Evidence suggests that several chemical additives in plastic products and packaging are poisoning consumers, harming the environment and undermining recycling initiatives, according to a new study, which calls for the development of safer alternatives.
In a report released Wednesday, the Regional Activity Center for Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP / RAC), warned that exposure to even small amounts of harmful plastic chemical additives could lead to cancer, damage to immune and reproductive systems, impaired intellectual functions, and developmental delays.
Chemicals include flame retardants, perfluorinated chemicals, phthalates, bisphenols, and nonylphenols, which can be found in common consumer goods including children’s toys, food packaging, electronics. and textiles.
“This report is remarkable because it identifies hazardous chemical additives in common and widely available products and illustrates how they pose a threat to health and the environment, whether in products, waste, recycling, disposal. landfill or incineration, ”said Dr Sara Brosche of the International Network for the Elimination of Pollutants (IPEN).
From production to incineration
IPEN participated in the study with United Nations convention groups, scientific experts and environmental monitoring bodies.
The study also looked at the harmful effects of chemicals at all stages of a plastic product’s shelf life, from production to use, recycling, landfill and incineration.
At all stages, the study found that the chemical additives present in the plastic presented different types of hazards to humans, marine life and the air.
For example, the incineration of plastic waste containing toxic dioxins leads to the development of ozone-depleting substances and greenhouse gases.
“Now is the time to act on science to reduce toxic chemical additives from plastics and pollution in all its forms and to seek sustainable ways to live in harmony with nature,” said Gaetano Leone, senior official at the ‘UN Environment. Program (UNEP) and expert in the Mediterranean region.
He urged the world to tackle what he called the “plastic pandemic” to combat the decline of the environment.
“Taming the leviathan of plastic waste, which suffocates marine life and releases highly hazardous substances into the environment, must become a priority,” he said.
Even recycling plastic could prove to be counterproductive and harmful to humans, continually exposing people and the planet to dangerous chemicals, the report notes.
Of particular concern is the recycling of plastics containing POPs or persistent organic pollutants, many of which are banned or regulated internationally, due to their harmful effects, including the possible development of cancer in humans.
In the past, POPs were widely used in pesticides, which were sprayed on farms, killing pests but also causing significant soil pollution.
Rolph Payet, another senior UNEP official, said in order to solve the problem and ensure better management of plastic waste, there should be more transparency on the labeling of plastics, which contain additives.
The report also recommended more investment in the production of new, safer materials, which can be used as alternatives to toxic plastics.
He also urged industries producing hazardous plastics to take more responsibility and find alternatives.
Griffins Ochieng, director of the Center for Environment, Justice and Development in Kenya urged people to better understand how chemicals in plastics spread to avoid their toxic contamination.