Although Plastic is one of the most widespread substances in the world but its effects on human health aren’t fully recognized.But the exposure to plastic is growing into new zones of the natural environment and food chain, as plastic products break down into smaller particles and encapsulate harmful chemicals.As the production of plastic increases, this risk will only increase.
The research into the health consequences of plastics is aware that substantial intricate, interlinked, and complex human health effects are present at all stages of the lifecycle of plastics from the wellhead to the refinery and from the shelves of a store to our bodies, and from the management of waste to the ongoing effects of water, air, and soil pollution.
Together, the lifecycle effects of plastics paint a clear and alarming picture. To reduce the risks, it is necessary to end and reverses the increase in the production of plastics, their usage, and disposal across the globe.
To tackle the health crisis that lurks from view We must:
Use a lifecycle method to deal with Plastic.
The narrow approaches for assessing and addressing the impact of plastics currently are insufficient and ineffective.Making informed decisions about how to deal with the risks of plastic requires a life-cycle approach that can comprehend the full range of negative health effects.It is also essential to ensure that further and more complex environmental problems are not created to tackle this issue.
Consider the distinct risk for human health at each phase of the lifecycle of plastic, through exposure to the plastic particles and related chemicals.A majority of people around the world are exposed to various phases of the lifecycle:
Transport and Extraction
99% of the plastic used in transportation comes out of fossil fuels.The extraction of gas and oil specifically hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas release a variety of toxic substances into air and water, frequently in large quantities.More than 170 chemicals from fracking that is used as the primary fuel stocks used to make plastic have been identified to have human health effects, such as cancer as well as neurological, reproductive, and developmental toxicities, impairment of immunity, and much more.These toxic substances have been proven to cause harm directly to the eyes, skin, and other organs of the sensory including the nervous, respiratory, and digestive systems, the brain, and the liver.
Refining and Manufacture
The transformation of fossil fuel to plastic resins as well as other additives releases carcinogenic and other toxic substances into the atmosphere.Studies have shown that the consequences of exposure to these substances include impairment to the nervous system reproductive and developmental issues and cancer, leukemia, and genetic effects such as being born with low birth weight.Workers in the industry and communities that are near refineries are most at risk and are exposed to both acute and chronic exposures in emergency situations and releases that are not controlled.
Consumer Products and Packaging
The use of plastics can lead to inhalation or ingestion of huge amounts of microplastic particles, as well as hundreds of harmful substances that have potential carcinogenic or developmental, or endocrine-disrupting effects.
All of the plastic waste management techniques (including co-incineration, incineration gasification, and Pyrolysis) cause the emission of harmful metals like mercury and lead organic compounds (dioxins as well as furans) and acid gases and other harmful substances into the air, water, and soils.These technologies can result in the exposure of direct or indirect to harmful substances for the people working in the area and their communities by inhalation, ingestion of air contaminated by pollutants and direct contact with polluted soil or water, or consumption of food items that were created in an environment contaminated with these toxic substances.Toxins in the release of pollutants, fly ash, and slag that is left in a burning pile can travel for long distances, and settle in water and soil before eventually settling into the human body following accumulation within the tissues of animals and plants.
Plastic in the Environment
Once the plastic is introduced into its environment as micro- or macroplastics in the environment, it can be a problem for it to accumulate in food chains via soils used for agriculture as well as aquatic and terrestrial food chains, as well as even the supply of water.These plastics can release toxic substances or even increase the number of toxins already present found in our environment allowing them to be bio-available for indirect or direct human exposure.When plastic particles are degraded they create new surfaces that are exposed, allowing for the continued release of additives from the interior to the exterior of the particle within the environment as well as the human body.Microplastics that enter the body through exposures directly through inhalation or ingestion can cause a variety of health issues, such as the effects of genotoxicity, inflammation, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis. These can be linked to a variety of adverse health effects, including cardiovascular diseases, cancer IBD and diabetes, as well as rheumatoid arthritis chronic inflammation, autoimmune diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, and stroke.
Take note of, and strive to eliminate the uncertainty and information gaps that hinder the thorough evaluation of chronic and long-term health hazards throughout the lifecycle of plastics, and hamper the capacity of consumers or communities as well as the regulator to be able to make educated decisions.
Insufficient transparency of chemicals used in plastic and its manufacturing processes hinders a thorough analysis of its effects and hinders regulators to create adequate protections, customers from taking informed decisions, and fenceline communities to reduce their exposure.
More research is needed to evaluate the intersection of exposures, synergistic effects, and the cumulative impact of a mix of thousands of chemicals that are used in consumer products, understand the possibility of transfer of microplastics as well as toxic chemicals to livestock and crops, and to understand the harmful consequences of microfibers and other plastic microparticles that are being increasingly observed within human tissue.
Take advantage of a variety of options and solutions to limit exposure to toxic plastic since it has a complicated lifecycle that includes many different actors.
Every step of the plastic lifecycle, and between those stages, the solutions must be driven by respect for the health of humans as well as the right to live in a clean environment.Despite the uncertainties, current data on the adverse health consequences of the plastic lifecycle supports the implementation of a rigorous precautionary strategy for the life cycle of plastic as well as the reduction in overall the use of plastic in its production and usage.
Impact assessments on health that concentrate exclusively specifically on plastics as the main components in products but do not take into account the multitude of additives as well as their behavior throughout the lifecycle of plastic are not complete.
To combat the issue of plastic pollution, it is necessary to adapt and implement legal frameworks that provide information about the petrochemicals that are used in the products and processes in addition to a greater amount of independent research that fills in current and future knowledge gaps.
Solutions should be based on participation, transparency, along with the ability to rectify.Transparency is essential to determine the extent and nature of the exposure of people to harmful materials and to evaluate the potential health and mental effects of technologies promoted to be “solutions,” such as burning plastic and fuel-to-fuel technology.
Solutions should incorporate the right to meaningful participation in the decision-making process regarding plastic-related risk, as well as access to justice in the event of harm that results.
The measures that are successful on a small scale or about a specific product stream are usually weakened or countered by the development of new plastics, new additives, and the emergence of new exposure pathways that are interspersed within supply chains that cross boundaries, continents, and oceans.If we don’t address the impact of the entire lifecycle of plastic and its consequences, the current fragmented approach to addressing the plastic pollution crisis won’t work.
Our complete research provides a clear and concise conclusion that, despite the limited information available, the health effects of plastic through its entire lifecycle are huge.A variety of options and strategies are required to combat this menace to human health and rights.For them to succeed, these solutions should eventually cut down on the use, production, and disposal of plastics and the associated harmful chemicals.
Author: Engr. Husnain SultanEnvironmental Engineer.
Passionate to spread awareness regarding current and future environmental crisis.An international consultant, advisor and trainer with expertise in waste management, biomass energy, waste-to-energy, environment protection and resource conservation.