In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that plastic-filling plastic barrels and other plastic containers increased the risk of lung cancer in the same way as using plastic containers for bottled water or other liquids.
“Our results suggest that the exposure to plastics from plastic-containing plastic containers, as well as the chemical constituents, may be more toxic than previously believed,” the study authors wrote.
“Although we cannot say that the increased cancer risk observed in this study is directly caused by exposure to plastic-based plastics, the increased risk may be attributable to the chemicals in plastic that may cause cancer.”
The researchers also found that the plastics that increased the cancer risk were associated with chemicals known to be carcinogenic to humans, including dioxins, lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), as well a number of other known carcinogens.
The study found that, compared to the risk that plastics posed from drinking bottled water, the risk from the use of plastic-cans was significantly higher than for the use, but not the manufacture of plastic containers.
The researchers theorized that plastic containers might be a much more viable alternative to plastic water bottles and other types of plastic bottles, as they are easier to handle and can be recycled, and the chemicals that are found in them are less likely to be absorbed through the human body.
“The plastic-using population is a growing population, but we have a lot to learn about the toxic properties of plastic,” said Dr. Michael McQuillan, lead author and a researcher at the Bloomberg School.
“What we know about the potential toxic properties are very preliminary, and we need to continue to investigate further to better understand the relationship between the chemicals and cancer risk.”
While the study was observational, the authors also did a meta-analysis to test whether there were other types or subtypes of plastic in the plastic bottles they studied.
The results of their study suggested that, if the results of the study were replicated across a wider set of studies, the plastics in plastic bottles are indeed linked to cancer risk.
The findings come on the heels of a similar study from the National Toxicology Program (NTP), which found that about 20 percent of the chemicals found in plastics are known to cause cancer.
The National Toxicological Program (NTP) reported that, of the more than 800 chemicals that the agency had identified as having carcinogenic effects, more than 40 percent of those chemicals were found in plastic.
The use of plastics in consumer products has grown in recent years, with companies such as Amazon and Walmart increasing their use of glass, polyester, and other materials.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, plastic products are now responsible for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country.