Re: Letter to the editor [hormone disrupting chemicals in

Susan K. Snow (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:54:46 -0500

Tue, 22 Apr 1997 09:12:00 +0200
Mr. Muna Lakhani, CATALYST, asked for more details on
>>the health/environmental-risk aspect of manufacturing and
>>drinking out of plastic containers is being almost entirely ignored.
>>This issue was addressed in the book "Our Stolen Future."
>>Plastic should be used as a material of last resort.
He asked for the websites and other info.

**...Rats exposed to phthalates, a substance found in many plastics
throughout our consumer society, have decreased sperm counts...**

Identifying the Suspects
**..More than 50 chemicals, including pesticides and
industrialchemicals, as well as lead and mercury, have been identified
as endocrine disruptors. They are found in food, detergents, and
plastics, including some used to store or prepare food, canned goods,
and personal care products. Of the 100,000 man-made chemicals used in
commerce, however, only a fraction has been fully tested for stand-ard
effects, such as cancer or obvious birth defects. The U.S. government
has not yet required testing for endocrine disruption...**

**Soto and coworkers believe that cell proliferation in the female
reproductive tract, mammary glands, and pituitary glands indicates the
presence of estrogen....Because some nonsteroidal substances can mimic
the effects of estrogens, they suggest that predicting estrogenic
effects of a chemical, based on structure alone, will prove difficult.
As a case study, the authors interpret their results with p-nonylphenol,
a substance released from polystyrene plastic, as demonstrating
estrogenic effects. p-Nonylphenol is incorporated into some plastics as
an antioxidant during manufacturing...The authors interpret their
results as showing that p-nonylphenol, an alkylphenol released from
polystyrene, produces estrogenic effects. p-Nonylphenol fits Hertz's
definition of estrogenicity that "the primary effect of an estrogen is
the stimulation of mitotic activity in the tissue of the female genital
tract. A substance which can directly elicit this response is an
estrogen; one that cannot, is not" (1)...They suggest that exposure to
p-nonylphenol may alter the function of the human reproductive system.
They think that its wide use, low degradation rate, and large volume of
production, all increase the chance that is it found in the food

**AS [Anna Soto]: Through food, probably. If we sound tentative by
saying that "probably" food is contaminated, it is because we infer this
probability exists based on solid but fragmentary information. So in
other words you have pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables, you
have industrial contaminants like PCBs and dioxins, and probably
pesticides, in fish, and also probably in meats and poultry. We do not
know how much is in each one of them. There are all these
plastic-related compounds that are present in certain plastics and
containers that could leach into food -- like bisphenol A [the building
block of a type of plastic], that leaches from the lining of cans. You
have nonylphenol [an industrial chemical often linked to plastic]
reported to leach from tubing used in milk processing. Then you have the
phthalates [another plastic-related compound] that are also used in the
packaging industry, and you have certain food additives, for example,

**AS: About seven out of ten cans of food will contain something that
leaches bisphenol A, and the other two or three will be made with
something else that doesn't leach bisphenol A. Neither the consumer nor
we can determine at this time which cans are safest for us...**


**LL: I heard, Dr. Soto, that you no longer use plastic in your lab. Has
that philosophy carried over into your home?

AS: I don't microwave anything in plastic, I use pyrex or ceramic
containers. Bisphenol A leaches out from polycarbonate plastic upon
heating, and other chemicals can leach out of other plastics.

TC: I try to avoid plastic-packaged food and microwave only in glass.

AS: I try to reduce the use of plastics. But there are things you cannot
do. For example, I can't find milk in glass.

LL: I can't find milk in glass, but I don't buy it, since I understand
that light destroys riboflavin and vitamin A in milk, and milk is a
major source of those vitamins. But maybe I should rethink that now. Of
course, there's always milk in paper cartons, but the cartons are
coated. Is that a problem?

AS: The coating may contain phthalates, for example, but I don't know
for sure. We learned that phthalates that are estrogenic are used in
some sorts of coatings for paper packaging. So again this is another of
those things [where you just don't know what is being used].

CS: We share your frustration at asking reasonable questions for which
one should have simple answers. We don't know ourselves what we are
exposed to. We became involved in this in an accidental way. We were not
looking for these compounds in our procedures. They popped up when we
used certain plastics.

[Susan Snow: Dr. John Peterson Myers, one of the co-authors of OUR
STOLEN FUTURE said: About 80 percent of food can on U.S. supermarket
shelves are lined with a plastic called Bisphenol-A..this breaks down
into nonylphenols. Both are highly estrogenic. At a March,1996,
conference, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA, Dr. Myers was asked about
plastic coke bottles. He said that as far as he knows, based on the
studies that had come in, that type of plastic did not contain
estrogenic chemicals. This information is not on the web to my
knowledge. It is on an audio tape recordering which I have in my

The World Wildlife Fund is an organization that funds the work of Dr.
Theo Colborn, the lead gathered of studies (her own and others) and the
lead author in OUR STOLEN FUTURE. To learn more about Reducing Your
Risk...A Guide to Avoiding Hormone Disrupting Chemicals

Susan Snow