Parents are bombarded with daily information about potential harm to their growing children.
The health ramifications of plastics, found in our air and food, were recently pushed to the foreground with the report “The Release of Novel Entities.” It contained a specific drill down on plastics and untested chemicals.
In 2009, Johan Rockström, the founding director of the Stockholm Resilience Center (SRC), organized a global team of scientists to delineate “boundaries for a safe operating space for humanity” on Earth. The goal was to draw parameters around harmful actions and then bring about solutions to prevent “catastrophic environmental harm” from occurring. They came up with the road map “Planetary Boundaries,” a framework of nine interrelated issues caused by human activity that had put the planet at risk.
SRC called this new period, where humans play an outsize role in shaping the biosphere, the Anthropocene era.
Now, “novel entities” are out of control.
So what exactly are “novel entities”? Microplastics and plastic pollution combined with 350,000 synthetic chemicals developed by various industries. Included are highly toxic PCBs, POPs, pesticides, and even some antibiotics. Only a tiny percentage of those new chemical formulations have been vetted for safety.
Besides seeing plastic bags caught in trees or traveling down our streets like tumbleweed, plastic in one form or another is at the lowest depths in our oceans. It’s in the stomachs of fish (who identify them as food), deep-sea organisms, and tap water from countries worldwide.
The study showed that since 1950, there had been an increase of 50 times in chemical production. Projected estimates get even higher by 2050, demonstrating the changes that have occurred within the life span of a baby boomer.
Many chemicals are new in a “geological sense,” which could have significant “impacts that threaten the integrity of Earth system processes.”
Beyond Pesticides explained in July 2021 that “between 340,000 and 900,000 premature deaths each year can be linked to air pollution caused by the release of volatile organic compounds, such as pesticides, paints, and cleaning agents.” One of the authors stated that beyond coal-fired plant emissions and transportation pollution:
“If you’re not getting at the cleaning and painting products and other everyday chemicals, then you’re not getting at a major source.”
One of the problems in the category of pesticides is that the commercial chemical blends can’t always discern between the “pests” they are supposed to get rid of and the ones they are not targeting. This wide net of destruction creates an out-of-whack relationship between the interdependent water, air, and food systems.
Right now, the “total mass of plastics” on the planet supersedes the “total mass of all living mammals.” Genetic damage and a reduction in fertility in birds and marine animals have been discovered.
There is a link to children’s health, from allergies and asthma to issues created by neurotoxins found in the plastic in toys.
It’s key to remember that government can institute proactive changes through policy. Fossil fuels need to be kept in the ground and not made into plastic products. Consumers can reach out to brands to push for creative thinking about how products are packaged, with the goal of reuse. If passed, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act would go into effect on January 1, 2023. It would phase out many single-use products.
There is talk of creating a global treaty on plastics that would push governments to agree on a set of standards.
In the meantime, our elected officials need to hear from us about that this clear and present danger is unacceptable for our families.