15 October 2021
More than 200 medical journals issued the same call to global politics last month. All editors spoke out in agreement: if we don’t keep warming below 1.5 degrees, the consequences for human and animal health, and thus for health care, are incalculable. The journals advocate and demand immediate action for a fundamental change in the world’s course to turn the tide. In a few weeks, the UN may decide to do so at the Glasgow Climate Conference.
The call also raises its hand. After all, the healthcare sector is itself a polluter that contributes to global warming. A lot needs to be done, but the P-word remains unmentioned.
CALL FOR EMERGENCY ACTION
The medical journals’ Call for Emergency Action to limit global temperature increases, restore biodiversity and protect health is an alarming enumeration of harmful effects of temperature rise on health. For example, the death rate related to higher temperatures has more than doubled among people over 65 in the past twenty years. Dehydration, skin diseases, infections, heart and lung problems; the list of unpleasant consequences is endless. There is a loss of biodiversity, extreme weather takes its toll, the soil is depleted, and agricultural yields decline. The effects of global warming are also unfairly distributed among the world’s population. Vulnerable and poor groups of people are hit first and hardest. But that plastic contributes to these problems is not mentioned.
GREEN DEAL SUSTAINABLE CARE
Since 2018, the Netherlands has had the Green Deal Sustainable Care for a Healthy Future. The starting point is the same as the call: healthcare is facing the effects of climate change and, at the same time, is one of the polluters contributing to it. The goal of the Green Deal is to accelerate the process of making healthcare in the Netherlands more sustainable. The emphasis is on reducing CO2 emissions, which must be cut in half by 2030. But even in the declaration of intent that participating parties have signed with the promise to do their best, the P-word is not mentioned. Plastic seems to be taboo.
HEALTH CARE IS A MAJOR CONSUMER OF PLASTIC
Nicole Hunfeld, a pharmacist in the Intensive Care Unit of Erasmus MC, has counted the amount of plastic used to care for one patient for one day: 12 meters of plastic tubing, 108 gloves, 57 compresses, 24 syringes, 16 isolation gowns, 8 underlay mats. If all the Dutch ICU beds are occupied, you can multiply these numbers by a thousand. There is an enormous amount of plastic waste in the IC departments alone that we are barely aware of. Making ICUs more sustainable is now part of the Green Deal Sustainable Care. All those involved needs to be more aware of how they use all those materials to reduce the waste mountain and promote circularity. But the taboo has not yet been broken.
PLASTIC HEALTH SUMMIT 2021 BREAKS THE TABOO
Climate and plastics are two sides of the same coin. All plastic is made from oil or gas, and its production and processing contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Plastic in hospitals saves lives, but at the same time, there are many health risks associated with the use of plastic. Micro- and nanoplastics penetrate the bloodstreams and organs of humans and animals. Chemical additives disrupt endocrine systems. The toxic air from burnt plastic is something you should especially not breathe. Plastic that you recycle is full of chemicals, and you don’t know which ones.
At the Plastic Health Summit 2021 on October 21, the latest insights of the health risks of plastic will be presented by scientists from home and abroad. The Plastic Health Summit does name the P-word; in all its facets.
See the Program here and join us!
It is the second time that Plastic Soup Foundation has organized the Plastic Health Summit.
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