Human rights at risk from plastic waste

UN experts warned of a “toxic tidal wave” of plastics and urged States and companies to assume their responsibility and guarantee the human right to a healthy environment free of toxic substances.

Today, among environmental crises, one more edition of World Environment Day is commemorated.

The date comes at a time when annual plastic production has doubled in the last 20 years to reach a level of 430 million metric tons.

On Friday, 175 countries agreed to make the first draft of a treaty against plastic pollution, which threatens human rights, two experts warned in a UN report released that same day.

Plastic production releases hazardous substances and depends almost exclusively on fossil fuels, while the material itself contains toxic chemicals, posing serious risks and damage to human health and the environment,” the specialists stated.

They stressed that 85% of single-use plastics end up in landfills or polluting rivers, seas and landscapes.

False and misleading solutions, such as incineration or recycling this material full of toxins, aggravate the situation,” they asserted.

They recalled that plastic, microplastics and the hazardous substances they contain can be found in the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe.

The contribution of this type of pollution to climate change is alarming,” said report authors David R. Boyd, special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, and Marcos Orellana, special rapporteur on toxics and human rights.

In the report, they marked areas of greatest risk for the population, with women and children being the most vulnerable.

In America and the Caribbean, they made reference to areas such as La Oroya, Peru, where 99% of children have elevated levels of lead in their blood living near a lead smelter.

It is shocking to see how the omnipresence of plastics affects human rights in many different ways, such as the right to a healthy environment, to life, to health, to food, to water and to an adequate standard of living”, they affirmed.

They hoped that by 2024 a global and internationally binding regulatory agreement on plastics would be ready.

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