The Effects of Plastic Pollution on Human Health


The world’s first-ever man-made plastic was introduced in 1862, by Alexander Parkes. Ever since then the manufacture of plastic has become very important in all manufacturing industries. The reason for its popularity is none other than its cheap production cost, because after its introduction all manufacturers hurriedly turned towards the production of plastic as the most convenient and easiest way to fulfil their industrial demands. In the initial years of its introduction, plastic was only used to make combs, buttons etc but as time progressed, new developments were made and today plastic is used in the large-scale production of medical equipment, construction materials, consumer goods, aerospace etc. But as the demand for plastic and plastic products sky-rocketed, so did the threat to the health and safety of humans, animals and even the environment did. The production of plastic was accompanied by an unwelcomed guest, plastic pollution. Plastic pollution is significantly changing the world we live in now, it is not only effecting the environment but also us, humans.
Keep on reading to find out more about plastic pollution and how plastic pollution affects humans.

What is plastic pollution?

Plastic pollution basically refers to the accumulation of plastic objects and particles in the earth’s environment that causes great complexities for all the species dwelling on planet earth.

Why is it so important to talk about plastic pollution?

River filled with plastic pollution
Stop whatever you are doing right now and have a quick glance at your room/office etc. You will observe that a significant number of products that are an essential part of your daily-routine are actually made of plastic. From the plastic bottle, you use to fulfill a basic necessity to pens and even your phone cover, almost everything is made of plastic! This is exactly why it is important to talk about plastic pollution. The usage of plastic has become so common and widespread that we no longer even realize the complexities it is creating for us. Listed below are some distressing facts that will inform you about the danger that comes along with plastic pollution and make you reconsider your reckless habits when it comes to using plastic products which then eventually ends up causing plastic pollution.

Why is plastic pollution so harmful for human health?

Exposure to plastic pollution can result in a variety of adverse effects on our health. Listed below are just a few of them:

  • Plastic pollution can be very harmful for innocent toddlers who may chew pieces of plastic which can cause choking and also result in severe adverse health outcomes such as cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, etc.
  • Several studies have found various links between plastic and the growing health problems in today’s generation. It is now commonly believed that some of the most deadly and life-threatening diseases are actually caused by plastic pollution for example, complications that are becoming very frequent in the human cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive, and gastrointestinal systems.
  • Cancer, diabetes, chronic inflammation, and various other immune diseases are also attributed to plastic pollution.
  • Use of plastic products also leads to ingestion and at times inhalation of large amounts of micro-plastic particles as well as other toxic substances that have been found to create endocrine-disrupting impacts.
  • Micro plastics entering the human body through direct exposure to plastic pollution may also cause other deadly issues such as oxidative stress, apoptosis, and necrosis.
  • Plastic pollution in oceans impacts the human health too. You may wonder, why? Well, its quite simple. When marine animals consume plastic, the toxins break down inside their bodies, then when we consume these animals, these toxins enter our bodies too and result in hormonal abnormalities and developmental problems.
  • As if plastic pollution itself has not created great problems in our environment, the harmful effects of plastic waste disposal makes the situation even more complex. Due to the lack of awareness about efficient plastic waste management systems, many people burn their trash in the open air. Through these various toxic chemicals from plastic easily enter our body even when we think we are breathing in “fresh air”. A report published in March 2018 further highlights the gravity of this situation as it shows that 5 billion people globally live without waste collection or controlled waste disposal systems, as a result of which roughly 9 million people die each year.

Now let me share some ground-breaking statistics with you that will fully inform you of how widespread plastic pollution has really become:

  1. The average person eats 70,000 microplastics each year
  2. Over the past 50 years plastic pollution has doubled
  3. Since the 1950s, around 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide!
  4. A million plastic bottles are brought around the world every minute
  5. Worldwide about 2 million plastic bags are used every minute

Conclusion: Plastic Pollution effect Humans

Micro plastic pollution that effects human
Quite luckily we as humans do not choke on plastic bags, that is the depressing fate of many marine birds/turtles and various other animals, but it cannot be denied that the alarming amount of toxic additives present in our everyday use plastic, coupled to the constant exposure to plastic pollution is becoming a matter of serious alarm. But it is not too late, yet. If you as an individual pledge to make this planet a safer place for everyone and work towards it, starting from today, change can take place and our environment can become safer and healthier to breathe in!

Listed below are some of the small changes you can make in your daily life that will assist us in reaching a positive conclusion towards this plastic problem.

  1. Religiously practice the three R’S, recycle, reduce and reuse
  2. Cook more, because not only is cooking at home healthier but also safer for the environment as making your own meals does not require plastic containers and plastic cutlery etc
  3. Buy in bulk (select bigger containers instead of using several smaller ones)
  4. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner
  5. Pressurize authorities and especially manufacturers to be considerate of the environment and make environment-friendly packaging

Now that you understand the impacts of plastic pollution on human health, maybe you could join the movement to reduce plastic waste.
Find out more about this movement, plastic-free with this article!
Also if you are interested in learning more about plastic pollution and animals, this article is for you.

Global Citizen. Web. 24 Nov. 2020.
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!