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Should Plastic be Re-Classified as “Toxic”?

toxic injuryReports out of the Hague indicate that a growing number of international scientists are aiming to reduce one of our planet’s most widespread forms of environmental waste by labeling certain types of plastic “hazardous.”

The group is headed by two American scientists, who included the following statement to the global community in last week’s issue of the scientific journal Nature:

“We believe that if countries classified the most harmful plastics as hazardous, their environmental agencies would have the power to restore affected habitats and prevent more dangerous debris from accumulating.”

Last year, 280 million tons of plastic were manufactured, yet only 46% of it ended up in landfills or was recycled.  Of course some of that remaining 150 million tons of plastic is still in use, but a disturbing amount ends up scattered across highways, sidewalks, forests, beaches and oceans. (Just consider of the Pacific garbage gyre at sea, an expanse of floating plastic bigger than the state of Texas).

Plastic differs from many other types of solid waste like uneaten food, scrap metal or discarded clothes, insofar as it takes an exceptionally long time to break down. When plastic does finally break down, it becomes hazardous and sometimes toxic particles that can damage wildlife, ecosystems and people.

Occupational Disease

The group of anti-plastic environmentalists — currently led by Chelsea M. Rochman of the University of California, Davis, and Mark Anthony Browne at California’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis— is demanding that nations across the globe reclassify plastics that are especially hard to recycle and that become most toxic when they degrade, namely PVC, polystyrene, polyurethane and polycarbonate.

According to those scientists, these types make up about 30% of all plastics produced — and are used in common items and industries like construction, food containers, electronics and furniture.

Workers also face hazards from these substances, and cases of Toxic Injury have been on the rise for over 20 years.  In addition, many chemical manufactures do not disclose the dangers of their products, exposing workers to hazardous substances without their knowledge. This can be grounds for a third party injury claim; workers who suspect their illness or injury may have been caused by toxic substances should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer for help with their case.

Share your opinion: should we re-classify common plastics as hazardous? Or do you think there’s a more effective strategy for cutting down on the amount of plastics we throw out?

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Emery Reddy