U.N. Expert Committee Acts on Hazardous Chemicals in Plastics
(Gothenburg, Sweden) A U.N. expert committee to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) has evaluated two chemical additives to plastics and determined that only one qualifies to move forward in the process to be listed for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention.
The committee failed to reach a consensus that the flame retardant the chemical Dechlorane plus (DP) is likely, as a result of its long-range environmental transport, to lead to significant adverse human health and environmental effects, such that global action is warranted. DP is an example of a substance that never should have been produced as it is a slight modification of mirex – one of the original dirty dozen substances listed in the Convention. It has been produced since the 1960s and used in plastics for computers and televisions, coatings for wires and cables, and polyurethane foam. It has been found in human milk, serum, and cord blood and can cause neurotoxicity, liver impairment, and endocrine disruption.
“We are appalled that the Committee allowed a few individuals to de-rail progress toward elimination of this dangerous chemical and failed to consider properly the body of evidence on its adverse effects. It is critical that the global community swiftly eliminates the manufacturing and use of this dangerous chemical. Dechlorane plus is currently marketed as a replacement for the flame retardant decaBDE and as a substitute for mirex. This is a stark example of a regrettable, ill-advised substitution. Studies show rising levels of DP, perhaps indicating that DP is being increasingly used as a replacement for decaBDE. DP threatens the development and health of our next generations and concerted international action must be taken to prevent further harm,” said Pamela Miller, IPEN Co-Chair and Executive Director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. The Committee will re-evaluate Dechlorane plus at its next meeting in September 2021.
Calls for Identification and monitoring of source sites
Thursday, 14 January 2021
(Prague, Czech Republic) - The large group of perfluorinated chemicals, collectively known as PFAS and often called "Forever Chemicals" because they are not easily broken down, have been found nearly everywhere researchers have looked for them — but particularly in food, water supplies, and soils. Czech Republic NGO Arnika recently studied sources in and around Prague, and found PFAS, its related chemicals, and additionally brominated flame retardants (BFRs) in nearly every sample. The study, Forever Chemicals Round and Round, made clear that identifying and continually monitoring PFAS and BFR sources is vital for community health and environmental sustainability.
Although regulation of these chemicals is increasing, the categories of perfluorinated and brominated chemicals are large. So as one chemical is identified and listed for restriction, another is adopted for use, all without understanding the underlying health effects. Ironically, many of these substances have known, safe alternatives. In response to studies showing PFAS in blood samples of firefighters, airports have been moving to safer fire-fighting foams, replacing fluorinated forms, which constitute roughly one-third of known PFAS contamination and which have been found in water ways near airports, including in Arnika's recent study.
“Perfluorinated substances and brominated flame retardants are not essential for the majority of applications and there are already safer alternatives on the market today. Therefore, their production should stop immediately. We call on both manufacturers and legislators to restrict the use of these toxic substances for all non-essential purposes. The deterioration in the quality of drinking water and the global environmental contamination caused by PFAS are irreversible,” says Jitka Strakova from Arnika.
Guest column by Griffins Ochieng and Yuyun Ismawati Originally published December 23, 2020, on allAfrica.com
Kenya has been a beacon for global efforts to reduce plastics. The country’s 2017 plastic bag ban reduced environmental degradation that comes from plastic waste and demonstrated decisive government action against plastic pollution. Now, Kenya finds itself again in the spotlight as the primary line of defense to protect Africans from an unprecedented explosion of toxic plastic waste across the continent. New research exposing that toxic chemicals from plastics are poisoning Africa’s food chain, covered in The East African, should strengthen governmental resolve to protect the collective health of Kenyans and all Africans.
When China closed its door to imports of the world’s plastic waste in 2017, the world’s biggest plastic waste producers began dumping plastic waste in countries with developing economies and weaker environmental infrastructures, predominantly in South East Asia. The recycling game had been disrupted , but the world pushed back .
In 2020, Kenya joined 183 other countries in giving developing countries a simple tool to resist the dumping of waste from the global north. Kenya signed the sensible Basel Convention Plastic Waste Amendment , which requires importers to declare the contents of their shipments and secure prior informed contest from importing countries before shipping plastic waste.
