Plastic Additive Used in IV Bags and Tubing Linked to Breast Cancer Relapse and Mortality

It’s news no one wants to hear. New research now shows that some of the very tools used to help keep breast cancer patients alive may actually be contributing to increased relapse and mortality rates due to a plastic additive in them.

The additive, known as DEHP, is a chemical in the phthalate family. It’s commonly used to bind makeup together, make ink stick to plastic bags, and more, but perhaps one of its most important uses has been making the plastic tubing and bags for IVs more pliable.

Photo: Adobe Stock/sudok1

Sadly, a new study shows that the DEHP in IV bags and tubing can interfere with breast cancer treatment and cause the cancer to become more resistant to the drugs, increasing mortality rates and strengthening the likelihood that cancer will return even after a patient is in remission.

The study, which was published in the journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy, investigated urine levels of MEHP in breast cancer patients. MEHP, which is the primary product that DEHP is broken down into after consumption, was found in higher concentrations in the urine of relapsed cancer patients than in that of non-recurrent breast cancer patients.

Photo: Adobe Stock/mailsonpignata

This news may not come as a surprise to all, however, because it’s far from the first adverse effect to come from phthalates. The chemical additive that exists in lots of our everyday products has been known to contribute to other cancers, diabetes, and infertility. The industries that use them are only now starting to shy away from the use of phthalates and advertise their products as phthalate-free.

“Regulators have long turned a blind eye toward the serious and harmful effect that phthalates have on our health,” says Pete Myers, chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of “This paper shows yet again what researchers worldwide are finding: We need safer chemistry in our products.”

Photo: Adobe Stock/Sergey

Researchers also looked at zebrafish and mouse models to learn more about the relationship between DEHP and cancer. They determined the mechanism by which DEHP decreased tamoxifen efficacy and found a new potential target for future treatments of recurrent or drug-resistant breast cancer: aryl hydrocarbon receptors (AhR).

The potential for new treatments is a little silver lining in this hazy cloud, but there’s still a lot of work to do to ensure that manufacturers stop using these dangerous phthalates in products people use every day. We need to work hard at fixing this issue, which is effectively poisoning people who are already sick.

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