IPEN's Toxic Plastics Reports
IPEN has been studying the impacts of plastics and the chemicals they contain for many years. The reports below are a sampling of that work.
The health and environmental impacts of plastics are a global crisis. Toxic chemicals in plastics have been linked to cancers, damage to the immune and reproductive systems, impaired intellectual functions, developmental delays, and other serious health conditions. Evidence suggests that we are already seeing serious health problems from chemical exposures throughout the plastics lifecycle.
This publication looks at how plastics and chemical production and emissions may be threatening the stability of the entire global ecosystem.
Though they only account for 16 percent of the world’s population, high-income countries generate about 34 percent of the world’s waste. A large portion of the generated wastes are plastics, which often contain toxic chemicals. A recent analysis found that the overall plastic trade is more than 40% higher than previous estimates, and even this number fails to reflect the trade of plastics and wastes in textiles, rubber, plastic contamination of paper bales, and other sources. The real amount of plastics and plastic wastes, and of toxic chemicals contained in plastics and wastes that move globally via trade is likely to be even higher.
IPEN studies show how policy is driving massive investment in plastic waste-to-fuel processing, and that exports are threatening waste management in ASEAN countries and undermining the Basel Convention and climate change commitments.
IPEN published a number of studies showing significant obstacles for countries seeking to implement safe plastic circular economies. The studies reveal that countries are unable to handle large volumes of diverse plastics waste streams safely, and the reality that, without regulations requiring plastic ingredients to be labeled, countries are blindly allowing known toxic chemicals onto their markets in plastic products.
In May 2021, the cargo ship X-Press Pearl caught fire and sank off the shore Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean, creating a complex debris field of chemicals and waste that will have impacts for many years. This study looks at the many ways in which the nearby communicaties have been affected, and how prevention, mitigation, and regulatory measures are vital to protect coastal communities and prevent similar disasters in future.
Preproduction plastics as pellets, or "nurdles", can carry many different chemicals, both those added to the plastics and pollutants that attach (sorb) to them in the environment. Often lost during production, transportation, and storage, pellets have been found on beaches all over the world since the 1970s. This study of plastic pellets gathered from beaches in 23 different countries contained many chemicals of concern, some in very high concentrations.
Because almost all plastics contain toxic chemicals, recycling processes can perserve and can even generate toxic chemicals, such as dioxins. In this study, pellets made from recycled HDPE, intended for use in new products, were purchased from 24 recyclers in 23 countries and analyzed for 18 substances. The large number of toxic chemicals in many of the samples highlights the need to rethink recycling to ensure it does not perpetuate harms.
Plastic waste has become an unprecedented pollution issue, blanketing our planet in the petrochemical remnants of plastic production. This report examines current and emerging methods by which plastic waste is managed globally and questions whether any of them present a solution to the rapidly accelerating generation of plastic waste. In short, they don't and the only long-term answer is to produce less plastic.
Places like the US, EU, or Australia create vast amount of waste, including plastic waste, exporting much of it to countries lacking the resources or infrastructure to manage them safely. This study looked at levels of toxic chemicals samples of eggs in and around places where the waste is often burned openly to obtain metals or as a fuel source. The study found some of the highest levels of certain toxics, such as chlorinated dioxins, ever measured in the environment.
Both the African environment and the human health of Africans suffer from toxic chemicals and imported wastes more than in developed countries. Africa has become the destination of illegal toxic waste exports and, as this study shows, toxic chemicals are also present in toys, kitchen utensils, and other consumer products sold in African markets.
This joint report of the Endocrine Society and IPEN provides the current best knowledge about the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on human health. It discusses chemicals known to be hazardous to human health yet actively used in plastics, exposures, the problem of microplastics, and the issues surrounding alternative plastics.
Although there are thousands of individual chemicals that can be described as EDCs, they fall into seven broad categories. This brief discusses what each group is, how people can be exposed, and the health impacts.
Report developed in collaboration with multiple UN convention groups, technical experts, and organizations working to address toxic pollution, discusses the key challenges society faces to eliminate toxic components in the plastics life-cycle, identifies chemicals and sectors of greatest concern, and outlines key approaches for tackling the issues.
Research from IPEN, Nexus3, Arnika, and ECOTON, demonstrates how highly toxic chemicals from plastic waste contaminates free-range chicken eggs in Indonesian communities where plastic waste accumulates. Eggs, collected in the communities where plastic waste is burned to reduce volume and for factory fuel, were found to contain dangerous levels of chemicals posing dire threats to human health including dioxins, flame retardants, and the toxic “forever chemical,” PFOS.
Research, lead by CIEL, exposing the distinct toxic risks plastic poses to human health at every stage of the plastic life-cycle, from extraction of fossil fuels, to consumer use, to disposal and beyond.
Evidence of banned toxic flame-retardants, hazardous chemicals from electronic waste that are known to disrupt thyroid function and cause neurological and attention deficits in children, are recycled into new plastic consumer products across Europe.
A study of children’s products from 26 countries revealed that toxic flame-retardant chemicals in recycled electronic waste results in pervasive contamination of new plastic children’s toys and related products. Recycling materials that contain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other toxic substances contaminates new products, creates human and environmental exposure, and undermines the credibility of recycling.
Highly toxic brominated dioxins found in toys and accessories sampled in seven countries that were made from recycled e-waste plastic reveals levels of dioxin found in previous studies in waste incineration fly ash or other industrial waste.
The toxic industrial chemical Short-chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs) are primarily used in metalworking, but also used in plastic products as flame retardants and softeners. A survey of children’s products in 10 countries reveals widespread contamination with SCCPs.
Report on the toxic threats from waste incinerator ash that, which is generated at a rate of millions of tons every year includes analysis of global scale of toxic ash and other residues from waste incineration contain dioxins, furans (PCDD/Fs) and a range of other highly toxic POPs at levels which are a threat to human health and the environment.
Abbreviated brief summarizes findings of the Toxic Ash Poisons Our Food Chain report.
Research from IPEN and BAN reveals dire human exposure and food chain contamination from highly toxic plastics in waste in Ghana, including toxic recycled e-waste shipped from Europe.