No Plastic Waste21 Mar 2023

Minderoo demands toxic chemical ban in light of research that some plastic harms humans

Minderoo Foundation has joined a growing list of organisations calling for an outright ban on toxic chemicals currently used in producing some plastics. Minderoo’s contribution to a recent study quantifies the significant harm to human health and will be important evidence for UN member states to consider when negotiating the Global Plastics Treaty.

Fresh Vegetables and Fruits Packed with Stretch Film
Fresh vegetables and fruits packed with stretch film suitable with corona virus measures on street counter of groceries. Istanbul, Turkey. Photo Credit: Melih Evren Burus via Getty Images.

Marcus Gover, Director of Minderoo’s Plastics Initiative, asserts that the Minderoo-Monaco Commission’s findings leave no room for doubt and should be used to guide negotiators in ensuring that people and the planet are permanently safeguarded from significant harm. “This is a monumental piece of research to which we are proud to have contributed. We have brought together the world’s experts, and they are clear that the numerous toxic chemicals used by plastic manufacturers increase the risk of miscarriage, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other major health concerns.

“Minderoo Foundation is devoted to eliminating the harmful effects of plastics on people and planet. That means eradicating plastics containing these chemicals. We will continue to make our robust and relevant evidence available to decision-makers charged with protecting us from one of the world’s gravest crises – and the Minderoo-Monaco Commission does just this,” said Dr Gover.

The Commission’s key findings highlight the strong likelihood that some plastics cause disease, impairment, and premature mortality, with the health repercussions disproportionately affecting vulnerable, low-income, minority communities, particularly children.

Dr Philip Landrigan, Director of the Global Observatory on Planetary Health at Boston College, questions why there is no legal obligation for plastics producers to provide details about the identity, chemical makeup, and potential toxicity of chemicals used in the production of some plastics. “If there were warnings on plastic products stating that their usage could lead to attention deficit disorders, and intelligence quotient (IQ) loss, most consumers would think twice before exposing their children to their production, use, and disposal. But, this is the uncomfortable truth about many chemicals used in plastics, which are especially dangerous for infants in the womb, young children, and pregnant women, and can no longer be ignored,” said Dr Landrigan.

The strongest recommendation made by the Commission is to ensure urgent action and effective, systemic interventions at an international scale across the entire life cycle of plastics under the Global Plastics Treaty. And for Minderoo’s Head of Plastics and Human Health, Professor Sarah Dunlop, the ask is very simple. “A global cap on plastic production is the most effective harm prevention strategy and will have far-reaching benefits for planetary and human health.” In relation to the plastics that we do continue to produce, Professor Dunlop highlights that “the Commission is unequivocal in its recommendation of establishing a health-protective standard for plastic chemicals, which requires the testing of all polymers and plastics chemicals for toxicity before entering markets, as well as post-market surveillance.”

The Commission also recommended funding technology for detecting smaller micro- and nanoplastic particles (MNPs) in human tissue to accurately assess the presence and quantity of these chemicals and systematic biomonitoring and post-market surveillance of human population exposure to plastic chemicals and their health effects, as is already common in the pharmaceutical and food industries.

Find out more and access the full report here

The Minderoo-Monaco Commission was formed to break down the silos in research on multiple hazards that plastic poses to human health, from extraction of its fossil carbon feedstocks through its everyday use, to its leakage and disposal into the environment. Its 48 authors, which include members from the Global Observatory on Planet Health at Boston College, the Centre Scientifique de Monaco’s Medical and Marine Biology departments, and the Plastics and Human Health team at Minderoo Foundation, have presented a detailed analysis of plastics’ impacts across their life cycle on human health, the global environment, the economy, and vulnerable populations.

Minderoo Foundation
by Minderoo Foundation

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, we are a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

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