• 01.17.13

PVC Plastic Is Why You’re Fat

Add another chemical to the list of things that are invading our bodies and making us gain weight.

If you’re looking to blame something for your weight issues, there is no shortage of scapegoats: Genetically modified food, BPA, diet soda, and your fork are just some of the things that in recent years have been shown to contribute to weight problems. A new study from University of California, Irvine researchers has added another excuse to the arsenal: PVC plastic.


The study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, exposed pregnant mice to a chemical called tributyltin (TBT) that’s found in PVC plastic and marine hull paint. The mice were exposed levels of the chemical that are similar to what’s found in the environment. What the researchers found is disturbing: an increase in liver fat, body fat, and fat-specific gene expression in the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the mice, even though none of them had been exposed to TBT. At all.

We can’t say for sure that these findings mimic exactly what happens in the human body, but according to study leader Bruce Blumberg, they do indicate that suggest that exposure to endocrine-disrupting compounds early in life can affect fat accumulation, even without any additional exposure later on.

But I don’t spend any time around PVC plastic, you’re saying. It doesn’t matter. TBT is commonly found in household dust, so kids who crawl around on the floor (that’s pretty much all of them) are likely to be exposed. Certain seafood can be contaminated because of TBT’s connection to marine hull paint, and nd the chemical is also sometimes used as a pesticide on crops. In other words, there isn’t much that individuals can do to avoid it.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.