Gothenburg, Sweden Toxic chemicals in plastic waste exports from wealthy countries are contaminating food in developing/transition countries around the world, according to a new study released today by the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN).
Virtually all plastics contain hazardous chemical additives. Most of the plastic waste exported from wealthy countries to countries with developing economies or economies in transition is landfilled, burned, or dumped into waterways. All of these disposal methods result in highly toxic emissions that remain in the environment for decades and build up in the food chain.
For this study, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in fourteen countries which in many cases receive plastic waste from abroad collected free-range chicken eggs in the vicinity of various plastic waste disposal sites and facilities. The egg collection sites included plastic and electronic waste yards; waste dumpsites with significant amounts of plastic wastes; recycling and shredder plants which deal with significant amounts of plastic waste; and waste incineration and waste-to-energy operations.
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).
Colombo, Sri Lanka For days it stood burning off the Sri Lanka coast, plumes of thick dark smoke that could be seen from miles away. But the X-Press Pearl has now fallen silent, lying half sunken off the coast of Sri Lanka, its hull resting on the shallow ocean bed.
But though the flames have now been doused - the problems have only just begun.