A new study reveals that rapidly increasing artificial chemicals and pollutants in the environment have exceeded the planet’s safe limits and are posing a serious threat to the Earth and humanity.
This study has been conducted by a multinational team of experts, they examined how hundreds of thousands of chemicals created by human activities affect the global ecosystem’s stability. They claim that we have now passed the global limit for environmental contaminants, Learn more about the Study in this Article.
What is meant by Planet’s Safe Limits?
Since the birth of civilization 10,000 years ago, the Earth has been astonishingly stable. In 2009, scientists defined nine parameters that keep us inside the confines of this stable state, Greenhouse gas emissions, forests, biodiversity, freshwater, and the ozone layer are among them. While scientists have approximated the boundaries for global warming and CO2 levels, they have not examined chemical contamination.
Because of the diversity of contaminating sources, scientists have been unable to establish a consensus on the status of this specific border. According to reports, there are over 350,000 distinct types of newly produced chemicals, Pesticides, Industrial chemicals, Antibiotics, Plastics are among them. Bethanie Carney Almroth, at the University of Gothenburg co-author of the research, says, “the rate at which these contaminants are arriving in the environment significantly surpasses governments’ capacity to analyze global and regional hazards, much alone regulate any possible issues”.
According to scientists, humans have already passed four additional planetary boundaries: global warming, the destruction of natural ecosystems, biodiversity loss, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and Chemical pollution has now been added to that list.
According to a new study published by the American Chemical Society, approximately 350,000 man-made chemicals are now on the market, including Pesticides, Industrial chemicals, Antibiotics, Plastics, insecticides, cosmetic chemicals, antibiotics, and other pharmaceuticals. The fact that this number continues to increase at an alarming rate makes it practically hard for any authority to keep track of their potential environmental implications. There’s no way to keep up at this point. A fresh examination of the issue reveals that we have passed a planetary border into dangerous territory. Chemical manufacturing has more than doubled since the 1950s. It is expected to treble again by 2050.
As Bethanie Carney Almroth, at the University of Gothenburg co-author of the research, says, “the rate at which these contaminants are arriving in the environment significantly surpasses governments’ capacity to analyze global and regional hazards, much alone regulate any possible issues”. So Even if we can reduce chemical production in the future, new chemicals created by humans have already penetrated the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, and biosphere.
Given that many of these compounds may exist ‘forever’ in the environment, any potential hazard they provide might lay the groundwork for long-term difficulties. Ignoring the situation is unwise, yet it is what mankind has mostly done. A worldwide team of academics compiled a list of nine parameters that maintained our planet stable enough for human survival in 2009, including greenhouse gas emissions, the ozone layer, forests, and freshwater.
They found in 2015 that humans have crossed four of these boundaries: global warming, the destruction of natural ecosystems, biodiversity loss, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and Chemical pollution and or ‘new entities’ has now been added to that list that had never been quantified before. Researchers suggest that similar to a restriction on greenhouse emissions, governments must limit the fast manufacturing of synthetic chemicals while analyzing the ones they currently have. Tens of thousands of chemicals are currently on the market that has not been tested, and even those that have been evaluated for health and safety still pose numerous unknown dangers. While certain compounds may be benign on their own, research has shown that they can become dangerous when broken down or in the presence of other substances. If enough of these byproducts get up in the environment, they might have long-term and negative consequences.
Effects of chemicals on human health
Much of the study has been on the effects of chemicals on human health, yet our species cannot survive without the environment in which we live. Entities such as the US Food and Drug Administration are obligated to analyze the environmental impact of new drugs before they can be approved, but even with the greatest intentions, it might take years for more subtle effects to become evident.
Some sunscreen ingredients, for example, are hazardous to coral. Antidepressants have also been observed to accumulate in water sources in recent years, where they appear to influence how some fish seek food. Avoiding such blunders in the future will be nearly impossible unless we drastically slow the worldwide creation of novel chemical entities, and we do so fast.
Sarah Cornell, a sustainability researcher at Sweden’s Stockholm Resilience Centre says, “It’s critical to the transition to a circular economy”. “That entails redesigning materials and goods so they may be reused rather than discarded, designing chemicals and products for recycling, and far better screening of chemicals for safety and sustainability along their whole effect route in the Earth system.”
The total mass of plastics found on the globe is now double that of all living beings, and this type of pollution is very concerning. Despite attempts in many nations to minimize their use of plastics, the output of this widespread type of garbage is expected to rise.
According to Almroth, Plastic pollution can also influence other critical planetary limits, such as climate change caused by the usage of fossil fuels, the availability of clean water, and even antibiotic resistance. Plastics, due to their lightweight and durability, have helped alleviate certain environmental challenges, but abuse and misuse are having disastrous repercussions on planetary health.
According to a recent study, this prolific pollution may already be threatening human health as well as the delicate balance that keeps our ecosystems intact. Despite numerous overlapping concerns of plastic and chemicals, experts have pointed out that the Glasgow Declaration issued at COP26 made no mention of plastic and chemicals.
Linn Persson, the co-author of the study, tells Euronews Green, “it is conceivable to put chemical pollution back within planetary limitations, but it is difficult for two reasons. For one thing, many of the compounds that we have used and continue to use and emit are quite persistent and will remain in the environment for many years. And two, the present rate at which we discover new substances, as well as the steady growth in amounts produced and utilized, are inextricably tied to global production and consumption patterns, and hence cannot be curtailed by a few isolated measures.”
The authors of the paper propose a variety of initiatives to minimize the production and discharge of these toxins, bringing us back within humane limits. More circularity in product supply chains, as well as a preventative and precautionary “hazard-based” approach to tackling the problem, are among them. Persson also mentions that limitations on plastic manufacturing have been proposed in the past and that something similar could be required for all innovative things.
According to us, the governments of all countries should unanimously make the right laws for the limited use, dismantling, and recycling of chemicals and plastics and also ensure that those laws are followed properly.
- Persson, L., Carney Almroth, B. M., Collins, C. D., Cornell, S., de Wit, C. A., Diamond, M. L., Fantke, P., Hassellöv, M., MacLeod, M., Ryberg, M. W., Søgaard Jørgensen, P., Villarrubia-Gómez, P., Wang, Z., & Hauschild, M. Z. (2022). Outside the safe operating space of the planetary boundary for novel entities. Environmental Science & Technology. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c04158
- Frost, R. (2022, January 18). Scientists say chemical pollution has now passed the safe limit for humanity. Euronews. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
This Article was Published On: 20 January, 2022 And Last Modified On: 1 May, 2022
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