As part of Monaco Ocean Week, the Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health has presented a never-before-seen analysis conducted by world-leading researchers from the fields of healthcare, the ocean and the environment to quantify plastic’s considerable risks to all life on earth.
In summary, the Commission said that plastic causes disease, impairment, and premature mortality at every stage of its life cycle, with the health repercussions disproportionately affecting vulnerable, low-income, minority communities and children.
Toxic chemicals that are added to plastic and routinely detected in people are known to increase the risk of miscarriage, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancers.
Plastic waste is ubiquitous in the ocean, on which we depend for oxygen, food and livelihoods, contaminating the water, the sea floor, and entering the marine food chain.
The Commission concluded that current plastic production, use, and disposal patterns are not sustainable and are responsible for significant harm to human health, the environment, and the economy. It recommends establishing health-protective standards for plastic chemicals under the Global Plastics Treaty, requiring testing all polymers and plastics chemicals for toxicity before entering markets, as well as post-market surveillance.
Professor Sarah Dunlop, Head of Plastics and Human Health at Minderoo Foundation said: “These findings put us on an unequivocal path to demand the banning or severely restricting unnecessary, avoidable, problematic plastic items, many of which contain hazardous chemicals with links to horrific harm to people and the planet.”
Regarding marine biology, the Commission’s findings reveal a greater need for measurement of the effects of plastic on marine species, especially concerning the ingestion of micro and nano particles.
Dr Hervé Raps, Physician at the Centre Scientifique de Monaco, added: “Plastic waste endangers the ocean ecosystems upon which all humanity depends. Besides their intrinsic effects, plastics can also be a vector for potentially pathogenic microorganisms.”
The positive news is that the Commission reports that many of plastics’ harms can be avoided via better production practices, alternative design, less toxic chemicals and decreased consumption.
Dr Philip Landrigan, Director of the Global Observatory on Planetary Health at Boston College, is particularly concerned about the lack of progress made by regulators. “Very few details about the identity, chemical makeup, potential toxicity of plastic chemicals are disclosed by plastic producers. In most countries, they are under no legal obligation to do so.”
FILE PHOTO: Plastic and other debris are seen on the shores of Cap Haitian beach, in Cap Haitian, Haiti October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Ricardo Rojas