Health Risks of Plastic Pollutants and How to Solve Them
Plastics are a ubiquitous, inescapable part of daily life. They have many seemingly irreplaceable, inexpensive and convenient uses. But there is a dark side to some of them that goes far beyond the painful photographs of albatross chick tummies stuffed with discarded cigarette lighters or turtle necks strangled by six pack rings. Some of them are exceedingly hazardous to life, even at what appear to be low doses. Much of the hazard arises because they contain chemicals that interfere with hormone signaling: endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). By hacking the hormone signaling systems that control fetal development, they can set in motion physiological processes that can lead to a wide array of diseases and disabilities.
Intense study of EDCs began in the 1990s. Since then, millions of dollars have been invested in this scientific field, yielding thousands of research papers. Pete Myers will lay out the core central themes that have emerged in this field over the last two decades: low doses matter a lot; what begins in the womb does not stay in the womb; the tools we have used to test for safety of plastics have been based upon false assumptions and continue to use outdated methods; and exposure is ubiquitous. We now know enough about how EDCs cause damage, however, to help chemists design safer chemicals. This last point positions chemists to grab market share in rising consumer demand for inherently safer materials. As that effort grows, it should be possible to slow if not reverse today’s epidemics of endocrine-related diseases, such as prostate and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, obesity, infertility and brain disorders.
MLF: Health & Medicine
The Commonwealth Club
110 The Embarcadero
Toni Rembe Rock Auditorium
San Francisco, 94105