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Health and environment: A closer look at plastics
Date:1/23/2013

ral fronts, and current research offers significant hope for improvements to human and environmental health. Better biodegradeable plastics are now being developed using carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide compounds and applying metal complexes as catalysts.

The technique provides a double benefit, binding unwanted greenhouse gases, while avoiding the competition with the human food supply. (Conventional bioplastics are made with plant sources like corn and molasses.) One application would be to replace BPA-containing epoxy resins lining metal food cans, thereby dramatically reducing BPA exposure while also sequestering 180 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (greenhouse) emissions.

The use of disposable items is also undergoing a reevaluation, in light of the potential environmental toll. In some cases, reusable plastic products are gaining ground, and estimates suggest the potential for a 50 percent reduction in medical equipment costs. Almost a quarter of all U.S. hospitals are now using reprocessing to decrease disposable waste.

Nevertheless, the largest source of plastics-related environmental damage stems from the overuse of items whose long-term harm outweighs their short-term benefit. Typically, these are consumer convenience items, often quickly discarded after a short use-life, including plastic water bottles, grocery bags, packaging, Styrofoam cups, Teflon-coated dental floss and other products. Halden recommends a thorough life-cycle assessment of plastics-based products, to identify safer, more sustainable replacement materials that reduce adverse effects to the environment and human health from plastic consumption.

"Many current types and consumption patterns of plastics are unsusustainable, as indicated by harmful plastic components circulating in our blood streams and multiple giant garbage patches of plastic debris swirling in the world's oceans. Continued use of plastics into the future will require us to r
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Contact: Joseph Caspermeyer
joseph.caspermeyer@asu.edu
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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