Plastic health talk Terry Collins

Plastic pollution vs. a sustainable future

Hormone-hijackers in plastics risk our future faster than climate change, green chemist Terry Collins cautions in a new talk. How can we change that?

Are we just going to keep making plastics and other endocrine-disrupting products until the environment is irreparably compromised and future generations are sterile?


Terry Collins, Teresa Heinz Professor of Green Chemistry and the Director of the Institute for Green Science at Carnegie Mellon University, recently laid out the case for revolutionary change in Amsterdam, at the Plastic Soup Foundation's Plastic Health Summit 2021.

Plastic pollution 'as ominous as climate change'

Endocrine disrupting chemicals – synthetic compounds that act like hormones at vanishingly tiny concentrations in our bodies and hijack hormonal functions like brain development and fertility – represent a problem for society, Collins said, "at least as ominous as climate change and probably faster moving but quietly so."

"There's an Everest of scientific information and cultural information saying that we have not been diligent in managing the power of the chemical enterprise," he said. "Wherever you look at a highly chemicalized societies, you see low birth rates."

Solution to plastic pollution

So what can we do? At the risk of spoiling the 16-minute clip above, Collins pointed to four steps:

  • Learn how to make profitable chemicals that are sustainable.
  • Test for endocrine disrupting chemicals.
  • Move from a "money first" to a "sustainability first" regulatory and market model.
  • Learn how to love the future.

The principal challenge, he added, is to prove that democracies can bring down a corrupt power.

Worth the watch...

SUBSCRIBE TO EHN'S MUST-READ DAILY NEWSLETTER: ABOVE THE FOLD
From our Newsroom

Peter Dykstra: Environmental "solutions" too good to be true

From leaded gas to plastic packaging — all too often we “solve” health and environment problems only to learn we’ve created bigger ones.

Green beauty product testing finds more than 60% have PFAS indicators

“Time and again, you see that PFAS are everywhere in products where they shouldn't be.”

How environmental justice work takes a toll on people of color

From discrimination and a lack of staff diversity to witnessing communities like yours harmed, environmental justice work is an emotional and physical struggle.

Mental health and sustainable healthcare

An unlikely pairing offers potential for discovery and insight.

Pollution’s mental toll: How air, water and climate pollution shape our mental health

For years Americans have been warned about the dangers of pollution and climate change but one effect is neglected: impacts to our brains.

Plastic additive increases breast cancer relapse, mortality: New science

DEHP, a phthalate used to make IV bags and tubing pliable, increases breast cancer mortality and relapse risk, a new study warns

Above The Fold

Daily & Weekly newsletters all free.