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What is the Global Plastic Health Crisis?

It's 2019. We know that we have a global climate change crisis. However research has only just been emerging on the health effects that plastic has on us. We have a global plastic health crisis. Here's how plastic affects us throughout it's whole lifecycle.

1. Extraction

Over 99% of plastic comes from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas. Often, the resources are extracted via harmful processes such as ii'ackin9 Over 170 of the chemicals used in fracking and similiar processes to create plastic are associated with known health impacts: they can affect the immune and reproductive systems, sensory organs and can cause cancer. 

2. Transportation

After the fossil fuels are extracted they go through pipelines which leach these raw, toxic resources into the surrounding air and water on its way to refineries and manufacturing plants.

3. Refining and production

Plastic requires many additives during the refinement and production process which releases carcinogenic and other highly toxic substances into the air. Nearby communities and neighbourhoods are exposed to the toxic substances that are mixed with the fossil fuels. Health impacts such as reproductive and birth developmental problems, cancer, leukaemia, impairment of the nervous system, and effects to eyes and skin plagues these communities surrounding these manufacturing plants. Learn about Cancer Alley. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCT6BO7wIDs

4. Consumer products and packaging

The new plastic materials are then used to produce our every day products such as toys, food packaging, building materials, synthetic clothing, cups making its way into our homes and eventually into our bodies. We are exposed to so much, every day of our lives and we touch, ingest and even inhale these toxic chemicals into our bodies via the food we eat, things we use and air we breathe. Global cancer trends are increasing each year with 17 million global new cases in 2018 alone. New Zealand has the second highest incidence rate in the world.


5. Plastic waste management

Or rather, the lack of... Once we're done with plastic, of all the plastic ever created, less than 10% is recycled, 12% is burnt and 80% ends up in landfills or in our environment.
Plastic cannot be recycled indefinitely, each time it is recycled it is recycled down. This is because polymers that make up the different types of plastic become cross-contaminated, or absorb small amounts of the material they contain (which is another issue in itself). It can be recycled 7-9 times. For example the plastic bottle which is recycled will become a park bench but that park bench will not be able to be recycled again.

To learn more on the latest findings from 2019, visit the Center for International Environmental Law and read their latest report here.

[Hyperlink to: https://www.ciel.org/plasticandclimate/ ]

You can also visit our friends at Race4Water who are doing undertaking a journey around the globe while achieving groundbreaking research on the plastic waste in our oceans.

[Hyperlink to: https://www.raceforwater.org/en/ ]