On October 21, 2021 the second Plastic Health Summit was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Hosted by the Plastic Soup Foundation, the event followed the first edition in 2019 (FPF reported) and featured 25 speakers from academia, policy, business and civil society. All presentations highlighted different aspects of plastics and their impacts on health, and recordings are freely available to watch.

Scientific developments were shared including by Hanna Dusza, Utrecht University and member of the AURORA project consortium (FPF reported) and Terry Collins, Carnegie Mellon University and member of the Food Packaging Forum’s Scientific Advisory Board. In her talk, Dusza spoke about in vitro work showing that nanoplastics are taken up by placental cells, and that the plastics are also transported through the placenta, showing that recent findings of microplastics in human placentas are plausible (FPF reported) and that fetuses likely are exposed to micro- and nanoplastics (FPF reported).

Terry Collins highlighted that many assumptions surrounding plastics are being made, including that chemicals used to make plastics and non-intentionally added substances (NIAS) in plastics are “safe”. However, most compounds in plastics have never been tested for low dose adverse endocrine disrupting effects even though these are known to cause harm to health. Also, the mixtures of chemicals migrating from plastics are rarely studied for hazard properties. Therefore, according to Collins, an overhaul of how chemicals in plastics are tested for safety must be accompanied by a strict focus of the chemical industry on sustainability, not on maximizing short-term profits.

Similarly, Captain Charles Moore, Algalita Foundation and plastic pollution pioneer, spoke about the need to move away from low-cost, globalized business models that are enabled by plastics toward local production and local consumption. Moore spoke of the need for a radical shift in consciousness that is essential for solving plastic pollution and the many other environmental problems created by humanity’s reckless exploitation of nature which are leading to painfully felt consequences in the form of draughts, flooding, forest fires, and other catastrophes now acutely affecting humanity’s livelihood.

Other speakers addressed the ethical aspects of plastic pollution from the perspective of failed recycling, where plastic waste from industrialized nations is shipped, sometimes illegally, to Indonesia, Ghana, and other countries in the Global South. Susan Shaw, Shaw Institute, highlighted child labor as a key factor, with detrimental health consequences. Daru Setyorini and Prigi Arisandi, Ecoton, showed footage from their home Indonesia where imported plastic waste is not being recycled but burnt in non-industrial incineration, leading to contamination of air and soil with dioxins and other hazardous, persistent chemicals.


Read more

Plastic Soup Foundation (October 2021). “Plastic Health Summit 2021.”

Plastic Soup Foundation (October 2021). “Plastic Health Summit 2021 – Talk recordings.” (YouTube)

Douglas Fischer (November 19, 2021). “Plastic pollution vs. a sustainable future.”