Plastic is everywhere, and we use it daily, from packaging to single-use products. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, and durable, but at what cost to our health? According to a new study , plastics cause wide-ranging health issues, from cancer to birth defects, and the harm extends from extraction to disposal.

The Boston College Global Observatory conducted the study on Planetary Health in partnership with Australia’s Minderoo Foundation and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco. It is the first analysis of the health hazards of plastics across their entire life cycle. It found that the “current patterns of plastic production, use, and disposal are not sustainable and are responsible for significant harms to human health … as well as for deep societal injustices.”

The review revealed that plastic is responsible for various diseases, including cancers, lung disease, and congenital disabilities. Production workers, including coal miners, oil workers, and gas field workers who extract fossil carbon feedstocks for plastic production, are at risk of harm. Plastic production workers have increased rates of cancer and decreased fertility, and recycling workers have increased rates of cardiovascular disease, toxic metal poisoning, neuropathy, and lung cancer.

Moreover, residents of communities adjacent to plastic production and waste disposal sites experience increased risks of premature birth, low birth weight, asthma, childhood leukemia, cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer. The report referred to evidence that infants in the womb and young children were at exceptionally high risk.

The report recommends a global plastics treaty to control the manufacture and use of plastics and reduce the disproportionate health and environmental impacts on coastal and ocean-dependent communities and those working in high-risk industries. The authors wrote that any treaty should meet the mandate set in March 2022 at the UN Environment Assembly .

It’s important to note that plastics also harm the environment. They pollute our oceans, harm marine life, and contribute to climate change by driving the demand for fossil fuels.

We need to take action to combat plastic’s negative impact on our health and the environment. We can reduce our use of single-use plastics and choose alternatives, such as reusable bags and water bottles. We can also support companies committed to reducing their plastic use and hold those not accountable. Additionally, we can support legislation that reduces plastic waste and promotes sustainable practices.

The new study confirms what many of us suspected – plastics are dangerous to our health, and their production, use, and disposal are unsustainable. We need to take action to protect ourselves and the planet. We can start by reducing our use of single-use plastics and supporting companies and legislation that prioritize sustainability.

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