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Researchers recently discovered that acetyl tributyl citrate (ATBC), commonly used in food packaging, would not be a good alternative to phthalates. It seems to interfere with the growth and health of neurons in the brain.
Acetyl Tributyl Citrate (ATBC) is the most widely used phthalate substitute plasticizer on the market. But according to new research, surrogate appears to interfere with the growth and maintenance of neurons.
Acetyl tributyl citrate, a toxic agent
As a reminder, phthalates are used in countless everyday products (plastic containers, cosmetics, paints, textiles…) to improve durability or allow materials to bend and stretch.
But for several years they have been the subject of much criticism. Identified as endocrine disruptors, they are particularly toxic for reproduction. In fact, manufacturers have used other substitution molecules, including acetyl tributyl citrate (ATBC). But these substitutes for phthalates. are they less harmful to health?
“Our study suggests that ATBC (…) could interfere with cells that maintain good brain health“, reveals Kyle Sease, of Central Washington University in Ellensburg.
For the study, the researchers grew cultures of neuroblastoma cells which, in terms of growth and division, behave similarly to glial cells that support and protect neurons in the brain. They then used molecular methods to study how ATBC and other chemicals affect genes and processes involved in cell division.
Result: neuroblastoma cells exposed to ATBC increased the expression of two genes associated with cellular stress (Nrf2 and p53) and also increased the production of an enzyme associated with cellular senescence (B-galactosidase), which seemed to stop cell growth.
The results therefore suggest that ATBC may reduce the ability of glial cells to protect neural cells and therefore ultimately lead to accelerated neurodegeneration and aging.
A possible effect on brain development
Another hypothesis raised by the researchers: exposure to ATBC could directly affect neurons and interfere with brain development. Since neurons typically don’t regrow once damaged, any effects on the brain would likely be permanent.
For all these reasons, they advise against its use, even if future work should confirm these initial conclusions.
“NOTWe believe this finding warrants further testing of ATBC at different doses, in different settings, and in whole organism models.“, conclude the researchers.
Glass, iron or porcelain should be preferred
Conclusions, which do not surprise Alice Desbiolles, epidemiologist and public health doctor.
“There are a lot of chemicals on the market. However, it is useless to try to substitute them with other equally toxic molecules., she says. “We must instead turn to neutral containers and materials, without migration of plastic materials to food. For this, glass, surgical stainless steel, iron, cast iron or porcelain should be preferred. Conversely, anything that is plastic, silicone, etc. should be avoided..”