Microplastics take outsized role as Senate Democrats seek action – USA

Posted on January 8, 2023 by DrRossH in Plastic Limiting Regulations


Pushed by health worries about microplastics and studies suggesting they’re ubiquitous in the environment, some Democrats in Congress want Washington to take a closer look.

A group of lawmakers introduced legislation in December directing federal agencies to study how microplastics impact people and food supplies, and calling on the government to start pilot programs to clean them up.

As well, the topic got a lot of attention at a Dec. 15 Senate hearing on plastics waste solutions.

Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., for example, devoted considerable time quizzing witnesses on what they thought of the studies finding microplastics in remote environments and in human tissue, and suggested he favored stronger laws.

“Baby poop is loaded with microplastics. The Antarctic far away has microplastics. Human breast milk has plastics,” he told the hearing he chaired before the Environment and Public Works Committee. “We find them deep in the lungs of living people and what we know is that plastics are loaded with thousands of chemicals with different effects.”

Merkley and the other authors of the December legislation, including Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., tucked the microplastics provisions in the larger bill they introduced Dec. 2 seeking to limit buildout of new plastics plants, but the Oregon senator repeatedly raised concerns about microplastics during the hearing.

“We don’t really understand the effects of those chemicals but it’s certainly a cause for concern and that’s why we’re holding this hearing,” Merkley said. “It’s my sense that plastics may well pose a very significant risk to human health.”

Myers called for much more extensive testing of chemical compounds in plastics, saying that most chemicals have been grandfathered in to existing commerce rules and have not been tested with 21st century tools.

He said plastics are not inert materials and can be biologically active based on which monomers and additives are used, and by impurities in manufacturing processes.

“Most of the chemicals in plastics have not been tested for safety,” Myers said. “None have been tested thoroughly.”

Merkley picked up on that point, and at one point asked Seaholm if he would support “full transparency” for chemicals used in plastics.

Seaholm said the industry relies on the Food and Drug Administration review for safety of plastics used in food contact materials.

The plastic chemcial industry avoiding to answer requests about their products.  They know it would take years to do any throuough research on this topic of the effect of microplastics on health.