Lead in plastics – Recycling of legacy material and appropriateness of current regulations

Lead has been detected in a wide range of consumer products, including those made of or with plastic. As plastics are recycled, toxic lead is transferred into new consumer products and pollutes human bodies and the environment. Scientists propose that plastic pollution be classified as hazardous depending on its lead content and according to existing regulations on consumer plastics.

Abstract: X-ray fluorescence spectrometry has been employed to measure Pb in a wide range of consumer and environmental plastics, including food-packaging material, household goods, electronic casings, beach litter and agricultural waste. Results reveal high concentrations of Pb (>1000 mg kg−1) in historical items that are still in use or circulation (e.g. toys, construction plastics, wiring insulation) and variable, but generally lower concentrations in more recently manufactured articles. Analysis of Br, Cl and Cr, proxies for brominated flame retardants, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and chromate pigments, respectively, suggests that as historical material is recycled, Pb from electronic plastics and pigments, but not PVC, is dispersed into a variety of newer products. Although most cases in the consumer sector comply with relevant EU Directives, some products that are non-compliant highlight shortfalls in regulations where recycling is involved and potential problems arising from the direct fashioning of industrial plastics into new consumer goods through attempts to be environmentally positive. The uncontrolled loss of historical and recycled plastics has also resulted in Pb contamination of the environment. Here, it is proposed that litter can be classified as hazardous depending on its Pb content and according to existing regulations that embrace consumer plastics.

The 2022 report of the Lancet Countdown is published as the world confronts profound and concurrent systemic shocks. Countries and health systems continue to contend with the health, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, while Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a persistent fossil fuel overdependence has pushed the world into global energy and cost-of-living crises. As these crises unfold, climate change escalates unabated. Its worsening impacts are increasingly affecting the foundations of human health and wellbeing, exacerbating the vulnerability of the world’s populations to concurrent health threats. In this report, experts discuss how fossil fuel dependence undermines global human and planetary health and wellbeing in myriad ways.

A leading group of obstetricians and gynecologists bring attention to the urgent crises of climate change and the risks it poses to pregnant people, developing fetuses, and reproductive health. They shed light on the need for solutions and global cooperation to address the issue, especially fossil fuel production.

Abstract: Climate change is one of the major global health threats to the world’s population. It is brought on by global warming due in large part to increasing levels of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity, including burning fossil fuels (carbon dioxide), animal husbandry (methane from manure), industry emissions (ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide), vehicle/factory exhaust, and chlorofluorocarbon aerosols that trap extra heat in the earth’s atmosphere. Resulting extremes of weather give rise to wildfires, air pollution, changes in ecology, and floods. These in turn result in displacement of populations, family disruption, violence, and major impacts on water quality and availability, food security, public health and economic infrastructures, and limited abilities for civil society to maintain citizen safety. Climate change also has direct impacts on human health and well-being. Particularly vulnerable populations are affected, including women, pregnant women, children, the disabled, and the elderly, who comprise the majority of the poor globally. Additionally, the effects of climate change disproportionally affect disadvantaged communities, including low income and communities of color, and lower-income countries that are at highest risk of adverse impacts when disasters occur due to inequitable distribution of resources and their socioeconomic status. The climate crisis is tilting the risk balance unfavorably for women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights as well as newborn and child health. Obstetrician/gynecologists have the unique opportunity to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for mitigation strategies to reverse climate change affecting our patients and their families. This article puts climate change in the context of women’s reproductive health as a public health issue, a social justice issue, a human rights issue, an economic issue, a political issue, and a gender issue that needs our attention now for the health and well-being of this and future generations. FIGO joins a broad coalition of international researchers and the medical community in stating that the current climate crisis presents an imminent health risk to pregnant people, developing fetuses, and reproductive health, and recognizing that we need society-wide solutions, government policies, and global cooperation to address and reduce contributors, including fossil fuel production, to climate change.

Fossil fuels contribute to climate change and petrochemicals, both of which increase maternal and child disease. Reducing fossil fuels can reap a double benefit for climate change and improved health. Health experts weigh in.

This is an EARTHDAY.ORG primer on plastics, microplastics and their additive chemicals, with over 120 sources, capturing what studies from around the world have been discovering about how we ingest microplastics, how they can bioaccumulate inside of us and what the health consequences might be. We have included recent studies, pilot studies, studies with large sample groups and some with far smaller ones.

The results, taken collectively, are alarming and demand answers. We can no longer just ‘trust’ that plastics are safe, we need them proven to be safe by independent research. Until such time—the precautionary principle should be applied.

The Endocrine Society and IPEN (International Pollutants Elimination Network) are proud to present this authoritative and comprehensive report to address how plastics can harm human health. An expert overview of twenty years of research shows that plastics pose a threat to public health because they contain a host of hazardous, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that leach and contaminate humans and the environment. The report catalogues EDCs in plastics, synthesizes decades of international research on the health impacts of EDC in plastics, and describes pathways of contamination and biological effects of the plastic chemicals.

Available in English, French, and Spanish.