The impacts of plastic on the environment are clear. But how does plastic impact human health? Plastic is one of the most pervasive materials on the planet, and its chemicals are finding their way into our bodies and negatively affecting our health. Here’s how.
We’re Eating Microplastics
Plastic may seem super durable, but it doesn’t stay that way forever. As plastic gets older and enters the environment, it breaks down into smaller pieces called microplastics. These microplastics are plaguing our oceans, but they’re a problem for humans too: microplastics have been found in human waste, human blood, and human lungs.
We’re Ingesting Chemicals
The impact of microplastics doesn’t end there. Once microplastics are in our bodies, the chemicals in the plastic leach into our blood and tissues. Since plastic is so pervasive, these chemicals are also commonly found in drinking water and even in the air we breathe. These chemicals, like PFAS and phthalates, show links to kidney cancer and testicular cancer, as well as endocrine disruption. Exposure to plastic is making us sick, affecting human fertility, and impacting child development.
Social Impacts of Plastic
Like most environmental issues, the brunt of these negative impacts is felt by BIPOC communities and low-income groups. Oil refineries, a critical first step in creating plastic, are usually built around low-income or BIPOC communities, and contribute to high levels of toxic air pollution. In addition to production plants being built in their backyards, those with low economic resources often have to choose more affordable food items, which tend to be packaged in plastic. In short, the plastics industry exposes BIPOC and low-income individuals to unhealthy pollution along every step of the plastics lifecycle.
It’s time to give up plastic for good; for our planet, for our bodies, and for our communities.
For more on the health impacts of plastics in our daily lives, be sure to read these previous blog posts: