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The Arctic’s Plastics Crisis: Dangers to health and human rights of Indigenous peoples

June 4 , 1:00 pm 2:00 pm EDT

The Arctic is warming nearly four times faster than the rest of the world, and Arctic Indigenous Peoples bear the brunt of the plastic and petrochemical industry’s toxic operations. Plastics and chemicals from all over the world are transported on atmospheric and oceanic currents northward, where they accumulate in the Arctic through a process called global distillation. 

The production and use of fossil fuels by the petrochemical industry is the starting point for the damage faced by the Arctic related to plastics, chemicals, and climate change. These threats have combined to poison the lands, waters, and traditional foods of Arctic Indigenous Peoples, with ongoing health effects that threaten their cultures and communities. 

A recent report jointly published by ACAT and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) synthesizes recent evidence from more than 250 studies on the interconnected threats from plastics, petrochemicals, and climate change that harm Arctic Peoples. The report describes how the Arctic is at risk from chemicals and plastics throughout their toxic life cycle and offers recommendations in support of a just transition to a regenerative economy. 

CHE-Alaska will host Dr. Therese Karlsson, Pamela Miller and Dr. Dalee Sambo Dorough in a discussion on how the combined effects of plastic pollution, petrochemical operations, and climate change are harming the health and well-being of communities in the Arctic. Pamela Miller, ACAT’s Executive Director and IPEN’s Co-Chair, and Dr. Karlsson, IPEN’s Science & Technical Advisor, are the lead authors of the report. Dr. Sambo Dorough, Senior Scholar and Special Advisor on Arctic Indigenous Peoples at the University of Alaska Anchorage, will discuss the compounding effects of chemicals and plastics on Arctic Indigenous Peoples as a human rights issue.

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