Fun Fact: The only thing that you are allowed to throw out of your car in according to CA state laws is water and chicken feathers. Sadly, many people don’t follow these rules. Littering is easy. Can’t find a trash can? Just throw it on the street! However, although littering seems convenient to many people the ends DO NOT justify the means. The starbucks cup that you threw on the ground will collect and collect with other peoples litter and end up destroying a habitat. On a larger scale hazardous waste is thrown out by large corporations on the hour. 29.1 million tons of hazardous waste was produced between 2001 and 2017 in the United States alone. This ends up in streams and lakes that some people use for clean water. This is dangerous because it puts that population who is dependent on that water at risk for toxin poisoning.
These days going to the grocery store is like walking into a store of plastic. Everything is packaged in plastic and there is not enough exposure on how storing food in plastic can be bad for your health. During a study at the University of Washington, Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana found that many people’s diet can expose them to harmful chemicals from the plastic packaging. There is still research being done to identify the specific chemicals that are toxic in plastics. Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana believes that this should be a wake up call for large corporations to look into what type of plastic is putting their consumers at risk. It’s been found that these “chemicals may harm the brain, raise the risk of asthma and obesity, and slow down the growth of a developing baby,” and should be banned from the market. Switching over from these products, however, is expensive. Even milk which is often stored in paper cartons or glass bottles has been found to be harmful. Dr. Sathyanarayana suggests that this may be because of the plastic tubing in factories. America is running on plastics and it is time to uproot this system and find alternatives. In no way is plastic good for humans or the environment. It is convenient but that is not enough to jeopardize the health of millions of people.
Lower class families are more at risk from environmental health issues because often the plastic options are cheaper. Additionally, low income communities tend to live near industrial sites, further exposing them to harmful chemicals. For example, if a family who lives near a coal-burning plant eats a fish from that area they could experience mercury poisoning. Coal burning plants release mercury and sulfur dioxide into the air. This then precipitates on to the area below contaminating the waters. People in large cities are at risk as well. With many industrial sites nearby, the air continues to be polluted and the people in those cities could have major health problems because of it. These types of exposures are hard to test because someone can be exposed a little over a very long period of time. The European Union has banned certain harmful chemicals from grocery stores, but the United States has not taken the steps to prevent this kind of exposure.
There are things that people can do to reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals however it is extremely difficult to avoid. Taking certain risks over others is called risk management. It is important to know what you are putting in your body. Avoiding plastics is extremely beneficial to your health, not to mention the environment. If large corporations can distance themselves from these harmful chemicals, there will be a major improvement in global health including the environment.