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New Solut. 2012;22(4):427-48. doi: 10.2190/NS.22.4.d.

Chemical exposures of women workers in the plastics industry with particular reference to breast cancer and reproductive hazards.

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National Network on Environmental and Women's Health, York University, Canada.


Despite concern about the harmful effects of substances contained in various plastic consumer products, little attention has focused on the more heavily exposed women working in the plastics industry. Through a review of the toxicology, industrial hygiene, and epidemiology literatures in conjunction with qualitative research, this article explores occupational exposures in producing plastics and health risks to workers, particularly women, who make up a large part of the workforce. The review demonstrates that workers are exposed to chemicals that have been identified as mammary carcinogens and endocrine disrupting chemicals, and that the work environment is heavily contaminated with dust and fumes. Consequently, plastics workers have a body burden that far exceeds that found in the general public. The nature of these exposures in the plastics industry places women at disproportionate risk, underlining the importance of gender. Measures for eliminating these exposures and the need for regulatory action are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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