Will the Global Plastics Treaty Address Toxic Chemicals?

May 4, 2023
1:00 pm US Eastern Time


Production of plastics has increased more than tenfold since 1970, faster than the growth rate of any other group of bulk materials. More than 400 million metric tons of plastic were produced in 2020, and by some estimates that number may double by 2040. The volume of current and planned plastics production poses a serious threat to public health and the environment across the globe. Many chemicals used in plastics have adverse human health effects.

The process of developing a global agreement on plastics was initiated by the United Nations Environment Assembly in March 2022, and negotiations are now underway. The second meeting negotiating the outlines of an International Plastics Treaty will take place in Paris in late May.

In this webinar, Dr. Philip Landrigan presented highlights and recommendations from the recent report from the Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health. As lead author of the report, Dr. Landrigan shared an overview of the Commission’s findings on links between some plastics and disease, disability, and premature mortality, as well as disproportionate effects on vulnerable, low-income and minority communities — particularly children. He also presented the report's recommendations for the Plastics Treaty, including a cap on global plastic production and bans on unnecessary and problematic plastic items.

We also heard an analysis of progress and opportunities to address toxic chemicals in the Plastics Treaty process from Vito Buonsante, an advisor for the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN). A global network which has been involved in international policy work for more than 25 years, IPEN believes that the Plastics Treaty represents a critical opportunity to not only address visible plastic pollution but also protect our health and the environment from the invisible toxic chemicals across the plastics lifecycle.

One of the co-authors of the recent Minderoo-Monaco report, Dr. Adetoun Mustapha, also joined us as an additional resource person for the discussion portion of the webinar.

This webinar was moderated by Sharyle Patton, Director of the Biomonitoring Resource Center and member of the CHE Advisory Team.

Featured Speakers

Vito Buonsante, JD - Mr. Buonsante is an EU and International law specialist with expertise in chemicals, pesticides, and plastics. Prior to joining the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) in 2021, he led the Chemicals Project for ClientEarth, a Brussels based NGO and the Plastics Program for Environmental Defence Canada, a Toronto based NGO. In his role as a Technical and Policy Advisor for IPEN he works on a wide range of issues related to chemical safety. This includes the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) as well as the Stockholm, Basel and Rotterdam Conventions. IPEN is a global network of over 500 public interest NGOs in more than 120 countries working together for a world in which toxic chemicals are no longer produced or used in ways that harm human health and the environment.

Philip Landrigan, MD, MSc, FAAP - Dr. Landrigan is Professor of Biology and the founding director of the Global Public Health Program and Global Observatory on Planetary Health at Boston College. He is a pediatrician, public health physician and epidemiologist. His research uses the tools of epidemiology to elucidate connections between toxic chemicals and human health, especially the health of infants and children. A study led by Dr. Landrigan in the 1990’s at the National Academy of Sciences defined children’s unique susceptibilities to pesticides and other toxic chemicals and catalyzed fundamental revamping of US pesticide policy. From 2015 to 2017, he co-chaired the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, which reported that pollution causes 9 million deaths annually and is an existential threat to planetary health. He recently led the Minderoo-Monaco Commission on Plastics and Human Health, which produced an extensive analysis of plastics’ negative impacts on the health and well-being of vulnerable populations, the environment and the economy.

Adetoun Mustapha, PhD, MPH - Dr. Mustapha is a leading Environmental Epidemiologist in Africa, an adjunct Associate Professor at Lead City University, Ibadan, Nigeria and adjunct Research Fellow at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, Lagos, Nigeria. Her research has been on air pollution epidemiology and respiratory health, social determinants of health, built environment and climate change. She investigated associations between respiratory health and outdoor and indoor air pollution in schoolchildren in low socioeconomic status areas of Southern rural communities in Nigeria, and worked on Maternal and Child Health Projects in international collaboration between University of Lagos, Nigeria and USAID/Tufts University. She was the inaugural Chair of International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) Africa chapter, and is currently Councilor for Africa in ISEE Global Council. She teaches postgraduate level Environmental Health courses and is a co-Principal Investigator of the Nigerian Environmental Epidemiology Accelerated Research Program.