Plastic is a common material used in consumer products, food packaging, and laboratory research. While plastic offer convenience to customers at the same time there are serious risk to human health and environment from its widespread use. Three common and mostly used plastic in domestic purpose have been shown to leach toxic chemicals when heated, worn or put under pressure these include Polycarbonate which leaches bisphenol A (BPA), Polystyrene which leaches styrene, PVC which breaks down into vinyl chloride sometimes leaches phthalates. This leach out implicated in several human health disorders such as reduced fertility & reproductive tract abnormalities, hormonal, brain & behaviour problems, impaired immune functions and various forms of cancer. According to estimates, minimum of 8 billion pounds of BPA are used by manufacturers yearly, this is important information relevant for the laboratory. This is so because, if household plastics could cause damaging effect to us, the plastics that we use in the lab may also do the same to the bioassays.
Chemicals in Plastic
The significance of using high quality consumables in biological research is felt by the scientific community than ever before. This change is due to the growing concerns and increasing numbers of authenticated findings published about the consumables spoiling experimental results. Not all consumables are equally created. An insight in to how the manufacturing process of the lab plastic wares can give a better idea on what can affect assay results. Though the tips and tubes are made of polypropylene, the manufacturers add different chemicals during the manufacturing process to achieve desired outcomes, some are unavoidable for production others are avoidable and have been shown to influence assays, thus are critical. Any of these classes of compounds can potentially leach into liquids that come into contact with plastic surface. Especially while working with organic solvents, temperature and time dependant incubation steps, the leachable interact with the biological samples and affect assay results.
Advantage of Accuracy
To improve experiments and to get confident on the accuracy of results, one must consider three factors, these include product specification for consumables, secondly production process should be considered as a certificate from manufactures, there should be no use of plasticisers (softeners) and biocides, all dyes should be free from organic substances and heavy metals. The consumables should ideally be manufactured from virgin plastics and an automated manufacturing under clean-room conditions for most products to eliminate human interaction as source for contamination and ensure highest quality of consumables for diagnostic labs. Lastly, quality control is of utmost importance as critical purity levels of consumables in diagnostic sector. Many consumables can be sterilized by autoclaving, but molecules such as DNA, RNases and endotoxins are very stable and difficult to remove entirely or inactive by this method. Hence, the choosing a consumable which is ready should be free from pyrogen, endotoxins, Human DNA , Bacterial DNA (E. coli), RNase, PCR inhibitor, DNase, ATP and more.
We have to understand that not all consumables used in diagnostic labs are created equal. Besides the obvious product features, there are huge differences in quality and purity. Chemicals that some manufacturers use during production can negatively affect the assay. The outcome of assays can strongly depend on the specific consumable used during the experiment. Next time when you experience some errors in your measurements make sure you check the consumables used.