Plastic Is Probably Harming Your Health — Here’s How

Plastic Is Probably Harming Your Health — Here’s How
Fonte: Truthout

A statement published earlier this year by the European Commission’s Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks identified 14 emerging health and environmental issues. Right near the top of that list was plastic waste. What was the nature of that concern? This was precisely the question raised by the statement, which emphasized the “urgent” need “for a better assessment of hazard and risk” associated with exposure to plastics of different shapes and form.

Before we unpack the pestilence of plastic though, let’s begin with a few basic facts. During World War II, US plastic production increased by 300 percent. Since then, plastic has become ever more ubiquitous, and by 2014, according to market research firm PlasticsEurope, had surpassed 300 million tons produced per year. There’s a good reason for that. The wondrous nature of plastic is that it’s lightweight, highly malleable and — here’s the real kicker — resistant to biodegradation. It’s already well known that this last property is turning out to be a huge problem as the plastic piles up, but what is less understood are the exact reasons why.

Plastic is made up almost entirely of hydrocarbon chains, which are an incredibly stable type of molecular bond. In cases where hydrocarbon chains occur naturally, that stability is a necessary component of an organism’s function and generally forms part of a greater ecosystem. Plastics, however, are synthetic, which means they’re no good as a food source for microorganisms (with at least one rare exception), and as we’ve so tragically come to learn, that is a major problem.

On one hand, there’s the obvious issue of what happens to all that accumulated plastic trash. We all know the answer to that one: it turns into giant islands of floating trash, it goes up into poor turtles’ nostrils, and is found in the stomachs of beached whales. In fact, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s recent Living Earth 2018 report, 90 percent of the world’s seabirds have plastic in their stomachs, a figure that is expected to rise to 99 percent by 2050.
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