Chemicals in Plastics: Human health costs

April 18, 2024
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources



Plastics, Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Health, Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP


Trasande L. et al. 2024. Chemicals Used in Plastic Materials: An Estimate of the Attributable Disease Burden and Costs in the United States. Journal of the Endocrine Society 8, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1210/jendso/bvad163

Download our Webinar Highlights fact sheet for key findings and quotes from this webinar.

In 2022, the UN launched treaty negotiations in Dakar, Senegal, for an internationally legally binding instrument to end plastic pollution. Health was not emphasized in the announcement of the treaty process. Yet the proliferation of plastics has produced large-scale consequences for endocrine diseases and dysfunctions.

Plastics are a source of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, commonly known as EDCs. These EDCs include phthalates (used in food packaging), bisphenols (used in can linings), and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS (used in non-stick cooking utensils).

Studies across the globe have documented widespread exposure to EDCs used in plastic materials, and their contribution to infertility and non-communicable diseases including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers.  A recent study documented annual health costs of $250 billion/year related to plastics.

In this webinar, Dr. Leonardo Trasande discussed research using data from the US National Institutes of Health Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program from 1998 to 2022. The study explored associations of 20 phthalate metabolites with gestational age at birth, birthweight, birth length, and birthweight for gestational age z-scores. The researchers also estimated attributable adverse birth outcomes, and the associated costs. 

This webinar was moderated by Sharyle Patton, Director of Commonweal's Biomonitoring Resource Center. 

Featured Speaker

Leonardo Trasande, MD, MPP is an internationally renowned leader in children’s environmental health.  His research focuses on identifying the role of environmental exposures in childhood obesity and cardiovascular risks, and documenting the economic costs for policy makers of failing to prevent diseases of environmental origin in children proactively.  He holds appointments in the Wagner School of Public Service and NYU’s College of Global Public Health. He is perhaps best known for a series of studies published in Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology and the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that document disease costs due to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the US and Europe of $340 billion and €163 billion annually, respectively. Dr. Trasande leads one of 35 centers across the country as part of the National Institute of Health’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes program. He has served as a member of numerous scientific committees and expert panels, including the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Executive Committee of the Council for Environmental Health and the United Nations Environment Programme Steering Committee on a Global Outlook for Chemicals. After receiving his bachelor, medical and public policy degrees from Harvard, he completed the Boston Combined Residency in Pediatrics and a legislative fellowship in the Office of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. 

This webinar was hosted by the EDC Strategies Partnership, which is co-chaired by Sharyle Patton (Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center), Jerry Heindel and Sarah Howard (Environmental Health Sciences' Healthy Environment and Endocrine Disruptor Strategies, HEEDS), Génon Jensen (Health and Environment Alliance, HEAL), and Rachel Massey (Collaborative for Health and Environment, CHE). To see a full list of past calls and webinars related to EDCs and listen to or view recordings, please visit our partnership page.