Bisphenols and phthalates, chemicals frequently used in plastic products, promote obesity in cell and animal models. However, these well-known metabolism-disrupting chemicals (MDCs) represent only a minute fraction of all compounds found in plastics. To gain a comprehensive understanding of plastics as a source of exposure to MDCs, we characterized the chemicals present in 34 everyday products using nontarget high-resolution mass spectrometry and analyzed their joint adipogenic activities by high-content imaging.
We detected 55,300 chemical features and tentatively identified 629 unique compounds, including 11 known MDCs. Importantly, the chemicals extracted from one-third of the products caused murine 3T3-L1 preadipocytes to proliferate, and differentiate into adipocytes, which were larger and contained more triglycerides than those treated with the reference compound rosiglitazone. Because the majority of plastic extracts did not activate the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ and the glucocorticoid receptor, the adipogenic effects are mediated via other mechanisms and, thus, likely to be caused by unknown MDCs.
Our study demonstrates that daily-use plastics contain potent mixtures of MDCs and can, therefore, be a relevant yet underestimated environmental factor contributing to obesity