You may already be trying to cut down on your plastic usage because the material doesn’t biodegrade and it can pollute the planet for hundreds of years. But there’s another reason you might want to stay away.
The team of researchers, led by Stefanie Hellweg, a professor of ecological systems design at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, identified a whopping 10,500 chemicals in the plastics they studied. The team spent two and a half years studying a wide variety of plastic products, using scientific, regulatory, and industry databases to identify all the chemicals contained within them. They then cross-referenced these chemicals with scientific databases that identified whether the chemicals were hazardous, benign, or not adequately studied.
Of these chemicals, about a quarter—2,480—were “substances of potential concern,” which means there is some evidence to indicate they are harmful. In some cases, the chemicals are known to be toxic to aquatic life, cancer-causing, or damaging to specific organs. In others, the chemicals can accumulate in humans and animals, causing problems such as memory loss over time.