Plastic fumes can be extremely harmful if inhaled, and studies show that the likelihood for developing cancer is greatly increased by exposure to plastic fumes. In addition, harmful dioxins are a standard by-product of the combustion of plastic, according to Eureka Recycling.
Women who work around plastic fumes are 400 percent more likely to develop breast cancer, as reported by Global News. The referenced study in Environmental Health shows that endocrine-disrupting chemicals that contribute to cancer growth are found in the fumes of burned plastic.
When plastic is incinerated, it releases basic metals and fumes into the atmosphere that are known to carry cancer-causing dioxins, according to Eureka Recycling. These dioxins can enter the air as well as pollute soil and food. The dioxins are classified as toxic and may result in emphysema, cancer and birth defects, and even at very low levels, dioxins can cause serious immune system damage.
In addition to direct health effects, the burning of plastic results in long term environmental changes that affect human health, according to the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. Excessive greenhouse emissions are created when plastic is incinerated, and the process of greenhouse gas formation is a strong contributor to global warming.