Plasticisers and Their Impact on Wildlife
In this chapter we discuss the current understanding on chemical exposures and effects in wildlife for phthalates, the most widely used plasticisers, and two other major components of plastics, bisphenol A (BPA) – a plastic monomer and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) – incorporated as flame retardants. Ecotoxicity studies have shown that phthalates (and BPA) are generally not acutely toxic to wildlife at environmentally relevant exposures (in the low µg l−1 range), but chronic effects, including disruption of hormone systems and reproduction, have been reported in almost all animal groups studied. Although phthalates (and BPA) do not readily bioaccumulate and undergo rapid biodegradation, their continual release into the environment makes them pseudo-persistent. In contrast with phthalates and BPA, PBDEs are highly bioaccummulative, and developmental exposures to some PBDEs cause liver and kidney toxicity, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption for environmentally relevant exposures in various wildlife phyla. Many of the effects of PBDEs in vertebrates occur due to disruptions to the thyroid hormone system. Concern relating to both human and wildlife exposure and (eco)toxicological effects has recently led to various regulations restricting the use of certain phthalates, bisphenols and PBDEs in plastics.