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Comparative toxicity of conventional versus compostable plastic consumer products: An in-vitro assessment

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Scientists find that some compostable plastics have similar or even higher levels of toxicity than plastic products, when it comes to chemical additives. These findings suggest that additives in bioplastics and other plant-based compostables must be carefully evaluated before use.

Abstract: This study investigates the toxicity of methanolic extracts obtained from compostable plastics (BPs) and conventional plastics (both virgin and recycled). Additionally, it explores the potential influence of plastic photodegradation and composting on toxic responses using a battery of in vitro assays conducted in PLHC-1 cells. The extracts of BPs, but not those of conventional plastics, induced a significant decrease in cell viability (<70%) in PLHC-1 cells after 24 h of exposure. Toxicity was enhanced by either photodegradation or composting of BPs. Extracts of conventional plastics, and particularly those of recycled plastics, induced 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylase (EROD) activity and micronucleus formation in exposed cells, indicating the presence of significant amounts of CYP1A inducers and genotoxic compounds in the extracts, which was enhanced by photodegradation. These findings highlight the importance of investigating the effects of degradation mechanisms such as sunlight and composting on the toxicity of BPs. It is also crucial to investigate the composition of newly developed formulations for BPs, as they may be more harmful than conventional ones.

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