On September 9, 2020, non-governmental organization the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) announced the publication of a report describing “the undeniable link between the synthetic chemicals used in plastics and their effects on our health.” It offers an introduction to plastics, common polymer types, and categories of chemical additives often used in each type along with their associated health impacts. Specific chemical types such as bisphenols, flame retardants, and endocrine disruptors are spotlighted throughout to provide readers with a background on these commonly discussed substances. The life cycle of plastics is illustrated, including the cycling of contained chemicals and resulting exposures to humans and the environment that can occur.
Released before the anticipated launch of the EU’s new chemicals strategy this fall (FPF reported), the HEAL report argues that “solving the environmental pollution and health impacts of plastics is only possible by acknowledging that the problems of plastics are inextricably linked to chemical safety.” It promotes shifting away from the current dependency on plastics towards natural, less persistent materials. In strengthening EU regulations, the organization calls for revised rules to “protect and be consistent.” This includes not allowing any recognized substances of very high concern (SVHCs) to end up in consumer products or food, applying stricter limits on the use of plastic additives, regulating substances in groups rather than individually, and setting the same rules for both recycled and virgin materials. The report further calls for any regulatory revisions to “anticipate and communicate,” which HEAL explains as including implementation of the precautionary principle, restricting recycling of plastics that contain hazardous substances, avoiding regrettable substitutions, and ensuring full chemical transparency along the supply chain and with consumers.
Chemical Watch (September 10, 2020). “NGO pushes EU regulators to combat hazardous chemicals in plastics.”
Natacha Cingotti (October 2020). “Turning the plastic tide: how upgraded chemicals regulations are piece and parcel of addressing the plastics challenge.” European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)
HEAL (September 9, 2020). “Turning the plastic tide: The chemicals in plastic that put our health at risk.” (pdf)