent on ditching the clear stuff. You see, every year we hear horrifying stories of whales or beautiful marine creatures stuck in plastic.

We learn all about the horrifying health effects and the damage plastic can do to our bodies. And, as if that weren’t enough, the media swamps us with stories on how it can destroy the planet, causing endless problems for generations to come.

Plastics: Damaging to Children

Shockingly, new studies have revealed that plastics can be dangerous to our children’s health too. A series of studies - fresh out of NYU Langone Medical Center -revealed that two chemicals often used to strengthen cling film, soap, cosmetics and processed food containers have been linked to a rise in risk of high blood pressure and diabetes in children and adolescents.

Milk cartons

Terrifying, isn’t it? Yet all too many of our children’s food comes dished up in plastic containers, or sealed up in plastic bags. Makes you re-think those ready meals, doesn’t it?

So, why the damage? Well, these compounds – known as di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP) – come from a class of chemicals known as phthalates. Ironically, the two chemicals were used as replacements for another chemical, which the same researchers proved to pose similar health risks. 

How Did the Study Work?

For the research, the NYU team reviewed blood sample and urine analyses from participants. The samples were collected once between 2008 and 2012 and the study volunteers' blood pressure was also measured. Diet, physical activity, gender, race/ethnicity, income and other factors associated with insulin resistance were also factored into the analysis.

Lead investigator Leonardo Trasande, a professor at NYU Langone, said: "Our research adds to growing concerns that environmental chemicals might be independent contributors to insulin resistance, elevated blood pressure and other metabolic disorders.”

The researchers claim that their series of studies are the first to examine potential health risks from DEHP replacements. In the most recent one, the investigators report a "significant association" between high blood pressure and the presence of DINP and DIDP levels in study subjects.

In fact, for every tenfold increase in the amount of phthalates consumed, there was a 1.1 mm of mercury increase in blood pressure.

The same investigators also found an association between DINP and DIDP and increased insulin resistance, a factor in diabetes. One in three adolescents with the highest DINP levels had the highest insulin resistance, while of those with the lowest concentrations of the chemicals, only one in four had insulin resistance.

DEHP, the original chemical used as a plasticiser, was banned in 2004 across Europe after researchers elsewhere found it damaged human health. In the United States, manufacturers voluntarily began to replace DEHP with DINP and DIDP.

What Can We Do?

The researchers are calling for the food industry to turn to other materials to wrap foods: "Alternatives to DIDP and DINP include wax paper and aluminum wrap; indeed, a dietary intervention that introduced fresh foods that were not canned or packaged in plastic reduced phthalate metabolites substantially.

"Our study adds further concern for the need to test chemicals for toxicity prior to their broad and widespread use, which is not required under current federal law.”

They’re also advising families to stop microwaving food in plastic containers and to start washing plastic food containers by hand instead of putting them in the dishwasher. People should also avoid using plastic containers labeled on the bottom with the numbers 3, 6 or 7 (inside the recycle symbol), in which chemicals such as phthalates are used.

How Else Can I Avoid Plastics?

If, like us, you’re becoming more and more worried about the dangers of plastic, then fret not - there's plenty of ways you can avoid it. Here are our top Lucy Bee tips on how to cut plastic out of your life, forever:

  • Avoid Buying Items Covered in Plastic - Try to buy food packaged in glass jars rather than plastic ones (just like our Lucy Bee!) and stick to cleaning products in boxes rather than bottles. 
  • Use Reuseable or Cloth Shopping Bags

LB Bag

Next time you’re hitting the supermarket, make sure you arm yourself with a bag for life. Or load your arms with cloth bags to store your purchases in instead. 

  • Say ‘No’ to Plastic Bottled Water - Plastic bottles are responsible for plenty of environmental waste and litter beaches across the globe. Next time, fill your own (non-plastic bottle) with filtered tap water – you’ll save money too! 
  • Wear Clothes Made from Natural Materials - Polyester clothes are made from plastic – and, scarily, washing them will cause the fibres to fall off. These can be found in oceans across the world, causing untold damage to the environment and marine life. Next time, stock up on natural materials, such as cotton. 
  • Upcycle - If you must buy products packaged in plastic, then get creative! Think of new ways to re-use your plastic so you can avoid throwing cartons away. 
  • Never Use Plastic Cutlery - While we’re all for picnics in the summer, try to avoid the temptation of buying plastic cutlery to accompany your hamper. Instead, bring your own from home instead! 
  • Make It From Scratch - One of the easiest ways to cut down on packaging is to make all foods from scratch. Here at Lucy Bee, we make our own foods and sauces wherever we can – have a look on our website for some mouth-watering recipes! 

Pasta tomato & anchovy

  • Use Baking Paper - Avoid wrapping up lunch boxes or leftover food in cling film. Instead, try storing things in wax (baking paper) . Better still, they won’t leave you in a tangle like cling film will!

Sam Hadadi


About Lucy Bee Limited 

Lucy Bee is concerned with Fair Trade, ethical and sustainable living, recycling and eating close to nature with additive free products for health.

The views and opinions expressed in videos and articles on the Lucy Bee website/s or social networking sites are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect those of Lucy Bee Limited.

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About Sam

Portrait of Sam

Sam Hadadi is an ex-BBC journalist and now a freelance writer specialising in fitness and food.

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