24 August 2016

Environmental contaminants, for instance those found in plastics, can affect our metabolism and lead to obesity – according to LiU researcher Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna and several leading experts in a statement in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Photo credit: Lisa F. YoungIn October 2015, Linköping University research fellow Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna attended a conference on environmental contaminants and obesity together with leading toxicology researchers. His presentation was about epigenetics, and how previous exposure to these contaminants could be linked to diseases we currently suffer from. At the conference it became clear that most studies indicate that many of the environmental contaminants can contribute to obesity.

“Everything comes in plastic. Broccoli sold in supermarkets is wrapped in plastic. And many labs, all over the world and independent of each other, have concluded that when people are exposed to environmental contaminants, such as plastics, their metabolism is disrupted, especially if the exposure occurs during their youth,” says Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna, research fellow at Linköping University’s Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.Carlos Guerrero

However the effects of exposure to environmental contaminants aren’t immediately noticeable. In Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna’s own research, he has found that exposure to environmental toxicants such as pesticides, dioxins and plastics causes morbid changes that don’t become evident until three generations later.

What’s hidden in the package?

The conference that Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna attended in 2015 resulted in a joint statement, recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives, the world’s foremost journal in toxicology. In the statement, the researchers write that environmental contaminants such as bisphenol A, phthalates and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), common in food packaging, can contribute to the global obesity epidemic. The aim of the statement is to increase awareness amongst other researchers, politicians, government bodies, decision-makers and the general public.Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna

“In some countries it’s still permitted to have bisphenol A, BPA, in baby bottles If any of these chemicals are found in products for sale, we want consumers to be able to read this on the packaging,” says Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna, who himself has a toddler. He says it’s possible to choose BPA-free toys for children, or to at least partially avoid plastic, but that you can’t completely avoid exposure in day-to-day life.

Are these findings a reason for people to relax, and blame their overweight on environmental contaminants?

“I see this as a soup that contains a number of ingredients. Do you know exactly how much carrot is in the carrot soup? No. And it’s the same in this case. The obesity epidemic consists of a blend of excessive calorie intake, a lack of exercise and the effects of environmental contaminants. It’s not a reason for exercising less or eating poorly.”


Uppsala Consensus Statement on Environmental Contaminants and the Global Obesity Epidemic, Lars Lind, P. Monica Lind, Margareta H. Lejonklou, Linda Dunder, Åke Bergman, Carlos Guerrero-Bosagna, Erik Lampa, Hong Kyu Lee, Juliette Legler, Angel Nadal, Youngmi Kim Pak, Richard P. Phipps, Laura N. Vandenberg, Daniel Zalko, Marlene Ågerstrand, Mattias Öberg, Bruce Blumberg, Jerrold J. Heindel and Linda S. Birnbaum, Environmental Health Perspective (2026), DOI:10.1289/ehp.1511115