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Plastic Pollution as a Public Health Issue
Would Approaching plastic pollution as a Public Health Issue Decrease Rates of cancer and other illnesses for Americans across the country?
From a Future Nurses Prospective
West Coast University
Evidence of the connection: Increase in plastic pollution causing health dilemmas in humans.
Plastic pollution is a major dilemma humans have been dealing with for centuries, and how it has negatively impacted our health has started to raise major concerns for many. Plastic, a material created in 1907 by Belgian-American chemist predated the first real synthetic mass-produced plastic. Not what is plastic exactly? Plastic is nine natural material meaning it doesnt come from the earth plastics are made from materials such as cellulose, coal, natural gases, and other polymers and poly condescending processes. On average, in the United States, there are over 380 million tons of plastic produced annually, and up to 50% is for single-use purposes such as shipping boxes or disposable water bottles. (Roscam A.M. 2018) The production of plastic in mass quantities and factories close to home towns and rural areas can be hazardous not only to the workers but to the people around the factories as well, toxic vapors are released into the atmosphere while plastic is being made and recycled.
The inhalation of these toxic vapors has been linked to causing cancer, endocrine disruption, and asthma. Studies show that on average humans across the United States ingest about 2 grams of plastic every week throughout the course of their lives; which is more than half a pound each year. This brings major risk factors to the limelight when dealing with asthma in children. On average one in every thirteen-school-aged child has asthma and 70% of it is due to common household plastics.
Medical condition One: Cancer
Over the past two decades, humans have dramatically started to recognize how truly harmful plastic pollution is. Microplastic inhalation is the second leading cause of lung cancer right behind smoking. Around 16% of plastic produced consist of textile, microscopic fibers. (Bienkowski, B. 2019) Microplastics can be found lingering not only outdoors but indoors, and on the floor as well. Research shows that on average we inhale about 11 particles of microplastics per hour and results only worsen in big, metropolitan cities. According to studies, results show that inhalation of microplastics attaches to the walls of the lungs, critically damaging the tissue and mucus membrane; furthermore, leading to cancer. Another way plastic causes lung cancer is through burning it. The burning of plastics leads to the chemical release of dioxins and styrene gases which are some of the most dangerous chemicals leading to lung cancer.
Medical Condition Two: Asthma
When dealing with asthma in children, exposure to diethyl phthalate and butyl benzyl phthalate which are chemicals commonly found in household plastics have elevated risk for developing asthma-related airway inflammation. (Stephanie L. Wright, 2017) There have been studies made that five in every nine children have detectable levels of phthalates in their urine; what is the chemical that leads to asthma. Other study shows that expected mothers who have come into contact with plastics such as PVC, food packaging, and personal care products have drastically worsened the status of the fetus causing premature birth defects as well as complications of birth such as eating underweight or premature.
Medical Condition Three: Endocrine Disruption
Endocrine disruption disorders are caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals. EDCs can generally produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune effects on humans. EDCs typically interfere with the synthesis of natural hormones. (Richard C. Thompson, C. 2018) Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are plastic derived and with the increase in pollution, we are going to experience more endocrine disruptions. Some chemicals are polychlorinated biphenyls as well as dixons and other more popular such as BPA found in plastic water bottles. Research shows that more than 70% of the products released chemicals that act like estrogen and therefore confusing female bodies and their estrogen secreting gland therefore upsetting the balance which backtracking can lead to breast cancer.
Economic Burden: Cost of treatments, and environmental impact.
As we all know cancer treatments are extremely expensive and most people will be paying for the treatment for the rest of their lives. Cancer patients face out-of-pocket fees and costs that are nearly $12,000 a year for just one drug. Studies show that in 2018 cancer patients paid over $4 billion in out-of-pocket money for treatments. New research shows that approve drugs can cost an average of $10-$30,000 per month as compared to a decade ago when the average was 4500. (Selby, & Pacheco, W. 2020, August 12). Now asthma in children is also another burden that parents usually carry for quite a while long-term control medications such as inhalers are the most important medication that needs to be administered. On average asthma inhalers cost around $500 and the usage is according to the individual but most insurances do not cover inhalers. Finally, endocrine disruption treatments can be upwards of three thousand dollars more and they can last for a lifetime as they caused a hormonal unbalance which is extremely hard to control.
Upwards of billions of dollars are spent yearly on resources and research to combat plastic pollution. It is believed the plastic weight costs up to $33,000 dollars per ton to be removed from oceans and landfills. Plastic doesnt average about $13 billion dollars in damage to marine ecosystems annually and as much as 95% of the value of plastic packaging worth 80 $220 billion dollars annually is lost after its first use. (Kaplan, R. 2019, March 1).
Plastic Strategy A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy. [(accessed on 3 December 2019)]; Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions. Brussels, January 16th 2018 COM (2018) Available online: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/pdf/plastics-strategy.pdf.
Roscam A.M. Plastic Soup: An Atlas of Ocean Pollution. Island Press; Washington, DC, USA: Covelo, CA, USA: London, OH, USA: 2019. ISBN-10: 1642830089.
Wagner M., Lambert S. The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry. Volume 58 Springer Open; Cham, Switzerland: 2018. Freshwater microplastics. Emerging environmental contaminants?
Bienkowski, B. (2019, November 18). Two-thirds of all plastic ever produced remains in the environment. EHN. https://www.ehn.edu/plastic-pollution-and-human-health-2629322391/two-thirds-of-all-plastic-ever-produced-remains-in-the-environment
Stephanie L. Wright, S. L. W. (2017). Plastic and Human Health: A Micro Issue? ACS Publications. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b00423
Richard C. Thompson, C. (2018). Plastics, the environment and human health: current consensus and future trends. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2873021/
Selby, R. K. N., & Pacheco, W. (2020, August 12). Americans Cant Keep Up with High Cost of Cancer Treatment. Mesothelioma Center – Vital Services for Cancer Patients & Families. https://www.asbestos.com/featured-stories/high-cost-of-cancer-treatment/#:%7E:text=Some%20cancer%20patients%20may%20face,a%20year%20for%20one%20drug.&text=In%202014%2C%20cancer%20patients%20paid,of%2Dpocket%20for%20cancer%20treatment.&text=Newly%20approved%20cancer%20drugs%20cost,ago%2C%20the%20average%20was%20%244%2C500.
Kaplan, R. (2019, March 1). How The New Plastic Waste Asset Class Can Help Solve Ocean Pollution. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/robkaplan/2019/03/01/how-the-new-plastic-waste-asset-class-can-help-solve-ocean-pollution/?sh=2a7486055a06
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