Plastic waste has become an unprecedented pollution issue around the globe. From visible plastic litter on land and in oceans to invisible microplastics in lakes, mountains, and rain, the planet is increasingly blanketed in the petrochemical remnants of plastic production. With petrochemical companies avoiding fossil fuel carbon liabilities by massively increasing plastic production, the amount of plastic waste generated is set to climb dramatically.
Waste generated from the use of plastics is a challenge for the whole of human society. Plastics are everywhere around us, and we can find tiny parts of plastics in even the most pristine places. Most plastics were invented by chemical scientists, and in order to make the plastic suitable for many different uses or to make them meet legislative requirements for fire safety, for example, they need chemical additives that make the plastic resistant, flexible, durable or less flammable.
Plastics and food packaging contain chemical contaminants from manufacturing along with many additives to make them inflammable, more flexible, grease-resistant, or sterile, as well as other substances to create many other properties. Many of these additives are toxic and they leak from products during use and can be released during recycling and from recycled products.
Both the African environment and the human health of Africans suffer from toxic chemicals and imported wastes more than in developed countries. Africa has become the destination of illegal toxic waste exports and, as this study shows, toxic chemicals are also present in toys, kitchen utensils, and other consumer products sold at African markets.
Two hundred and forty-four samples of toys and other consumer products made of black plastic, from seven countries, were sampled for this study. Samples from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Morocco, Tanzania, and Tunisia were analyzed by X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and one-fifth of all 244 samples were sent for special chemical analysis, based on the total content of bromine and antimony, because bromine and antimony content is an indication that black plastic may contain brominated flame retardants (BFRs) (Petreas, Gill et al. 2016).
This study of mercury levels in women from four Latin American communities is the latest compilation of data in IPEN’s global mercury biomonitoring program. Hair samples were taken from women living in or near the mining towns of Vila Nova, Brazil, El Callao, Venezuela, Íquira, Colombia, and two groups living in Bolvia's Beni river system. The results for the Bolivian women were especially concerning: they had the highest mercury levels in our study, yet have no engagement with mining or contact with mercury and are reliant on a subsistence fish diet.
This report is based on a European study, carried out by 8 civil society organizations, into the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in paper, board, and molded plant fiber disposable food packaging and tableware, sold in six European countries: The Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Chemicals are polluting oceans and waterways, not only endangering wildlife and those who rely on seafood for sustenance, but threatening the collapse of many fisheries. In combination with global warming, this is a catastrophe in the making. This report is the first to begin to detail the numerous ways and places in which chemical pollution and climate change is destabilizing this marine infrastructure and the world's fisheries.
In line with the UNEP-IPEN partnership, the aim of this report is to show the impact chemicals have on women as a vulnerable group highly exposed to hazardous chemicals and gender inequalities related to decision-making around the management of chemicals and waste. The report also means to provide concrete steps that can be taken to safeguard the health of women and empower women in decision-making and in their roles as agents of change.