Plastic is toxic at every stage of its life cycle
Katherine Martinko feistyredhair February 22, 2019

At no point does it ever stop harming us.

In case you had any doubts about how bad plastic really is, a new study out of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) has just revealed that plastic is toxic at every stage of its life cycle.

The 75-page document is a sobering read. It points out the shortsightedness of focusing on specific moments in the plastic life cycle, rather than the entire picture. We know that oil refining, microplastics, plastic packaging, and recycling are huge problems on their own, but put them all together and you have an even more dire situation on your hands.

The report reveals “numerous exposure routes through which human health is impacted at each stage”. In other words, quitting single-use disposables and living zero-waste doesn’t mean you’re safe. Your health – and that of your family – continues to be affected by plastic in ways you might not even realize. These include:

Extraction and Transportation of fossil feedstocks for plastic, which releases toxic chemicals like benzene, VOCs, and 170+ fracking fluid chemicals into the air. These are inhaled or ingested, leading to immune dysfunction, cancer, and neuro-, reproductive, and developmental toxicity, among other things.
Refining and Manufacturing of plastic resins and feedstocks is linked to “impairment of the nervous system, reproductive and developmental problems, cancer, leukemia, and genetic impacts like low birth weight.”
Consumer use of plastic products exposes users to countless unnamed chemicals (which are not listed as ingredients), heavy metals, carcinogens, and microplastics. People ingest, inhale, and touch these to their skin.
Plastic waste management, especially “waste to energy” incineration, releases toxic chemicals into the air, which are absorbed by soil, air, and water, causing indirect harm to people and communities nearby (and sometimes far away).
Fragmenting of plastic results in microplastic pieces entering the environment and human body, leading to “an array of health impacts, including inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis.”
Degradation of plastic results in more chemical leaching. “As plastic particles degrade, new surface areas are exposed, allowing continued leaching of additives from the core to the surface of the particle in the environment and the human body.”

Where does one even begin with this information?

In a way, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. We know plastic is an environmental scourge with real health implications, but to see it analyzed so comprehensively makes the issue more urgent than ever.

The study authors call for plastic exposure to be treated as a human rights issue, saying we need laws that require accurate information about what goes into plastic products at all stages of manufacture and transparency in the development of solutions.

Von Hernandez, global coordinator for the Break Free From Plastic movement, is quoted in the report’s executive summary:

“It is shocking how the existing regulatory regime continues to give the whole plastic industrial complex the license to play Russian roulette with our lives and our health. Plastic is lethal, and this report shows us why.”

Dire as it may be, we cannot let it overwhelm or discourage us. Knowledge is power, as the saying goes, and this report offers precisely that. Individuals, communities, health care providers, and policy makers can use it as an effective negotiating tool when it comes to confronting the companies and corporations that continue to churn out plastic at high rates. And confront them we must – especially now that we know what’s at stake.

At no point does it ever stop harming us.

