Plastic isn’t so fantastic after all. Sure, you can mold it into any shape or form, which makes it really applicable in almost any industry. But if you are reading this, then you have, like me, been tapping around in the dark.
I feel like no one until now really told us about the health effects that plastic can have. Chemicals are leaching off into the food it is supposed to protect. And what about the time that it spends degrading in the environment?
It is ugly and painful to see, turtles with straws in their nose and stranded whales with stomachs full of plastic waste. Instead, most of us turn our eyes away and go on with our “normal” days. Plastic pollution is destroying the world as we know it and fast. So very fast that things are about to change very soon.
You probably heard that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050. That is not very far away.
According to science and Greta Thunberg, we have about 12 years left to bring carbon emission down, or else fires like we are seeing in Australia and the Amazon are going to be the norm.
Plastic is not a natural product, and instead of biodegrading into something organic, it breaks up into microplastic.
Microplastic has been found in human feces, it is in our drinking water and the air we breath.
Apparently, we consume the equivalent of one credit card per week. Without even knowing about the consequences, this can potentially have to our health.
While the chemicals used to make plastic are known to be endocrine disruptors, most people don’t actually know what that means.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic hormones in the body and attach themselves to receptors. Much like a key into a lock. The difference is that both the healthy hormone and the ED fit the lock, but the outcome can be dramatically different.
ED has been linked to cancers early developmental issues and many more…
So why is this being kept quiet?
My first thought is a conspiracy. There is a multi-billion dollar industry behind plastic, and quite frankly, it doesn’t want to be disturbed. As long as companies can still dig and frack for oil, which is needed to create plastic, we will keep going, although they are quite aware that plastic is bad for the environment.
A straightforward solution to this problem could be to change the amount it costs to make virgin plastic from crude oil. If, for instance, recycling plastic would become cheaper than creating new plastic, the scale would tip over to the other side and as a result, we will see an immediate change in behavior.
In this Ted talk with Andrew Forrest, I found a glimpse of hope.
Third world countries suddenly would have access to a lot of wealth. All they need to do is collect separate and wash the plastics. It becomes a valuable resource again.
Plastic has made its way into the Food Chain
Since plastic is very brittle, it has found its way into our food chain.
From discarded fishing nets, aka ghost nets, to mismanaged waste. Every minute a garbage truck full of trash finds its way into the ocean.
Often people don’t realize that the ocean starts at the drainage system in their city.
From a cigarette, the most littered item in the world (that is not biodegradable and made from plastic), to packaging that we use for seconds at a time. Once it is created, it takes 1000s of years to break down. It will never biodegrade.
The plastics that have been named biodegradable are only biodegradable in special facilities in which a mix of bacteria under a controlled temperature provides a stable environment for the composting process to occur.
There are only a few facilities in the world that are capable of this decomposing process.
What are the Effects of plastic pollution on human health?
So we know that our oceans have become that biggest dump of them all. Most of it we don’t see with the naked eye, which may give us the illusion that there is no problem in the first place.
Plastic absorbs toxins, much like a sponge on their way through the ocean. As ingested by animals and then later by us they cause severe problems. We, as humans, consume contaminated fish and mammals.
While we know the problems caused by the chemicals used to make plastic soft or hard, flexible or stiff. These are the same chemicals that harm the environment and our health.
If you would like a more in-depth article I found this one from the national geographic.