Plastics and Your Health

May 2 , 7:00 pm 8:00 pm EDT

The negative impacts of plastic on human health are increasingly visible and increasingly costly. This March, the New England Journal of Medicine released the results of a study detecting micro- and nanoplastics in the carotid artery plaque of 58% of patients, and found that it measurably increased the risk of heart attack, stroke, and all-cause mortality in those patients.

What does this mean for us? On Thursday, May 2 from 7-8pm ET, please join Beyond Plastics for a conversation with Philip J. Landrigan, M.D. on Plastics and Your Health.

Plastic exacts a heavy price in human and environmental health. Micro-and nano plastics are present in the air, water, and soil, and throughout the food web. They are also present inside of us. Researchers have located micro- and nanoplastics in human intestine, placenta, liver, spleen, and lymph node tissues, as well as in blood, breast milk, and the fetus. Chemicals added to plastics such as PFAS, phthalates, and bisphenols are present in the bodies of nearly all Americans. Dr. Landrigan, who is a pediatrician and toxicologist, is at the forefront of research and thinking about what this means for our health and longevity. In the pages of March’s New England Journal he asks: Should exposure to microplastics and nanoplastics be considered a cardiovascular risk factor? What organs in addition to the heart may be at risk? How can we reduce exposure?

Register now to explore these critical and emergent questions.

April 12 , 7:00 am 8:40 pm EDT

Join PBS’s American Experience for a preview of POISONED GROUND: THE TRAGEDY AT LOVE CANAL, a new documentary film premiering Mon., April 22 at 9/8c on PBS stations nationwide.

Poisoned Ground: The Tragedy at Love Canal tells the dramatic and inspiring story of the ordinary women who fought against overwhelming odds for the health and safety of their families. In the late 1970s, residents of Love Canal, a working-class neighborhood in Niagara Falls, New York, discovered that their homes, schools and playgrounds were built on top of a former chemical waste dump, which was now leaking toxic substances and wreaking havoc on their health. Through interviews with many of the extraordinary housewives turned activists, the film shows how they effectively challenged those in power, forced America to reckon with the human cost of unregulated industry, and created a grassroots movement that galvanized the landmark Superfund Bill.

A panel discussion featuring film participants and makers will follow the preview.

Panelists:

Jamila Ephron (Writer, Producer, Director) has been producing and directing documentary films for nearly 20 years. Her most recent film was The Blinding of Isaac Woodard, which premiered on American Experience in 2022. Her previous works for the series include Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation and George W. Bush, among many other films.

Lois Gibbs was president of the Love Canal Homeowners Association and is also featured in the film. She led the successful effort to secure government-funded relocation and health testing for outer community residents. She is the founder and former executive director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

Carol Jones is a former resident of the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, New York. She is a living witness interviewed in the film, who recounts the efforts of her, her mother, and her community at Griffon Manor housing project to advocate for the rights of renters in the face of the Love Canal disaster.

The conversation will moderated by Cameo George. Cameo is an Emmy Award-winning producer, writer and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in documentary, broadcast television and digital content production. George has produced, developed and commissioned innovative programming at CNN, NBC News, ABC News and more.

March 28 , 7:00 am 8:30 am EDT

This event aims to provide guidance and increase clarity on why it is crucial to regulate chemicals to ensure that the plastics treaty will ensure the protection of human health. The session will highlight what approaches to regulation are possible and answer frequent questions delegates may have around chemicals and plastics.It will also review how other MEAs regulate chemicals in plastics and possible outcome of the negotiations.

The event is held in English, with interpretation to French and Spanish. Transcript is available for other languages.

This event is co-organized with IPEN, within the framework of the Geneva Beat Plastic Pollution Dialogues. It will provide guidance and increase clarity on why it is crucial to regulate chemicals to ensure that the plastics treaty will ensure the protection of human health.

A new report shows that plastic chemicals are more numerous and hazardous than previously thought. Plastics may contain any mix of more than 16,000 different chemicals, and at least 4,200 (or 26%) of these are highly hazardous to human and environmental health, according to an international team of scientists with the PlastChem Project. More than 400 hazardous chemicals of concern were found present in each major plastic type tested, including food packaging, and all tested plastics contained hazardous chemicals that can leach into food, homes, the environment, and human bodies.

The term “plastic chemicals” encompasses all chemicals detectable in plastics, including additives, processing aids, and impurities. A previous report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and other international institutions identified 13,000 plastic chemicals. The new PlastChem Report shows that there are more plastic chemicals than previously known, with more than 16,000 chemicals included in the newly launched PlastChem database, which accompanies the report.

This report is unique. It’s a systematic, comprehensive approach to understanding the chemical dimension of plastics, and it offers robust, science-based and future-proof options for responding to this challenge.

— Dr. Jane Muncke, PlastChem co-author and Managing Director at the Food Packaging Forum

To date, information about the chemicals in plastics has been kept largely proprietary by the plastics industry. Experts have had to carefully test plastics to determine which chemicals they contain. The PlastChem project aims to address the fragmented understanding of the chemicals in plastics and their impact on health and the environment. This initiative has created a high-quality, comprehensive state-of-the-science report synthesizing the evidence about chemicals in plastics to inform an evidence-based policy development for better protecting public health and the environment. Objectives of the PlastChem Project include:

  • Compiling a thorough overview of all known plastic chemicals.
  • Identifying plastic chemicals of concern and linking them to specific polymers.
  • Prioritizing plastic chemicals based on hazard, and other scientific, regulatory, and market data.
  • Synthesizing scientific evidence to guide informed policy development.

The existence of the PlastChem Project is especially important as countries are currently negotiating a Global Plastics Treaty to end plastic pollution. A strong treaty must not only require a rapid reduction in plastic production, but it also must address plastic chemicals. Experts with the PlastChem Project stress the need to find new and improved ways to regulate plastic chemicals, including hazard-based identification of groups of plastic chemicals of concern.

Governments across the globe want to tackle the plastics problem. However, this can only be achieved if problematic plastic chemicals are properly dealt with. The report provides the much-needed scientific evidence to make plastics safer for the environment and for us humans.

— Prof. Martin Wagner, coordinator of the PlastChem Project, lead author of the report, and Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Trondheim

Take Action

Tell U.S. representatives and world leaders to support a strong, binding UN Plastics Treaty that ends plastic pollution and injustice, and mandates strict and precautionary regulation of plastic chemicals. Join the movement to advocate for real solutions!

March 28 , 4:00 pm 5:00 pm EDT

While the adverse impacts of many toxic chemicals on physical health are widely recognized, their impacts on mental health are not as well understood.

A recently published literature review revealed a substantial body of evidence that links exposures to chemicals in our environment — including lead, PFAS and BPA — to children’s mental health symptoms such as anxiety and depression. It examined prenatal and childhood chemical exposures and mental health problems.

The review acknowledges the need to view this as an environmental justice issue. Children in low-income and communities of color are disproportionately burdened with harmful chemical exposures and thus face potentially increased risk.

In this webinar, CHE-Alaska will host Dr. Ashley James and Pangunnaaq Vi Waghiyi to discuss environmental chemical exposures and their impact on children’s mental health.

Dr. James, a Physical Scientists with the US Environmental Protection Agency, will present her recently published literature review on environmental chemical exposures and mental health outcomes in children. ACAT’s Environmental Health and Justice Director Vi Waghiyi will discuss how mental health disparities in Alaska Native youth demonstrate this as an issue of environmental injustice.