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Image of Commentary: Plastic research needs independent scientists free of industry influence

Commentary: Plastic research needs independent scientists free of industry influence

Editor’s note: The note below from Environmental Health Sciences’ founder and chief scientist, Pete Myers, is a featured comment on a recent Washington Post article on microplastic inhalation. Environmental Health Sciences publishes I have been involved for almost 30 years in the health effects of plastics, especially the chemicals that are their basic ingredients. This article is a major step in the right direction to draw attention to the potential effects of plastics on health.The article quotes an email from the American Chemical Council, one of the major representatives of the plastics industry, in which they say that the plastics industry has committed $15 million to research into microplastics. That’s vastly better than their PR at the recent UN negotiations on a global plastic treaty (which I attended), in which the plastics industry argued that plastics were so essential to civilization that efforts to constrain their production posed threats to society.While $15M might sound good, if they repeat their normal process it will largely be research that refutes any health concerns. If they want to be taken seriously, they should set up a funding mechanism that insulates their interests completely from any decision making in the research process. Fund independent scientists to carry out the research, free from industry influence.Otherwise it will become another PR effort that follows the well worn path of tobacco science.

Image of Webinar: 3M's decades-long cover-up of the

Webinar: 3M’s decades-long cover-up of the “forever chemicals” in your blood

This July 24 webinar, sponsored by Beyond Plastics, features ProPublica journalist Sharon Lerner discussing her recent expose about a 3M scientist who discovered PFOS in the blood of the general public and then learned that the company had buried evidence that the chemical was in everyone’s bodies decades earlier.

Image of Scientists find microplastics in all human semen samples in new study

Scientists find microplastics in all human semen samples in new study

A new study has discovered microplastics in every semen sample tested, raising concerns about potential reproductive harm.Damian Carrington reports for The Guardian.In short:Researchers found microplastics in all semen samples from 40 healthy men in Jinan, China.Previous studies detected similar contamination in the semen of men in Italy and in human testicle samples.Microplastics have also been found in human blood, placentas, and breast milk, highlighting widespread contamination.Key quote:“As emerging research increasingly implicates microplastic exposure as a potential factor impacting human health, understanding the extent of human contamination and its relation to reproductive outcomes is imperative.”— Ning Li, Qingdao UniversityWhy this matters:The health implications of microplastics are not fully understood, but previous studies have linked them to inflammation, disruption of endocrine functions, and potential harm to cellular structures. In the context of reproduction, these particles could interfere with sperm function and viability, potentially contributing to declining fertility rates observed globally.

Image of Corporate misuse of recycling symbols has misled consumers about environmental impact

Corporate misuse of recycling symbols has misled consumers about environmental impact

The recycling symbol, once a beacon of environmental responsibility, has become a tool for corporations to falsely assure consumers that non-recyclable products are eco-friendly.Kate Yoder reports for Grist.In short:The ubiquitous recycling symbol is often used on products that cannot actually be recycled, especially plastics, misleading consumers.Confusing and inconsistent recycling rules across the country exacerbate the issue, leading to contamination and inefficiencies in the recycling process.Stricter regulations are being considered to address misleading recycling labels and shift waste management costs back onto manufacturers.Key quote: “The magnetic, gravitational power of recycling” has led “policymakers and the public to just talk more and more and more about recycling, and less and less and less about anything else.” — David Allaway, senior policy analyst at the Oregon Department of Environmental QualityWhy this matters: Misinformation about recyclability undermines genuine environmental efforts and contributes to widespread plastic pollution, which poses significant health risks, including cancer and heart disease. Understanding the reality of recycling is crucial for more effective environmental policies and practices. Read more: Recycling plastics “extremely problematic” due to toxic chemical additives.

Image of Research highlights health risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Research highlights health risks of endocrine-disrupting chemicals

New studies underscore the health hazards of endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in plastics, advocating for stricter regulations to mitigate their impact on human health.Marilynn Larkin reports for Medscape.In short:Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like bisphenols, phthalates, and PFASs are linked to severe health issues, including cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.The cost of diseases associated with plastic pollution is estimated at $340 billion annually in the U.S., with significant impacts on public health and the economy.Community efforts in North Carolina have revealed widespread PFAS contamination, highlighting the need for a holistic approach to managing plastic pollution.Key quote: “The bottom line is that there is a substantial business case for preventing the use of chemicals, and plastics in particular.” — Leonardo Trasande, MD, New York UniversityWhy this matters: EDCs from plastic pollution are linked to severe health issues, from preterm births to cardiovascular diseases. Stricter regulation is important for reducing exposure and protecting public health as well as reducing the economic burden of related diseases. Read more: Vandenberg, Trasande, Sargis: Understanding endocrine disruptors.

Image of “Cancer Alley” residents exposed to more than  the lifetime exposure limit for  cancer-causing compound: Report

“Cancer Alley” residents exposed to more than the lifetime exposure limit for cancer-causing compound: Report

HOUSTON – Louisiana communities are experiencing up to 1,000 times the lifetime exposure limit for the cancer-causing compound ethylene oxide, according to a new study published in Environmental Science and Technology. In February 2023 Johns Hopkins University researchers measured ambient ethylene oxide in one of the most polluted portions of Louisiana, often called the “Cancer Alley” of the United States. The 85-mile stretch of land along the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge to New Orleans is lined with more than 150 petrochemical facilities, and previous studies have found most residents along the 85-mile stretch are in the top 10% of exposure to air toxics related to cancer and are more likely than people that live elsewhere to develop prostate, lung and breast cancers. The burden of cancer-risk compounds is higher for communities of color. The new report found ethylene oxide measurements were nine times higher than previously estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA notes that lifetime cancer risk should not exceed 10.9 parts per trillion, yet the study measured an average of 31.4 parts per trillion. In some parts closest to facility fencelines, the number grew to 140 parts per trillion. “Accurate measurements of ethylene oxide are needed to understand exposure and cancer risks for communities near to petrochemical facilities,” said lead researcher Peter DeCarlo of Johns Hopkins University. “We encourage state, local and federal agencies to prioritize accurate emissions data to properly estimate risks to communities and protect public health and the climate—in Cancer Alley and beyond.”Ethylene oxide is a colorless gas used in petrochemical facilities to make other chemicals and resins. Considered a known carcinogen by the EPA, ethylene oxide poses substantial health risks when inhaled, and it has been linked to blood, lymph and breast cancers to those exposed.”We are sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Sharon Lavigne, founder and director of RISE St. James, an environmental justice organization dedicated to opposing petrochemical development in the St. James Parish. “We’re flat-footed, exhausted from enduring these health risks and demand immediate action to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods.”Along the same coast as “Cancer Alley” is Houston. Self-titled the petrochemical capital of the nation, it is estimated to have more than 600 petrochemical facilities. The city has struggled with air monitoring in the past, and was awarded $500,000 to increase air monitoring of ethylene oxide and other chemicals last year. Concentrations of ethylene oxide are expected to drop in the future according to the EPA. In April of this year the EPA updated its regulations related to hazardous air pollutants that aim to reduce cancer risk and air pollution at 200 chemical facilities. The agency is targeting six cancer-causing compounds, including ethylene oxide. Nearly 24% of the impacted facilities are in Louisiana and 40% are in Texas.*Editor’s note: Bloomberg Philanthropies Beyond Petrochemicals campaign provided funding for this report. EHN also receives some funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies.


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