Many soft plastic lures are made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Manufacturers use plasticizers, often compounds called phthalates, to keep lures soft and pliable. Phthalates leach out rapidly because they do not chemically bind to the PVC resin.
Several research studies, though, have identified phthalates as endocrine disrupters. In studies, rodents exposed to high doses of certain phthalates have exhibited changes in hormone levels. Succeeding generations of the test population have also had birth defects.
The extent to which they disrupt the endocrine system is disputed and some researchers have stated that the existing research needs to be conducted on a larger sample.
Phthalates comprise about 50 to 80% of soft, plastic baits. Given their volume and the potential dangers, we might question our reasoning for exposing fish directly to soft, plastic baits by using them as lures. Quite honestly, we think that the jury is still out. Numerous researchers, however, are finding male fish, throughout North America, that have female characteristics. Bass, in particular, seem to be susceptible to this anomaly. Are phthalates a cause? It certainly gives an individual pause to think.
Consider, though, that plastic, according to many surveys, accounts for 70% of marine debris. Plastic is indestructible settles in the sediment of aquatic ecosystems. According to noted angler, Keith Warren, "the bottom of Lake Okeechobee is said to be coated with enough soft plastic lures to make a pile large enough to cushion a tank dropped from a plane." In addition, discarded and lost soft plastic lures are often ingested by fish and become lodged in their gastrointestinal tract.
We certainly find enough motivation to look for alternatives to soft plastic baits based on the trash issue alone. As more fish are found that display reproductive abnormalities, we feel that it is important to consider the damage that phthalates may cause. The future of fish is definitely in our best interest.
There are numerous biodegradable alternatives to soft, plastic baits. FoodSource, Berkley, and Fishbites all produce baits that work and that will degrade if they fall off in the water.
For More Conservation Tips visit www.recycledfish.org