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Petrochemical Pollution and Our Health

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

By ELIZABETH BECHARD


There’s a good chance that as you’re reading this, you’ve already touched multiple items of plastic so far in your day. Perhaps you’ve brushed your teeth with a plastic toothbrush, typed an email on a plastic computer keyboard, tucked a handful of Goldfish crackers into a Ziploc bag for your child’s lunch, or donned a disposable N95 mask. Maybe you’ve joined a 5-year-old in an epic kitchen table battle between Barbie and Buzz Lightyear. Maybe you’ve put a plastic bandage on a small, scraped knee…


Even for those of us who are already trying to minimize our use of plastic, avoiding it entirely can feel nearly impossible. And while many of us are aware of the growing harms of plastic pollution and some of the frightening potential health impacts of plastic exposure, many of us don’t realize that the plastic we use in our everyday lives is made from fossil fuels—the very same fossil fuels that are causing climate change.


Plastics are the largest category of petrochemicals, which are extracted from deep in the earth to create the products we use in our everyday lives. The ubiquity of plastics and other petrochemicals comes at a steep cost to our health, especially for those living near production and processing facilities. People living near petrochemical production facilities have higher risk of numerous types of cancer, adverse birth outcomes, asthma and respiratory illness, and kidney disease. Children are especially vulnerable to harms from petrochemical pollutants.


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