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How Harmful Is Plastic To Humans?

Posted by James Gaunt on
How Harmful Is Plastic To Humans?

While plastics are ubiquitous in today's world, little is known about their impact on human health. As plastic products fragment into smaller particles and concentrate toxic chemicals, the environment and food chain are exposed to a growing amount of plastic. This situation will only worsen with the growth in plastic production.

The way that plastic impacts human health must be recognized at every stage of its lifecycle: from the wellhead to the refinery, from the shelf to the body, from waste management to ongoing impacts like air, water, and soil pollution. 

People are exposed to harmful plastics throughout many areas of plastic’s lifecycle: 

Transport and Extraction


Plastic is made up of 99% fossil fuels. Natural gas hydraulic fracturing releases a wide variety of toxic substances into the air and water. Fracking chemicals are used to produce the primary feedstocks for plastic, which are well known to cause cancer, neurological damage, reproductive harm, immune system damage, and more. They have direct and documented impacts on the skin, eyes, respiratory system, nervous system, gastrointestinal system, liver, and brain.

Product Manufacturing


In the process of burning fossil fuel into plastic resins and additives, highly toxic substances are released into the air. A study documented neurotoxicity, cancer, leukemia, and birth defects related to exposure to these substances. During emergencies and uncontrolled releases, workers and communities near refining facilities are at the greatest risk.

Consumer Products and Packaging


Plastics contain large amounts of microplastic particles as well as hundreds of toxic chemicals that may harm the gastrointestinal system or disrupt the endocrine system.

Environmental Management


Plastics are susceptible to toxic metals, such as lead and mercury, organic substances (dioxins and furans), acid gases, and other toxic substances after incineration, co-incineration, gasification, or pyrolysis. Workers and local communities may be exposed to toxic substances by inhaling contaminated air, coming into direct contact with contaminated soil or water, as well as consuming food that has been grown in an environmentally disturbed area. A burn pile can emit toxins that can travel long distances and deposit in soil and water, eventually entering human bodies after accumulating in plant and animal tissues.

Plastic In Our Environment

Plastic contaminates agricultural soils, terrestrial and aquatic food chains, and the water supply once it reaches the environment in the form of macro- or microplastics. Chemical additives or toxins already in the environment can easily leach into this environmental plastic, making them readily bioavailable to humans. With the degradation of plastic particles, new surface areas become exposed, allowing additives to continue to leach into the environment and the body. Microplastics may enter the human body via direct exposures such as ingestion or inhalation and can lead to an array of health impacts. These factors are associated with a myriad of health outcomes that include cancer, cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammation, auto-immune disorders, neurodegenerative disorders, and stroke.

Clearstone has made it their mission to supply artisan quality items made locally by hand in an environmentally sustainable way, with this in mind, what's good for the planet is good for you.

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James Gaunt

Product Specialist


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