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Global Chemical Pollution Threatens Humanity

The bottom-line conclusion of a recent study is that global chemical pollution has now exceeded a safe limit for humanity. As reported by The Guardian, “The cocktail of chemical pollution that pervades the planet now threatens the stability of global ecosystems upon which humanity depends.” Published in Environmental Science & Technology, the research paper asserts that the creation and deployment (into the materials stream and environment) of so many “novel entities” (synthetic chemicals) is happening at a pace that eclipses human ability to assess and monitor them. The study team calls this exceedance of the “planetary boundary” of such chemical pollution “the point at which human-made changes to the Earth push it outside the stable environment of the last 10,000 years.” According to Beyond Pesticides, which covers pesticide (and other kinds of) chemical pollution, these results underscore a grim twin reality to the human-caused climate emergency, and should be a dire warning on the state of our shared environment and a time for systemic movement to eliminate fossil fuel-based pesticides and fertilizers.

Hailing from Sweden, the United Kingdom, Canada, Denmark, and Switzerland, members of the research team define “novel entities” as those compounds and materials introduced by humans that “are novel in a geological sense and that could have large-scale impacts that threaten the integrity of Earth system processes.” The novel entities that have so suffused Earth’s airwaterecosystems and biodiversitywildlife, and human bodies comprise 350,000 synthetic chemicals — including persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) — found in plastics, synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, industrial and manufacturing compounds, antibiotics, degreasers, cleaning agents, and many other commodities. Only a tiny fraction of those 350,000 compounds has been assessed for safety, yet many are now found in human tissues. (See the Beyond Pesticides web page on “body burden” of synthetic chemicals and the relationship to disease development.)