The Perils of Plastic – Environmental Toxins – TIME.
Young children are subjected to plastics in their every day life such as eating utensils, plates, bowls that might contain dangerous toxins.
On the first Earth Day, celebrated 40 years ago this month, the U.S. was a poisoned nation. Dense air pollution blanketed cities like Los Angeles, where smog alerts were a fact of life. Dangerous pesticides like DDT were still in use, and water pollution was rampant — symbolized by raging fires on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River, captured in a famous 1969 story for TIME. But the green movement that was energized by Earth Day — and the landmark federal actions that followed it — changed much of that. Today air pollution is down significantly in most urban areas, the water is cleaner, and even the Cuyahoga is home to fish again. Though climate change looms as a long-term threat, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day will see a much cleaner country.
But if the land is healing, Americans may be sickening. Since World War II, production of industrial chemicals has risen rapidly, and the U.S. generates or imports some 42 billion lb. (19 billion kg) of them per day, leaving Americans awash in a sea of synthetics. These aren’t the sorts of chemicals that come to mind when we picture pollution — huge plants spilling contaminated wastewater into rivers. Rather, they’re the molecules that make good on the old “better living through chemistry” promise, appearing in items like unbreakable baby bottles and big-screen TVs. Those chemicals have a habit of finding their way out of everyday products and into the environment — and ultimately into living organisms. A recent biomonitoring survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found traces of 212 environmental chemicals in Americans — including toxic metals like arsenic and cadmium, pesticides, flame retardants and even perchlorate, an ingredient in rocket fuel. “It’s not the environment that’s contaminated so much,” says Dr. Bruce Lanphear, director of the Cincinnati Children’s Environmental Health Center. “It’s us.”(See pictures of the world’s most polluted places.)
As scientists get better at detecting the chemicals in our bodies, they’re discovering that even tiny quantities of toxins can have a potentially serious impact on our health — and our children’s future. Chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates — key ingredients in modern plastics — may disrupt the delicate endocrine system, leading to developmental problems. A host of modern ills that have been rising unchecked for a generation — obesity, diabetes, autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder — could have chemical connections. “We don’t give environmental exposure the attention it deserves,” says Dr. Philip Landrigan, director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at New York City’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. “But there’s an emerging understanding that kids are uniquely susceptible to environmental hazards.”(See the top 10 household toxins.)
- Environmental Toxins (teachstreet.com)
- Can Pollution Affect A Child’s IQ? (thegoodhuman.com)
- The Dangers of Phthalates (public-healthcare-issues.suite101.com)