Governments and advocates have joined forces and worked to repatriate unwanted waste from the Philippines , Indonesia , Malaysia , and Thailand . Interpol documented a dramatic upswing in criminal plastic waste dumping, further underscoring that plastic waste is a burden that no one wants.
Yet despite the growing global movement against plastic pollution, the chemical industry is moving to create MORE plastics, aiming to triple the supply by 2030 . Why? Over 99% of plastic is made from chemicals sourced from oil and gas. As prices drop for fossil fuel energy, the industry is increasing plastic production. Skyrocketing plastic production means an even larger colossus of plastic waste, waste that is riven with toxic chemicals that are hazardous to human health and the environment.
Eggs from chickens that forage around waste yards and plastic burning sites are a risk as they have been found to contain high levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs).
Studies carried out in Kenya and Tanzania found high levels of POPs in the eggs from such chickens, pointing to an environment polluted with chemicals, including banned and current-use plastic additives and chemicals created from burning plastics.
The study, “Plastic waste poisons the food chain in Kenya and Tanzania” was done to monitor persistent organic contaminants for human health and food.
In Kenya, the study was done with eggs produced by hens in the vicinity of a school community cooker in Mirema, Nairobi, that burns plastic waste for fuel. In Tanzania, it was carried out with free-range chicken eggs at households in Pugu Kinyamwezi located next to a large municipal solid waste dumpsite on the south-western edge of Dar es Salaam.
The study spearheaded by IPEN and local environment watchdogs — Centre for Environmental Justice and Development (CEJAD) in Kenya and Agenda for Environment and Responsible Development (Agenda) in Tanzania — found the eggs contained dioxins and POPs like brominated flame retardants.
Less widely reported than the mountains of single-use plastics and unrecycled plastics are the often-harmful chemical additives these plastics contain. Meant to make plastics more pliable or durable, more fire-resistant or antimicrobial, more UV-resistant or simply more colorful, many of these additives have been shown to disturb hormonal systems in humans and animals by leaching into liquids, food, and the environment. In a new report, “Plastics, EDCs & Health: A Guide for Public Interest Organizations and Policymakers on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals & Plastics,” the Endocrine Society and IPEN detail chemicals, what they are and where they occur, their effects, and exposures to organisms, painting an alarming picture of the harms to which we are all exposed.
(Bali, Indonesia/Bangkok, Thailand/Manila, Philippines) - Experts from various fields and institutions cited the tremendous potentials of citizen science for advancing public participation in research efforts that can generate data, which can increase the negotiation power of communities facing chemical and waste pollution.
At the end last week of the four-part IPEN Southeast and East Asia Virtual Conference, resource persons from Norway, Indonesia and the Philippines and participants from 12 countries discussed perspectives and experiences on citizen science for generating data and for pursuing policies and measures to promote and protect public health and the environment.
Held amid mobility restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the online conference series was co-organized by the Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand, Nexus3 Foundation-Indonesia and EcoWaste Coalition-Philippines with support from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and IPEN.
In response to stated plans by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to strengthen ties with a trade association whose members continue to produce highly hazardous pesticides harmful to human health and the enviroment, IPEN and over three hundred other organizations in over 60 countries have sent a letter to Director-General Qu Dongyu opposing the alliance. The proposed collaboration with CropLife — whose members include BASF, Bayer Crop Science, Corteva Agriscience, FMC and Syngenta, and who combined make more than one-third of their sales income from highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) — directly undermines the FAO's priority of a progressive ban on HHPs, as well as its role as a global leader supporting innovative approaches to agricultural production and advancing food security, sustainability, and resilience.
The letter notes that CropLife members specifically target markets in developing and emerging countries where the regulation and commercialization of pesticides are more weakly controlled, and that sales of HHPs are greater in these parts of the world where harms to human health and the environment are worse. Farmers, agricultural workers, and those living in rural communities suffer increased rates of a broad array of health harms, and decimation of beneficial insects and other organisms have been linked to HHPs.