Surfers Village - Surfing Medicine International rekindles a call to action against plastics

August 28, 2016

Excerpt: In 2050 we will be able to wrap the planet 800 times with the plastic that we will produce in that one year. According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, there will then be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Exactly one century before 2050, in 1950, there were still only 1.5 million tons of plastic being produced and with all those light disposable products, the life of the housewife appeared more modern and rosy than ever.

Tidying up and cleaning were seen as a waste of time, and ‘Throw away living’ as the modern way of life. Since then, the world has undergone a rapid and life threatening change. ...

There are enough reasons to do more scientific research into the health risks for humans. In June 2016, the Dutch scientists Dick Vethaak and Heather Leslie addressed this issue in a pioneering publication in the Environmental Science & Technology journal entitled 'Plastic Debris is a Human Health Issue' . They looked at three core issues:

Plastic contains several added chemicals, including hormone disruptors. What damage do these chemical substances cause and/or what are the physical consequences?
Plastic can be a carrier of viruses and parasites. What is this doing to our bodies? Nanoplastics can pass through our cell membranes. What are the consequences?

Vethaak and Leslie estimate that the damage caused to human health can amount to billions and they link this to the overproduction and over consumption of plastic coupled with a lack of knowledge. Desktop research shows a few indications that demonstrate the urgency of this issue.

The hormone disruptors that are added to plastics are already found in our blood. This was proven by Professor Sauer, pediatrician in Groningen, the Netherlands, in 2004. He researched six hazardous substances, including plasticizers, bisphenol A (BPA) and flame retardants. Several of the substances were found in every blood sample.

Anna Cummins, co-founder of the American 5 Gyres Institute, also wanted to see what substances her blood contained. She had her blood tested for various toxins – the so-called Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) – that can attach to plastics.

To her horror, the examination showed traces of toxic polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), perfluorinated compounds (PFC) and a high concentration of flame retardants.

Greenpeace found similar results in 2004. An analysis of the blood of 91 people showed thattheir blood contained chemical substances such as plasticizers and flame retardants, sometimes in dangerously high concentrations.

One year prior to this, in 2003, the WWF had comparable results when they tested the blood of 39 members of the European Parliament for toxic chemicals. Researchers from the American Silent Spring Institute demonstrated in 2011 that the levels of additives BPA and DEHP in urine drastically declined if people avoided plastic-packaged food.

On average, BPA levels decreased with 66% and DEHP with 56%. This year, Austrian scientists achieved similar results when the same chemicals were analyzed in urine of an Austrian family.

Entirely new and shocking is the evidence that nanoplastics can pass through our cells and cell membranes. Plastic in our bodies can come from various sources. We can swallow plastic microbeads in products such as toothpaste, or we can consume it through eating fish and shellfish and a host of other products. We can also breathe in the microplastics and nanoplastics that float around in the air.

Testing Exposure Reduction Strategies