Written by Corinne Newman

Previously, we overviewed the creation and history of plastic. How revolutionary the creation of synthetic plastic was for society and how it helped industrialize the economy. Now we are ready to dive into the deeper issue at hand. The ways this revolution has caused drastic ramifications for our world. Both for humans and the environment at large.

             Some of the most notable damage that is done to the population is through the way we consume plastic. Consume not only in an economic sense but in the way we literally consume the harsh chemicals that leak off of plastics. Plastic packaging of food and water has the potential to introduce microplastics and toxins into our bodies if proper practices to prevent it are not followed. Practices that can be hard to enforce. From the type of plastic used for the packaging and the way the plastic packaging is handled. This consumption of plastic isn’t lethal in small dosages but can cause health risks in the long run.

             Not only can plastic packaging lead to accidental or unknown plastic consumption, but improperly managed plastic waste can as well. Plastic pollution introduces large amounts of macro and microplastics into the environment. These plastics break down and can leak the same harsh chemicals directly into our soil. And from our soil, it can infect agriculture and water. Through agriculture, it can be consumed by animals. Water systems might fail to filter the microplastics out. Leading to the literal consumption by humans again. As well as the possibility of being exposed through inhalation or contact at any point along this simplified chain of how plastics can spread.

             The specific risks range depending on the type of plastic that is consumed, but with plastic waste being poorly managed and intermixed, there isn’t a clear way to know the specific type. The Center for International Environmental Law says the following in regard to the health risks involved with the type of plastic exposure described above, “Microplastics entering the human body via direct exposures through ingestion or inhalation can lead to an array of health impacts, including inflammation, genotoxicity, oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis, which are linked to an array of negative health outcomes including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation, auto-immune conditions, neuro-degenerative diseases, and stroke.”

            Humans are not the only thing at risk of plastics. Wildlife, and the environment at large, are under great strain due to the plastic pollution and contamination issues caused by the lack of regulation of plastics and its waste management by national governments. Due to the way plastics break down and leach out, they spread through the soil as described above. Eventually, they make their way into all kinds of water systems where they are consumed by animals and face similar health risks described already.

             But health risks aren’t the only part of plastic waste that is affecting wildlife. Their very habitat and ecosystem are getting choked out by pollution caused by humans. Humans have the ability to adapt quicker to changing climate and habitat devastation due to our technology, but animals who have evolved to live in their specific conditions can’t simply move to a new area or change their habits in order to avoid the dying landscape. Just how their habitats are being impacted is something we will go into more detail in our following blogs.

 

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