Forever Chemicals in Freshwater Fish

Drinking water systems across the U.S. are contaminated with the hazardous “forever chemicals” known as PFAS. The presence of these toxic chemicals in water is known to harm humans who are exposed to them.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Freshwater Fish Map shows how PFAS also contaminate the bodies of fish in rivers, lakes and streams, where these chemicals also pose a risk to human health.

There is virtually nowhere on Earth today that remains untouched by plastic and ecosystems are evolving to adapt to this new context. While plastics have revolutionized our modern world, new and often unforeseen effects of plastic and its production are continually being discovered. Plastics are entangled in multiple ecological and social crises, from the plasticization of the oceans to the embeddedness of plastics in political hierarchies.

The complexities surrounding the global plastic crisis require an interdisciplinary approach and the materialities of plastic demand new temporalities of thought and action. Plastic Legacies brings together scholars from the fields of marine biology, psychology, anthropology, environmental studies, Indigenous studies, and media studies to investigate and address the urgent socio-ecological challenges brought about by plastics. Contributors consider the unpredictable nature of plastics and weigh actionable solutions and mitigation processes against the ever-changing situation. Moving beyond policy changes, this volume offers a critique of neoliberal approaches to tackling the plastics crisis and explores how politics and communicative action are key to implementing social, cultural, and economic change.

Editors: Trisia Farrelly, Sy Taffel, Ian Shaw

Contributors: Sasha Adkins, Sven Bergmann, Stephanie Borrelle, Tridibesh Dey, Eva Giraud, Christina Gerhardt, John Holland, Deidre McKay, Laura McLauchlan, Mike Michael, Imogen Napper, Tina Ngata, Sabine Pahl, Padmapani L. Perez, Jennifer Provencher, Elyse Stanes, Johanne Tarpgaard, Richard Thompson, and Lei Xiaoyu.

Material Research L3C has launched an interactive website, materialresearch.world, which features a Global Atlas of toxic chemical production facilities and links to groundbreaking reports about them.

Founded in 2019, Material Research works with reporters, NGOs and community leaders to fill gaps in understanding toxic and unjust supply chains.

“Our mission is to gather and deliver information that unites communities around the world against toxic pollution and other injustices,” said Jim Vallette, president of the charitable and educational “low-profit” (L3C) company based in Southwest Harbor, Maine.

The Material Research Atlas of Toxic Chemical Manufacturing identifies 465 factories that it has investigated with its partners. For U.S. facilities, it provides links to greenhouse gas, toxic chemical and other EPA records and related reports.  Material Research developed the Atlas with the support of the Geographic Information Systems Laboratory at College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine.

Vallette has noted that the Atlas is a precursor to a larger open access data initiative under development by the company and other partners.

Material Research World also features a Resources page, with links to dozens of reports by leading environmental and human rights organizations and news outlets.

Microplastics have been extensively documented in marine ecosystems and food webs with devastating impacts. To solve this global crisis, identifying the polymer composition is key for resolving the material origin, geographic source, and ecosystem life cycle of ocean plastics. Visually based techniques, importantly, are not diagnostic. Raman spectroscopy is an increasingly preferred identification method for its accuracy and reduced likelihood of misinterpretation, though it can be inaccessible due to cost of paywalled spectral libraries and availability of relevant polymer spectra for comparison. Here, we provide an open-access reference library of high-quality, broad-spectrum Raman spectra of major polymer categories germane to marine environments. The library includes high-quality spectra from: (a) pristine anthropogenic polymers newly sourced from manufacturers (n = 40), (b) weathered anthropogenic polymers collected from used consumer, beachcast, agricultural, and fishery sources (n = 22), and (c) biological polymers representing diverse marine taxa, trophic levels, and tissues (n = 17). We hope this reference library can help this rapidly expanding scientific community and facilitate progress in the global plastic pollution crisis.

Environment and Human Health, Inc. (EHHI), a non-profit organization of physicians and public health professionals, is releasing its newly published research report on the dangers of plastics and microplastics to the environment and to health. The report calls for sweeping policy initiatives that need to be enacted by international, federal, state, and city governments, as well as calling on corporations to institute new policies that will better protect the public from harmful plastic and microplastic exposures.

This thesis by Christine Bühler at the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, compares the legal solutions regulating disposables in the European Union (EU), Canada, and Switzerland. It analyzes whether they explicitly intend or implicitly are capable of reducing environmental burdens caused by producing, using, and disposing of such goods. The research findings illustrate that numerous existing legal solutions are beneficial for preventing environmental harm, yet, many of them should be revised in order to have an even greater impact.