During the Middle Ages, the skull and crossbones symbol represented death and was often placed on grave markers. In the 18th century “Jolly Roger” flags were flown on pirate ships during an attack and/or as a warning of an impending attack.
Around 1850, the image became a warning label for poisons, and skull and crossbones symbols are still used today to identify hazardous substances and chemicals.
The skull and crossbones sand toy found on the beach symbolizes the toxicity of plastics caused by chemical additives that have been associated with serious health impacts.
The following concerns about EDCs (endocrine-disrupting chemicals) have been outlined by the Endocrine Society:
- “EDCs are significant contributors to environmentally related diseases, and plastics are a pervasive and widespread source of exposure.”
- “Many common plastics contain and leach hazardous chemicals, including EDCs, that are harmful to human health. These chemicals disturb the body’s hormone systems and can cause cancer, diabetes, reproductive disorders, neurological impairments of developing fetuses and children, and death.”
- “Conservative estimates point to more than a thousand manufactured chemicals in use today that are EDCs.”
- “As plastic production increases, rates of acute and chronic diseases and deaths resulting from exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in plastics are anticipated to rise.”
To learn how you can reduce exposure, visit the Endocrine Society’s What You Can Do about EDCs page. In addition, the Mindaroo Foundation developed a Toxic Chemicals in Plastics chart that uses the skull and crossbones as a toxicity warning for plastics 1, 3, 6, and 7.
For more on plastics and health, visit the links below:
Endocrine Society—Plastics, EDCs & Health: Authoritative Guide
Center for International Environmental Law: Plastic and Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet
Plastic Health Coalition: Does Plastic Make Us Sick?
Mindaroo Foundation: Plastics and Human Health
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