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Plastic, Chemical Pollution Beyond Planet’s Safe Limit by Marc Préel

The torrent of man-made chemical and plastic waste worldwide has massively exceeded limits safe for humanity or the planet, and production caps are urgently needed, scientists have concluded for the first time. There are an estimated 350,000 different manufactured chemicals on the market and large volumes of them end up in the environment. “The impacts that we’re starting to see today are large enough to be impacting crucial functions of planet Earth and its systems”, Bethanie Carney Almroth, co-author of a new study told AFP in an interview. Less than 10 percent of the world’s plastic is currently recycled, even as production has doubled to 367 million tonnes since 2000. Today, the total weight of plastic on Earth is now four times the biomass of all living animals, according to recent studies. Additionally, the chemicals are relatively recent, most of them developed in the past 70 years. “And we’re talking about 350,000 different substances,’ Carney Almroth said. “We don’t have knowledge on the vast majority of those, in terms of how much are produced or their stability. Or their fate in the environment or their toxicity.” “We know what some of them are. For most of them, we have no clue.” Even the most comprehensive databases, such as the European Union’s REACH inventory, only cover 150,000 products, and only a third of those have been the subject of detailed toxicity studies.

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