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Plastic and Its Impact on Earth

Autor:   •  January 8, 2013  •  Essay  •  1,567 Words (7 Pages)  •  250 Views

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Plastic: It's Impact on Earth


Plastic has become such an integral part of society; it is used in nearly everything. They are accepted by a majority of people as an important feature to all products such as cellphones and bags because of their high resilient properties, their affordability, accessibility, and their low weight. With all these positive elements of plastic, it may seem that plastic is completely problem-free. The only problem is; there is a very pressing problem regarding plastics. Plastic can have negative impacts for the environments around them as well as the people being exposed to it. For this reason, society must become more informed about the plastic they are using and its disposal method. Ever since the 1940's when plastic began its mass production, the rate of manufacturing of plastic has drastically increased (Knoblauch, 2009). In fact, the amount of plastics being manufactured within the last ten years is comparable to the amount that was manufactured within the previous century (Knoblauch, 2009). Plastic is made to last for a long time thanks to the unregulated amount of chemicals that are added to it; the same chemicals that are known to be potentially dangerous to humans. Even though humans are the ones creating such mess, they are not the only ones who are affected by it. Marine life and their environment are constantly being hurt due to the 8.4 million tons of plastic waste that accumulate in the ocean per year (Karpus, 2012). Unless plastic awareness and waste management methods are enforced, plastic will continue to harm life on Earth.

The manufacturing of plastic as well as the dangerous chemicals found within the plastic has become an evident issue regarding the rise of health conditions. Researchers believe that the amount of exposure one has with plastic and its toxin compounds may be linked to the rise in health conditions. Globally, there are over 80, 000 chemicals in industrial production with over 700 more chemicals introduced annually (Ellwood, 2008). The chemicals found in the pollutants are linked to several types of cancers and health conditions that affect the endocrine, respiratory, nervous, and reproductive systems; all of which are major body systems (Ellwood, 2008). Research done by the Sarnia Occupation Health Clinic indicated that the air pollution that petrochemical plants released in Sarnia was linked to the rising medical ailments that were found in the people living there with health ailments ranging from brain damage to asthma to gender-bending (Ellwood, 2008). The air pollution that plastic manufacturing factories release is not the only way for humans to get in contact with its toxic compounds though. In fact, many of the chemicals found in the air pollution created by petro-chemical plants can be found in daily household items that people assume to be "safe," such as canned goods with plastic linings, TV components, printers, and kitchen appliances. Bisphenol A (BPA), a now-banned additive to plastic, were once used in the manufacturing of baby bottles among other common household items despite its poisonous chemicals. When the plastic aged or was heated, its chemicals would leak into its contents which can lead to reproductive problems, obesity and diabetes. Similar chemicals can also be found in other plastics, such as BPDE, a flame retardant that not only gradually gathers in large quantities over time in organisms but is also environmentally damaging. To make matters worse, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 95% of chemicals in the U.S. have not been tested; dangerous toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDTs), which are all known to cause serious health issues, can be traced in the blood and urine of regular citizens in first-world civilizations (Ellwood, 2008) (Knoblauch, 2009). Because so many of the chemical compounds in plastics can be absorbed by the human body; there are many rising concerns about the adverse effects it may have on the generations to come.

When plastic is disposed or recycled, there is a high chance that many of it will not stay on land but instead find itself in the ocean. Fisheries and Oceans Canada estimates the 8.4 million tons of it will find its way into the ocean annually, meaning that 90% of the world's ocean garbage is actually just plastic waste (Karpus, 2012). At sea, floating plastics are swept into slow moving currents called ocean gyres. In fact, so much of these plastics are caught in these gyres that they often form large bodies of garbage that simply float atop the ocean as one massive island of debris. Due to their long-lasting characteristics, these plastics will probably remain in these gyres


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