What are plasticisers?
Plastics are made up of a polymer backbone, i.e. a repetition of identical molecules linked by chemical bonds.
Plasticisers are additives added to plastic polymers to improve their properties (impact or heat resistance, flexibility, etc.). However, they are not linked to the polymer by chemical bonds. For this reason, they can migrate out of the plastic into food or the environment (air, water, soil).
"Plasticisers are the markers of plastic pollution."
What are the main plasticisers?
Many plasticiser additives are used in industry. The most commonly used plasticisers are:
- Phthalates (DEHP Di-Ethyl-Hexyl-Phtalate, BBP Butyl-Benzyl-Phtalate, DEP Di-Ethyl-Phtalate, DBP Di-Butyl-Phtalate...)
- Bisphenols (BPA Bisphenol-A, BPF Bisphenol-F, BPS Bisphenol-S...)
- Organophosphates (TBP Tri-Butyl-Phosphate...)
The chemical industry has developed a very large number of types of phthalates and bisphenols.
What are the main health effects of plasticisers?
Some plasticisers are considered by the European Union as substances of very high concern for health (SVHC, Substance with Very High Concern).
The main health effects observed are
- Reprotoxicity (impairment of fertility)
- Endocrine disruptors
- Neurological disorders
- Malformations of the genitals
Most plasticisers show health effects at low doses of exposure.
Due to their toxicity, several plasticisers have been banned and replaced by other plasticisers of the same family. For example, bisphenol-A (BPA) has been substituted by bisphenol-S (BPS). These substituents often have the same deleterious toxicological effects.
The effects of plastic pollution can be felt many years after exposure.
Why is exposure to plasticisers a greater risk for pregnant or breastfeeding women?
Exposure to plasticisers directly affects development and growth at any stage of development: embryo, foetus, infant and child.
Plasticisers can pass into breast milk and contaminate the infant.
It is important to monitor the exposure of pregnant women and young children in order to effectively limit the effects of plastic pollution.
How to assess your exposure to plasticisers?
The EXPOZOM Organic analysis kit allows you to assess your exposure to these toxic substances using a lock of hair.
The analysis of plasticizers in the hair is carried out by a certified laboratory and makes it possible to identify the toxic substances to which the body is exposed and to measure the level of exposure.
What are the sources of exposure to plasticisers?
We are exposed to plasticisers through ingestion, inhalation and skin contact.
Each year 47 kg of plastic is produced per capita worldwide and the accumulation of plastic since the 1950s amounts to one tonne per capita. Moreover, the amount of plastic produced is increasing every year.
The main sources of human exposure to plasticisers are:
- Food, as plasticisers migrate into food from plastic packaging and containers. This is exacerbated if the container is heated or if the packaged products are very fatty.
- Some cosmetic products sprayed or applied to the skin
- Drinks, when contained in plastic bottles, cans or passed through plastic pipes.
- The air we breathe inside buildings because inhaled dust includes microplastic particles.
These particles are emitted from, for example, plastic furniture surfaces, furniture fabrics and foams, synthetic carpets and rugs, floor coverings such as PVC, paints and electronic equipment.
The indoor air of vehicle interiors which include many plastic parts and synthetic carpets.
The main sources of plasticisers are:
- Children's toys
- Childcare articles
- Medical devices
- Cosmetics and hygiene products
- Clothing, gloves and shoes
- Cars and public transport vehicles
- Construction, decoration and renovation materials
- Medicines and pharmaceutical products
- Adult toys
Occupational exposure to plasticisers:
Professionals are a population particularly exposed to plasticisers because of the quantities, duration and frequency of exposure. In particular:
- Plastics processing occupations
- Resin users
- Medical professions
- Craftsmen (painters, plastic floor laying, etc.)
- Paint and wallpaper producers