A variety of other plastic-related chemicals are currently under evaluation by Halden's group for their adverse effects on health and the environment. These include polyhalogenated flame retardants, polyfluorinated compounds and antimicrobials containing plastic additives such as triclosan and triclocarban.
While researchers are still at the early stages of assessing the risks to human health posed by plastics use, negative impacts on the environment have been a growing concern for many years. Over 300 million metric tons of plastics are produced worldwide each year. Roughly 50 percent of this volume is made up of products disposed of within one year of purchase.
Plastics today represent 15-25 percent of all hospital waste in the U.S. Some newer plastics are biodegradeable, but the rest must be incinerated, disposed of in landfills, or recycled. All of these methods have drawbacks and carry environmental risk, as the new study explains.
Biodegradeable plastics may break down in the environment into smaller polymer constituents, which may still pose a risk to the environment. Incineration liberates greenhouse gases associated with climate change. Landfilling of plastics, particularly in the enormous volumes now produced, may be an impractical use of land resources and a danger exists of plastics constituents entering the ground water. Finally, recycling of plastics requires careful sorting of plastic material, which is difficult. Recycled plastics tend to be of lower quality and may not be practical for health care and other applications.
As Halden explains, the problems posed by plastics need to be addressed on seve
|Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer|
Arizona State University