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One million tonnes of plastic additives leak into oceans each year – research

One million tons of plastic additives leak into oceans each year, according to new research.

A report, from Swiss research organisation EA Earth Action, published on Thursday analysed the scale of pollution caused by chemicals added to plastics during their manufacturing process.

It found that 116 kilotons – one thousand tons – of plastic additives in the sea come from packaging.

The research also suggests that everyday items such as textiles and vehicle tyres contribute to the leakage in the ocean of around 37 and 35 kilotons a year respectively.

EA Earth Action said that the vast majority of additives are untested, unregulated and have been linked to a range of health concerns including obesity, fertility issues and cancer.

The organisation is calling for increased transparency on the composition of products as well as the scaling of effective waste management practices globally ahead of the third session of the UN Global Plastic Treaty Negotiations (INC-3).

It has outlined several recommendations for policymakers including selecting materials that are easily reusable or recyclable to reduce waste as well as further research into how and when additives are released into the environment and human bodies.

Julien Boucher, founder of EA Earth Action, said: “The findings of our report underscore the urgency of adopting a comprehensive approach to confront the challenge of plastic pollution and combat additive leakage effectively.

“The widespread inclusion of potentially harmful additives in plastics combined with substantial amounts of mismanaged plastic waste worldwide have created the toxic threat we face today.

“Addressing the problem with additives must be on a key talking point at INC-3 if we are to protect the eco-system and human health from its detrimental effects.”

Maria Westerbos, founder of Plastic Soup Foundation, said: “We should never forget that all these chemicals are added to plastics and in that way are released in the entire ecosystem, including our own bodies. We now must see action.

“It is imperative that coordinated international cooperation between both the private sector and policymakers addresses additive leakage to preserve human health for the next generation.”

Sian Sutherland, co-founder at A Plastic Planet and Plastic Health Council, said: “The omnipresence of plastic in our lives today belies its danger.

“Plastic is not on the periodic table, like cobalt or copper. It is a mixture of chemicals, many of them toxic to human health. In only a few decades we have infected every inch of our planet with such chemicals, leaching into our environment at escalating levels.

“The danger to (the) next generations is clear and strong policy is urgently needed. But for policy to change, we need clarity on the extent of the crisis.”