April 14, 2021

In Honor of Earth Day, Message Highlights Concerns of Plastic Pollution

To the Editor:

Thursday, April 22 is Earth Day. There is a lot to worry about the current situation of our planet, but plastic use/abuse is one of the main culprits. Each year, the United States alone produces tens of millions of tons of plastic waste and ships 50 million tons of it to poorer countries, whose residents are left to deal with it for generations to come.

Billions of tons of plastic trash from all over the world end up in the oceans, killing marine life, or lie in landfills everywhere on Earth, causing damage to birds, mammals, and vegetation. Aside from the amount of waste, a major environmental concern is the leaching of chemicals out of the plastic, and its impact on animals and humans. We eat, swallow, and breath 2,000 particles of plastic a week, about the weight of a credit card. Although no studies have been done on the impact of plastic chemicals on humans, what we know so far from animal studies is serious cause for concern. 

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) contained in plastic cause severe disorders in the developing male reproductive system of laboratory rats. These same chemicals leaked into water streams are known to alter the sexual functions of turtles and fish, turning males into females. In humans, endocrinologists for years have observed a steady decrease in male fertility and an increase in testicular cancer (testicular dysgenesis syndrome), and reported the relentless trend toward early puberty in girls. It probably does not take a wizard to conclude that all these phenomena are related, and that plastic is affecting human bodies too. 

Before it gets too late, we need to wean ourselves off disposable plastic and reduce plastic pollution. It is a life choice that we must make for the sake of future generations. 

Chiara Nappi
Clover Lane