Experts warn of another pandemic as toxic chemicals are used in food packaging and single-use plastics

| Update:
April 10, 2021, 11:38 a.m.

Experts from global platforms have warned of another looming pandemic with illnesses due to toxic chemicals found in most food packaging and single-use plastics.

While single-use plastics (SUPs) are marketed as the safest option, Project Unwrapped reveals that there are over 4,000 chemicals present in plastic packaging and many are known to be dangerous for human health.

In test samples from 19 locations around the world, 93% of bottled water samples contained microplastics with an average of 10.4 plastic particles per liter.

Experts from the Global Alliance for Alternatives to Incinerators (GAIA) Asia-Pacific, as well as #breakfreefromplastic, Greeners Actions (Hong Kong), Health Care Without Harm-Southeast Asia and UPSTREAM have issued a warning appeal with the latest information at a virtual event on Wednesday.

Unknown to many, the microplastic can travel through the intestine and enter the circulatory system, collect in major organs, and travel through the lymphatic system to the liver and spleen.

When inhaled, microplastics, depending on their size and shape, can pass through the respiratory system, lodge in the lungs and eventually travel to other parts of the body, they said.

“The dramatic increase in the use of single-use plastics in catering during the pandemic has been fueled by a false industry narrative that SUPs prevent transmission of the virus,” said Miriam Gordon, director of policy upstream.

She added: “COVID-19 research shows that the virus is transmitted from aerosolized droplets and not by touching contaminated surfaces, and the idea that plastic packaging makes us safer has no scientific basis. “

“During the pandemic, we are encouraging people to bring their own boxes of food when ordering take out. The risks of contracting the virus come from respiratory contact. Using SUP does not mean you are better protected against the virus, ”said Michelle Chung, Senior Project Manager and ST0P Campaign Manager at Greeners Action in Hong Kong.

“With our ST0P campaign, we are educating consumers and business owners (restaurants and malls) that there are safer options to use other than SUPs that end up in landfills.”

The healthcare sector is another sector that has seen an increase in single-use plastics used during the pandemic.

“While there are essential single-use plastics such as intravenous lines and syringes used in the healthcare industry, there are also a number of non-essential plastics like disposable utensils that the industry may start to grow. ‘move away,’ said Paeng Lopez, Plastics in Healthcare Project Manager and Philippine Project Coordinator for Sustainable Health in Procurement at HCHW-SEA.

What we want is to find safer and more sustainable materials, design, management or alternatives for essential plastics and a complete elimination of non-essential plastics in healthcare, continued Paeng Lopez.

“Having said that, and in line with our goal of a healthy recovery, we are encouraging the healthcare industry to start saying no to non-essential plastics now,” Paeng Lopez added.

“The good news is that there are alternatives,” said Miko Alino, GAIA Asia-Pacific program manager.

“There are companies offering non-SUP packaging all over Asia-Pacific and around the world. Some say these are niche businesses, but they are not. We used to bring reusable items when we bought food, our parents used to bring traditional indigenous baskets to markets. The pouches were unknown until a few decades ago, ”added Miko Alino.

According to The Unwrapped Project, more than 4,000 chemicals may be present in plastic packaging, and of these, 906 have been identified as likely to be present in plastic packaging with 68 chemicals particularly hazardous to the environment and 63 for human health.

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