New report finds entire lifecycle of plastics a threat to human health

by Perry Wheeler

February 19, 2019

Washington, DC – A new report from the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) examines the health impacts associated with plastics at every stage of their supply chain and lifecycle, and concludes that there is an immediate need to adopt a precautionary approach to protect humanity from the plastic pollution crisis.

Key findings from the report include that:

  • Plastics pose distinct risks to human health at every stage of their lifecycle, arising from harmful chemicals released during raw material extraction and manufacturing, exposure to chemical additives during use, and the pollution of the environment and our food that can result as plastics enter the waste stream.
  • Microplastic particles, such as fragments and fibers, can enter the body through contact, ingestion, or inhalation, and may be contributing to a wide range of health impacts as a result of their small size and ability to penetrate tissues and cells, and as a consequence of the complex burdens of the chemicals they can carry.
  • Uncertainties and knowledge gaps, including an extreme lack of transparency, undermine the full assessment of health impacts, and prevent consumers, communities, and regulators from making informed decisions.

In response to the CIEL report findings, Greenpeace Global Plastics Project Leader Graham Forbes said:

“The health risks of the plastic pollution crisis have been ignored for far too long, and must be at the forefront of all decisions on plastics moving forward. Corporations and governments are risking our health to maintain the status quo and keep profits flowing. It’s not just our oceans and marine animals that are suffering from this addiction to plastics, it’s all of us. While there is still much to learn about all of the impacts of plastics on human health, we know enough to adopt a precautionary principle and start to phase out these throwaway plastics for good.

“The cheap convenience of plastics is simply not worth the numerous risks. Plastics are harming or killing animals around the globe, contributing to climate change and keeping us dependent on fossil fuels, entering our air, water, and food supplies, and seriously jeopardizing human health throughout their lifecycle. The answer is for corporations to reduce the production of throwaway plastics immediately and begin to move toward systems of refill and reuse. It’s time to reject overconsumption and the corporations that continue to sell it to us.”

To read the entire report, please click here:

To read CIEL’s press release, click here:



Perry Wheeler, Greenpeace USA Senior Communications Specialist, P: +1 301-675-8766

Perry Wheeler

By Perry Wheeler

Perry Wheeler is a senior communications specialist at Greenpeace USA.

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