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Is bisphenol A related to precocious puberty? Linda Birnbaum, toxicologist; He has led the US Institute of Environmental Health and gives us some answers on the matter.
Scientists are as young as our research and mine in plastics is increasingly useful. I live in the Science Triangle at Duke University. We are going to leave our children and grandchildren thousands of plastic particles that will not disappear from their bodies or from the planet. I collaborate with ISGlobal-La Caixa.
Do you know what my wedding gift was?
A trip to the Caribbean?
A complete set of crockery and cutlery. Of plastic! I loved. It was more modern than the silver one and it seemed to us that it could be just as durable.
Today would be an insulting gift.
And then we didn't know it was a problem, because those plastics are too durable. So much so that they remain in our blood and in our body throughout our lives until they harm us.
How long does it take to eliminate them?
We do not delete them. If we analyze what you or anyone else excrete in the sink, we will find thousands of particles of plastic waste.
And why is that so bad?
We have tested many types of these plastics on people and we know they are; But most of these plastics are artificial substances that we have created in laboratories and are not found in nature. They are a danger.
Are you talking about the PVC of many bottles?
It is one of them. Until 1970 we did not realize in the public health laboratories that they were harming us and we managed to have their manufacture banned, but we still carry or live with 70% of those that were manufactured before.
Is it the worst toxic threat we suffer?
Hopefully. Actually, they are less of a concern than other compounds that were made later, such as polyfluorinated ones.
Because PVC degrades and slowly disappears; but many others that we manufacture, such as polyfluorinated ones, for example, never disappear from us or from the environment.
How did we get to manufacture that?
PFOA, perfluorooctanoic acid, has fluorine molecules. Fluorine is not organic; that is, its atoms do not bind to carbon atoms except in the teeth. But let's not confuse that process with fluoridation of drinking water or toothpastes. Nothing to see.
What are they for then?
They were used for a wide variety of industrial uses that end in clothing, footwear, utensils ...
Do you do mountaineering?
I thought that was health.
And it is, but your hiking boots, raincoat, and camping gear are also likely covered in PFOA compounds. If today you are going to buy hiking equipment or a new carpet, the most common is that they have been waterproofed with a layer of those PFOA insulators.
It's great to walk across a puddle in those waterproof boots and not get wet.
But it is not natural. It is also not natural that a carpet does not stain. The miracle of PFOA that repels stains or boots with which you sink into water and snow without getting wet, is actually a time bomb.
But everything lasts longer with that protection.
That's the problem: that PFOA never goes away and builds up to levels that harm us all.
Which? When? What harm will they do to us?
After studies with groups of more than 70,000 people, we know that they have been associated with cancer risk, effects on our hormonal system, hypertension during pregnancy, increased cholesterol and fats in the liver and blood and degradation of the immune system.
Any other specific disease?
We also know that it can harm the preventive effect of vaccines. And I'm not talking about tests on rats; I'm talking about trials on monkeys. And we are no longer only analyzing PFOA, but many other compounds that did not exist in nature until we created them and that we do not know what effect they will have on her and our bodies; and less in the long term, although we are already verifying that they are toxic.
Which of those others are you concerned about?
All of them, but there is another example: the plastic used to make most of the glasses and plates that revolutionized kitchens.
Like those of your wedding?
Exact. They don't break, but that's the problem: we can't get rid of the material they are made of, BPA (bisphenol-A).
Well, it is everywhere unfortunately since 1930. It was synthesized by pharmaceutical companies as estrogen, but better ones were quickly found. It was later used to harden plastics, but it was still an estrogen and had an effect on our hormones. And it was used a lot to make baby bottles.
Among others, it advanced the puberty of girls and made them have breasts at 8 years. It was banned, but it is still in our bodies and in between. And there are many other harmful plastics.
How to avoid re-ingesting them?
We have not yet learned to analyze before manufacturing not only how useful a product will be now, but also whether it will be a poison in fifty years. That is what you have to do.
That would be a consumer revolution.
It would be to accept that a glass bottle if it falls to the ground breaks; and that a carpet can get stained and that wrapping the sandwich in plastic protects the sandwich; but so much that it degrades the planet forever.
By Lluis Amiguet