From packaging to masks, researchers find and catalog over 2 hazardous chemicals in plastics

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Carlos Laforet Coll
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Researchers have compiled for the first time a database of all plastic monomers, providing a disturbing insight into the harmful substances they contain.

Don't store avocado like this: it's dangerous

Plastic is practical, inexpensive and incredibly versatile, but it contains a wide variety of chemicals that are released into the environment during its life cycle - including substances that pose a risk to our health - and only very few of these have been so far the subject of studies.





Now a research team led by the professor Stefanie Hellweg compiled a database for the first time which includes all the plastic monomers, additives and other chemicals used in the production of plastic products, thus providing a disturbing insight into the world of harmful substances knowingly used in industries to our detriment.

About 10.500 chemicals have been identified in various plastic products: many of these are used for the production of packaging (2489), others for the production of fabrics (2.429) and for products in contact with food (2.109); still others are used in the world of toys (522) and for medical devices, including disposable masks (247). Of the 10.500 substances analyzed, 2.480 (24%) are considered worrying.

In practice, nearly a quarter of all chemicals used in plastics accumulate in the body and are potentially toxic Helene Wiesinger, who participated in the study. - These substances damage aquatic ecosystems, they cause diseases such as cancer and damage internal organs. What is alarming is that many of these substances escape regulation or are ambiguously described.

53% of all potentially harmful substances are estimated to be unregulated in the United States, Japan and Europe. Even more surprising, the use of 901 of these substances has been approved for the production of plastic containers suitable for contact with food.

Today, in fact, plastic packaging represents the main source of contamination in food - already previous studies have shown this. Nonetheless, the results of the creation of this database surprised the researchers - in a negative way, of course: the number of harmful substances is unexpectedly high and they are also used in the recycling processes of plastic materials.


Credits: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021


The study has opened a Pandora's box on the world of chemicals related to the production of plastic whose limits and potential damages are not yet known. More research will be needed to understand to what extent these substances have a negative impact and to find, possibly, alternative solutions to their use.

Credits: Environ. Sci. Technol. 2021,


Fonte: Environmental Science & Technology


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