November 14, 2018

Health advocates call on businesses to reduce plastic use

Photo | Contributed
Photo | Contributed
Nancy O. Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health Inc.

Business has a major role to play in protecting human health from the negative effects of plastic in the environment, according to the leader of a new anti-plastic campaign spearheaded by health professionals.

North Haven-based nonprofit Environment and Human Health Inc. (EHHI) has launched an effort to cut plastic use in Connecticut in response to recent studies that show that plastics have infiltrated ecosystems planet-wide and are having toxic effects on humans and other species.

"When it became clear that plastics were not only a serious problem for the environment but were having an effect on human health… It became clear that we need to do something about it," said Nancy O. Alderman, president of EHHI. The nonprofit, led by a board of health and environmental professionals including many Yale-affiliated physicians and scientists, has played a key role in the past in regulating pesticide use in Connecticut.

When it comes to what the group calls "the plastic epidemic," EHHI has hired a full-time representative to work with state officials on expanding bans on single-use plastic bags, Alderman said. Several towns in the state already ban the bags, which clog recycling machines and are major contributors to the 33.6 million tons of plastic discarded in the U.S. each year, some of which ends up in the oceans and makes its way into humans through seafood. A recent European study found that people who regularly eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic each year.

Advocates with EHHI plan meetings with major state retailers like Walmart to argue for reducing plastic use, Alderman said. The group also hopes that regional grocery chains like Stop & Shop will take action to cut plastic use.

"Business will have to play a big role, maybe the very biggest," Alderman said. "The plan is to talk to business leaders see whether they would be willing to help."

To read EHHI's report on plastic and its effect on human health, click here.

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