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Thousands of toxic plastic chemicals discovered, with the majority lacking regulation

Updated: Mar 27

Toxic plastic chemicals found in the thousands and most are unregulated

Living amidst plastic may appear convenient, yet the burgeoning awareness of the risks associated with plastics and their chemical constituents is undeniable. With the influx of novel plastic chemicals into the market, comprehending the full scope of the issue becomes increasingly challenging for regulatory bodies.

A recent revelation, the PlastChem Report, has shed light on a disconcerting reality: a staggering 16,000 plastic chemicals exist, among which over 4,200 are classified as highly hazardous.

Alarmingly, only a fraction of these hazardous substances are subject to regulation on a global scale, leaving a substantial number of potentially harmful compounds unmonitored. Martin Wagner, the primary author and project lead of the PlastChem Report, released on Thursday, pointed out, "Out of those highly hazardous chemicals, only 980 have been regulated by agencies worldwide, leaving over 3,000 unregulated chemicals— and these figures only represent the known chemicals."

These unregulated substances raise significant concerns regarding the safety of our drinking water and its potential impacts on human health. Martin Wagner stresses that many of these chemicals' risks remain elusive.

Moreover, chemicals like phthalates and flame retardants not only persist in the environment but also accumulate in our bodies over time, potentially leading to a myriad of health complications, including obesity, cancer, and birth defects.

The report further categorized chemicals of concern based on their persistence in the environment or the human body. Wagner explained, "The chemicals of concern we identified are also persistent, meaning they do not readily degrade in the environment; bio-accumulative, indicating they accumulate in the body over time; and mobile, implying they spread easily in drinking water or aquatic environments."

Critics argue that current regulations are inadequate, allowing industries to evade accountability. The report proposes grouping similar chemicals for more streamlined regulation, yet a considerable number of potentially harmful substances still remain unaddressed.

Perhaps most alarming is the lack of detailed information regarding the hazard posed by the majority of the 16,000 chemicals. This knowledge gap leaves regulators and the public uninformed about the potential risks to our drinking water, health, wildlife, and ecosystems.

In essence, while plastic may offer convenience, the concealed dangers it poses to our drinking water and overall well-being demand immediate attention and action from regulators and policymakers. Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, an environmental and health advocacy organization, emphasized, "This report is long overdue. People are exposed to these chemicals daily, underscoring a critical issue where the vast majority have never undergone hazard or safety assessments."

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