There is a global health crisis hiding in plain sight. It’s being transported along our roadways and released into our skies. It surrounds us in our homes and offices. It plagues our oceans, our waterways, and our soil. It’s even in the food we eat and the water we drink.
It’s plastic. And it’s impacting human health on a global scale, according to a new report Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet.
But plastic doesn’t magically appear in our coffee cups, carpets and toys. And it doesn’t just disappear when we toss it into the nearest trash or recycling bin.
The life of a plastic product starts at the wellhead, when fossil fuels are extracted from the ground. Over 99% of plastic comes from fossil fuels, like oil, gas, and coal. And Its toxic legacy never really ends, it just circles back into our body via the air we breathe, food we eat, and water we drink.
In the United States, cheap shale gas from fracking is driving a plastic boom as wet gas extracted from fracking wells are particularly well suited to plastic production. Local activists have long stood up against fracking in their communities—and for good reason. Fracking—and oil and gas extraction more generally—releases toxic chemicals into the air and water. Over 170 of the chemicals used in fracking processes to create plastic are associated with known health impacts: they can affect the immune and reproductive systems, sensory organs and can cause cancer. But while the health impacts of extraction are significant in their own right, they’re just the first step in a toxic lifecycle.
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