One-of-a-kind research has revealed that plastics are harmful to human health at every stage of life.
The Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health, which published its findings on March 21 in the Annals of Global Health, demonstrated the extent to which plastics harm those who come into contact with them, from coal miners who suffer from specific lung diseases to recycling plant employees who are more likely to develop heart disease, toxic metal poisoning, neuropathy, and lung cancer.
According to a press release from study co-author and Minderroo Foundation Head of Plastics and Human Health Professor Sarah Dunlop, “these findings put us on an unequivocal path to demand the banning or severely restricting of unnecessary, avoidable, and problematic plastic items, many of which contain hazardous chemicals with links to horrific harm to people and the planet.”
Experts from the Minderoo Foundation, the Boston College Observatory on Planetary Health, and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco were in charge of the ambitious report. It adopted a comprehensive approach to understanding the effects of plastics, concentrating on human health, ocean plastic pollution, and the financial and social justice consequences of the extensively used materials.
The lead author, director of the Program on Global Public Health and the Common Good and the Boston College Observation Center, claims that this is the first analysis to look at risks to human health caused by plastics across their entire life cycle, from the extraction of the coal, oil, and gas from which nearly all plastics are made, through production and use, and on to the point where plastic wastes are thrown into landfills, dumped into the ocean, or shipped overseas. According to Philip Landrigans’ press statement.
Every step of the manufacture and disposal of plastics, from mining the fossil fuels from which they are made to creating plastics or plastic fabrics to recycling them after use, puts employees’ health at risk. Making plastic fabrics, for instance, increases the risk of dying from interstitial lung disease, lung cancer, bladder cancer, and mesothelioma.
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Due to the hazardous compounds added to plastics as additives, consumers as well as members of so-called fenceline communities that live close to plastic production or disposal facilities, such as those in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, are at risk from plastics. Children and newborns are especially susceptible to the impacts of plastic additives, which include endocrine disruption, premature births, neurodevelopmental abnormalities, male reproductive birth defects, infertility, obesity, heart disease, renal disease, and cancer.
The costs of disease and impairment associated with just three prevalent plastic chemicals—PBDE, BPA, and DEHP—were projected by the study’s authors to exceed $920 billion in the United States in 2015.
The increase of microplastic and nano plastic particles (MNPs) in the environment and human bodies poses another potential concern to human health from plastics.
MNPs may be hazardous due to their physical and toxicological impacts as well as by acting as vectors that deliver toxic chemicals and bacterial infections into tissues and cells, according to emerging, albeit still insufficient data, the study’s authors.
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There Is Not an Equal Distribution of These Health Risks.
The study’s authors noted that these problems disproportionately affect low-income, disenfranchised, and marginalized groups, including workers, racial and ethnic minorities, fenceline communities, Indigenous groups, women, and children. These groups all played minor roles in the current plastics crisis and lack the political clout or the financial means to address it.
The commission demanded a robust Global Plastics Treaty, a legally enforceable international agreement that is presently being developed, in response to its conclusions, and one that contained a global cap on plastic output. Also, it backed the 2040 deadline for eliminating plastic pollution.
To do this, it’s critical to make a distinction between plastics that must be manufactured because they are absolutely necessary and plastics that can be securely disposed of and that must be phased out.
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According to Landrigan, using a lot of plastic, especially single-use plastic like product packaging, is not necessary. That is not by chance. As the globe becomes more environmentally friendly, the fossil fuel sector sees a decline in the demand for gasoline and other fuels, therefore they are diverting more and more coal, oil, and gas towards the production of plastic and developing new markets for plastic. The Global Plastics Pact aims to curtail this out-of-control production while protecting crucial applications for plastic.