"No plastic has been tested thoroughly—none. Zip. Zero. Nada."
Redesign plastics. Reform chemical regulation. Recharge health advocates.
That was the take-home message from Pete Myers—chair, founder, and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences, publisher of Environmental Health News—at the Plastic Health Summit 2019, which took place on Oct. 3 in Amsterdam. Myers was one of 36 speakers at the inaugural event.
He opened on a personal note—showing a picture of his granddaughter, born premature in January, in the neonatal intensive care unit. "The plastics in that unit saved her life," he said.
But he then showed pictures of California's Paradise wildfire that took place months earlier and sent smoke and pollution to the Bay Area where his daughter was living during her third trimester. Many homes, full of plastics, burned during the fire, releasing contaminants such as bisphenol-A (BPA) and phthalates that are linked to the "very condition that forced that premature birth," he said.
We know enough already to be concerned, Myers said: How hormone-altering chemicals are both purposefully and inadvertently added to the plastics ubiquitous in our lives and how tiny exposures to these compounds can have large impacts on our health and the health of children.
"No plastic has been tested thoroughly—none. Zip. Zero. Nada," Myers said, adding that the health tests used by regulators on plastic contaminants are based on"16th century" principles.
Myers offered a new version of the "three R's:" Instead of "reduce, reuse, recycle," he suggested redesign plastics without harmful pollutants, reform regulation to account for low doses that may have harm, and recharge health advocates.
"The odds against us winning this given the amount of money associated with the plastics industry are staggering, but it's not impossible," Myers said. "This problem is more serious than any of us imagined."
See Myers' full talk in the video above and check out the other speakers at PlasticHealthCoalition.org.