Experts Call for Plastics Treaty to Safeguard Children’s Brain Health

May 06, 2024

Project TENDR Proposes 7 Legally Binding Provisions to Reduce Risks to Neurodevelopment and Cognition 

Project TENDR, a group of experts specializing in environmental risks to brain development, is deeply concerned about the growing evidence linking plastics and their harmful chemicals to conditions like neurodevelopmental disabilities and cognitive issues in children. In their recent briefing paper, they highlighted how widespread exposure to plastics during pregnancy and early childhood can harm children’s brain health. To address this, the organization has called for a plastics treaty to protect children’s developing brains. This treaty would involve reducing plastic production and use to minimize the creation of plastic particles and implementing measures to prevent the harmful effects of plastics throughout their entire life cycle. They propose that the treaty should include legally binding provisions such as:

  1. Substantially reduce and cap plastics production toward elimination of single-use plastics and other non-essential uses of plastics;  
  2. Phase out the use of the most toxic plastic polymers, including polyvinyl chloride and polystyrene;  
  3. Phase out use of neurotoxic chemical classes as additives in plastic, including at a minimum, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, organophosphate ester flame retardants, phthalates, chlorinated paraffins, UV stabilizers, and bisphenols.  
    1. Governments should start by immediately banning these chemical classes from use in plastic food contact materials.   
      1. A recent review of different types of interventions intended to reduce people’s exposures to bisphenols and phthalates found that policies that restrict the use of phthalates and BPA in goods and packaging resulted in widespread, long-term decreases in exposures, while interventions aimed at dietary changes were much less effective in reducing exposures.
      2. It is imperative to ban classes of toxic additives in plastics to avoid regrettable substitution.   
      3. In some cases, there are alternative solutions to using chemicals, such as changes to California state regulations that enabled furniture manufacturers to meet flammability standards without flame retardant chemicals.
  4. Ban intentionally added nanoplastics and microplastics in products such as cosmetics, cleaning products, and toys;  
  5. Require full transparency and public disclosure of information in accessible forms that include identification and reporting of all chemicals used in the production of plastics as well as plastics additives;   
  6. Ensure that disposal and recycling of plastics do not result in the release of toxic substances into the environment and that toxic substances are not present in products made from recycled plastic;   
  7. Prevent incineration (which by definition includes pyrolysis and gasification) of plastics— including “chemical recycling,” “advanced recycling,” and “waste-to-energy” schemes, which are not true recycling and merely perpetuate the toxicity of plastic.   

Project TENDR’s Briefing Paper

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