Purpose: The large global production of plastics and their presence everywhere in the society and the environment create a need for assessing chemical hazards and risks associated with plastic products. The aims of this study were to determine and compare the toxicity of leachates from plastic products made of five plastics types and to identify the class of compounds that is causing the toxicity.
Methods: Selected plastic types were those with the largest global annual production, that is, polypropylene, polyethylene, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or those composed of hazardous monomers (e.g., PVC, acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene [ABS], and epoxy). Altogether 26 plastic products were leached in deionized water (3 days at 50°C), and the water phases were tested for acute toxicity to Daphnia magna. Initial Toxicity Identification Evaluations (C18 filtration and EDTA addition) were performed on six leachates.
Results: For eleven leachates (42%) 48-h EC50s (i.e the concentration that causes effect in 50 percent of the test organisms) were below the highest test concentration, 250 g plastic/L. All leachates from plasticized PVC (5/5) and epoxy (5/5) products were toxic (48-h EC50s ranging from 2 to 235 g plastic/L). None of the leachates from polypropylene (5/5), ABS (5/5), and rigid PVC (1/1) products showed toxicity, but one of the five tested HDPE leachates was toxic (48-h EC50 17-24 g plastic/L). Toxicity Identification Evaluations indicated that mainly hydrophobic organics were causing the toxicity and that metals were the main cause for one leachate (metal release was also confirmed by chemical analysis).
Conclusions: Toxic chemicals leached even during the short-term leaching in water, mainly from plasticized PVC and epoxy products.