Carbon Capture, Use, and Sequestration

In an effort for industries to mitigate their contributions to climate change, the U.S. federal government has funded the development of a expensive and controversial technology to make doing so economically viable. But how viable, and safe, is this technology really?

The Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) has gathered evidence to comprehensively educate both the public and decision-makers about the risks associated with this technology, known as Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCS). With CCS, corporations emitting carbon dioxide capture, transport, and inject carbon underground, to store or use for industrial purposes. However, there are many risks associated with CCS that far outweigh the perceived benefits.

EIP has collected data on existing and proposed carbon dioxide pipelines in the USA, as well as information on abandoned oil and gas wells, and risk of carbon dioxide leaks. Its map overlays this information with community-level data, such as population, indications of tribal lands and other demographic information, and more.

It’s known plastic harms humans and other living beings, but do you known that these substances also affect Earth’s system as a whole? Due to mass-production and inadequate regulation of plastic and synthetic materials, Earth has entered a high-risk zone where irreversible change is likely.

Urgent action is in need to reduce production and toxicity of synthetic chemicals and plastics to bring the plant back into a safe and more balanced state. The health of Earth’s systems are critical to human survival, and a collapse of just one can have crippling effects across the planet.

Scientist have developed and evaluated a system marking nine planetary boundaries to act as a benchmark that the planet is safe and functioning stably. This NRDC brief discusses how plastic and chemical production and pollution stress the Earth’s planetary boundaries in serious and severe ways.

The European Environment Bureau (EEB) and ChemSec published the results of an initiative showcasing Europeans leaders testing positive for ‘Forever chemicals’ in their bodies. The detected levels of PFAS in the leaders’ bodies do not significantly differ from the average European, illustrating that no one is immune to PFAS—not even key European Officials. 

Leaders across EU nations, including Vice-Presidents, members of European Parliament, and others tested positive for at least 13 PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) “forever chemicals.” PFAS chemicals are linked to a wide range of severe health issues such as cancer, infertility, birth defects, and immune system disruptions. These results highlight failing chemical control measures and emphasize the pressing necessity of regulating hazardous materials to which people are exposed, in Europe and beyond.

Although Europe has some of the strictest chemical control policies in the world, it has not yet fully banned PFAS—a chemical category including more than 10,000 substances.

Dr. Pete Myers, Prof. Dr. Dick Vethaak, Prof. Dr. Terrence J. Collins, and Prof. Dr. Barbro Melgert have prepared a policy briefing on the UN Plastics Treaty, on behalf of the Plastic Health Council. These top health experts lay out the necessary aspects of an effective Treaty, and point out shortcomings of the existing Draft Treaty. Lastly, it highlights the latest scientific understanding of the risk of plastics and plastic chemicals, and additionally lays out short-term and long-term goals that expert health scientists propose for a Global Plastics Treaty that heeds the known science of the impact of plastic chemicals and plastic particles on human health.

Global production of plastic has resulted in the massive release of nano- and micro-plastics. Microplastics have found their way into humans, and scientists are developing a new methods to detect them. In one study, scientists found microplastics present in all 62 placentas tested from people who had recently given birth. They found various types of plastics, including polyethylene, PVC, and nylon.

The team’s methodology included saponification and ultracentrifugation to extract solid material from human placental tissue samples. They used highly specific and quantitative analysis of plastic with pyrolysis-gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy (Py-GC-MS). Placenta tissues were analyzed with fluorescence microscopy and automated particle count, which showed presence of micro-sized particles but not nano sized particles. Compared to other methodologies and tools, PY-GC-MS detected microplastics in all placenta samples.

The data that Py-GC-MS shows advancements in unbiased quantitative resolution and its application to detect microplastics in human placenta tissue samples. This method, with clinical data, could be essential to understanding the potential impacts of microplastics on pregnancy outcomes.

A critical issue from an occupational health perspective is how workers might be exposed to Nano- and microplastic particles (NMPPs). While much attention has focused on these plastic particles in water and food, less attention has been paid to their presence in the air. Thus, inhalation of NMPPs in the workplace should be a major concern.

Workplaces such as waste management and recycling operations could expose workers to NMPPs from the degradation of synthetic products. Office or telephone workers and custodial staff can be exposed with synthetic fibers from the carpet, along with many other professions who can be vulnerable to airborne NMPPs from the breakdown of plastic.

Inhaling NMPPs can lead to toxicity that is not yet labeled partly due to their complex chemical makeup, varied sizes, and frequent combination with other hazards, resulting in mixed exposures. It can lead to adverse health effects, especially effecting the lungs when inhaled.

Presently there are no occupational exposure limits for nano- and microplastics. In the absence of occupational exposure limits for nano- and microplastics workplace safety efforts should focus on minimizing potential exposure through appropriate engineering controls such as isolation cabinets, exhaust ventilation, and utilizing good industrial hygiene practices.