7 comments on “Plastic is toxic at every stage of its life cycle

  1. Plastics can be made from natural sources like ethanol. Much is now made of castor oil, which is why it sometimes stinks. On many things it is the lesser evil. Until we stop using fossil fuels it is sometimes a by-product, too. Recycled plastic bottles can make fleece which allows energy savings if people would wear more fleece and use fleece blankets, and less heat. They also drip dry quickly. The only problem is static cling but you can get that from wool too. You can discharge by touching something metal. There are many down-sides to cotton, as well. The alternatives for many things are metals which are mined and permanently damage the earth where nothing will grow due to acid mine leach, and if recycled possibly radioactive. Some plastic is inert and non-toxic. Water piping is now often or always plastic. I read all of the things about plastic being toxic around the time there was actually a shift away from the more toxic plastics, which has been a long time now. There are conductive plastics that can eventually replace metals. There are plastics that can make non-toxic jewelry rather than mining stones and metal. I am told that some plastics are actually formed now with compression rather than bound with chemicals. I wish that someone would come up with toilet paper made of plastic to save trees. Humans are hard on the environment. I suspect that one reason there is so much plastic in the oceans is that companies are paid to recycle and then dump instead. I have found it very hard to get reusable plastic coffee cups or any cups that are well-made and don’t have ridges or bumps that can’t be cleaned around. There should be a good market for that. I’m not sure why there is not more biodegradable plastic, either. Some people use plastic bags from the store instead of buying garbage bags. I was shocked at how stupid the Nexpresso is, however. There’s no benefit to it at all. I thought it was a liquid. You could as easily use an expresso maker or use a coffee filter. There is instant coffee and there used to be flavored coffee in bags like tea. Any of these make more sense. Better, of course, is caffeine free. I never understood the use of straws, either. I fear that any metal or porcelain or glass these days could be radioactive. So, I would rather polyethylene (PET). Plastics are polymers. I’m told that polymer science includes things like making new muscles. I continue to suspect that some of the anti-plastic movement is funded by the metal and mining industry, because with new plastics we soon will not need mining. Some of the new plastics are actually old plastics, though – like made from castor oil. The plastic containers have codes so you can tell a little bit about what type they are. I guess plastics are like all things – to use wisely and with care. I would rather glasses made of castor oil than possibly radioactive metal. I try to use a plastic watch, if I use a watch, to save on mining. I try not to buy anything with metal anymore because if it is recycled it could be radioactive and if it isn’t it has destroyed the environment and communities.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree plastic is better for the environment if it’s used properly, but the problem is the wasteful use and how it’s discard, I did have some clothing made from plastic until I discovered that every time it’s washed, the plastic break down and go into the water. Companies need to do a better job and invest in helping get these products recycled…. years ago if you bought items made of glass and returned them you received a refund, if companies like Nestle’s would refund people for returning plastic bottles and those stupid rings they put around there products, people would not discard of them and if they did, people would be digging in the trash and picking up products to receive a refund.

      Liked by 1 person

      • What are you using then? Isn’t wool considered inhumane? Or just some wool?
        There’s a special bag to retain the fleece though I doubt it is big enough for some things. Sierra Club seem to think nylon is better – probably because it doesn’t shed. Nylon is also a type of plastic (polyamide). They should be able to filter it at the sewage plant if they wanted to or at the washer. There are a lot of things that could be done if there was the will. They could make better quality that doesn’t shed – even non-fuzzy. Many soaps and bleach are also toxic to the environment. This article mentions the problem of dyes, which is less for synthetics.
        It’s very difficult to get non-BT cotton these days. I think there must be a way to put something to catch the microfibers at the washer level. Warm clothes are needed to reduce heat use.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I still have the clothing made from plastic and so far they seem to be holding up well and no color fade, just staying away from buying new items made from plastic… I have three cardigans and several scarves and hats made of wool from Ireland, that are almost as old as I am and I do wear them, I would not buy any wool now and if you’re not vegan and you really want wool buy from Ireland, they share their sheep with respect to the animal, not inhumane the way factory farms do. I do have a couple items made nylon, but I’m not a big fan of nylon, I am cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Most of my stuff is made from cotton and cotton polyester blend, I have linen cotton blend… I’ve been starting to buy products made from bamboo, I have sheets, blankets and towels and I really like them, they are so soft and breathable, they seem to adjust to your body temperature and the towels wash great and dry fast, the first clothing item I bought where sport socks back in 2011 and they’re holding up very well, no wearing thin in the heels or holes in the toes, when I wore cotton socks I could go through them in 3 to 6 months because of all the walking.
          Thanks for all this information with links,don’t be surprised to see these articles popping up on my blog. 😊

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Says tires number one source:—arkiv/2016-03-29-tire-wear-foremost-source-of-microplastics.html This (below) is a really good article that explains the differences in fibers and what can be done. All kind of common sense like that weave matters (with fuzzy losing more); need to filter at production and at level of washers and filter better for waste water. They admit that cotton and wool also lose fibers but are biodegradable. Somehow I think that the cotton and wool could be a problem too. I don’t think they biodegrade that fast. The solutions seems to be catching the fibers at production, machine level and waste water, and focusing on weave and maybe biodegradable synthetic fibers. The second (machine filter) is especially important for those who don’t have city sewerage: People need warm clothing to keep the thermostat turned down to save energy in winter. Heating makes pollution, too. So, warm clothes is an urgent problem.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.