Scientists chronicle the global harms from plastic

A landmark analysis by almost 50 internationally renowned experts reveals plastic is doing untold harm to humanity.


* A new coalition of experts including public health and environmental scientists have attempted to calculate the full suite of harms plastics cause globally

* The analysis covers detrimental effects from the mining of oil, gas and coal to make plastic, its production involving more than 10,000 often toxic chemicals, its use and its disposal

* It looks at impacts including human health and well-being, the environment and particularly the ocean, and the economy


* During use and disposal, plastics release toxic chemicals into the environment and into people

* Plastic additives disrupt endocrine function and increase risks for premature births, neurodevelopmental disorders, male reproductive birth defects, infertility, obesity, cardiovascular disease, renal disease and cancers

* Chemical-laden micro- and nanoplastics formed when plastics degrade in the environment can enter living organisms, including humans

* Emerging, albeit incomplete evidence indicates they may cause harm due to their physical and toxicological effects

* Babies in the womb and young children are at particularly high risk of plastic-related health effects, due to the high sensitivity of early development to hazardous chemicals

* Plastic-associated exposures are linked to increased risks of prematurity, stillbirth, low birth weight, birth defects of the reproductive organs, neurodevelopmental impairment, impaired lung growth and childhood cancer

* Early-life exposures to plastic-associated chemicals also increase the risk of other diseases emerging later in life

* Coal miners, oil workers and gas field workers who extract fossil fuels used to make plastic suffer increased mortality including from dust-related lung disease and heart disease

* Plastic production workers are at increased risk of leukaemia, brain cancer, breast cancer, mesothelioma, neurotoxic injury and decreased fertility

* Workers producing plastic textiles die of bladder cancer, lung cancer and mesothelioma

* Plastic recycling workers have increased rates of cardiovascular disease, toxic metal poisoning, neuropathy and lung cancer

* People living adjacent to plastic production and waste disposal sites experience increased risks of health problems including premature birth, low birth weight, asthma, childhood leukaemia, and heart and lung disease


* It’s estimated that in 2015 the health-related costs of plastic production alone exceeded $250 billion international dollars (an artificial currency used to eliminate purchasing power differences when comparing national economies)

* In the US, health costs of disease and disability caused by the plastic chemicals PBDE, BPA and DEHP exceeded $920 billion international dollars in 2015

* Plastic production results in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.96 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide annually

* Using the US Environmental Protection Agency’s social cost of carbon metric, the estimated annual cost of of those emissions was put at $341 billion international dollars


* Current patterns of plastic production, use and disposal are not sustainable result in significant harm to human health, the environment, and the economy

* There is an urgent need for the world’s nations to adopt a strong and comprehensive Global Plastics Treaty, in line with a UN resolution to end plastic pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024

* The commission says the treaty must include a cap on global plastic production with targets, timetables and national contributions, similar to how nations account for their climate change action

* The commission wants the treaty to extend to the thousands of chemicals used to make plastics

* It also wants new health standards for plastics and plastic additives, full disclosure of all components, and systems to trace those components

SOURCE: The Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health


Tracey Ferrier
(Australian Associated Press)


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